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Expat Partner Support HR Newsletter | March 2013 Welcome to the March Global Connection HR Newsletter. This quarterly publication will inform you about policy and operations and keep you up-to-date on expat partner issues. It also contains the latest news on Global Connection spousal support activities, including research and HR consultancy, and an interview with Continental.



Twenty years ago, during the set-up of the Heineken Partner Network – which would later become Global Connection – I was an expat partner looking for a job. And my fellow expat partners couldn’t for the life of them understand why: “But sweetheart, you don’t have to work, you’re now married to an expat!” Oh, how times have changed.

Our newsletters are clearly striking a chord with our readers. A big thank you to all of you who got in touch with us! Your responses illustrate how more and more companies are coming to regard partner support as crucial to mobility and successful expatriations. Buying off expat partners with so-called ‘Guccimoney’ clearly doesn’t work (see also page 3); neither do ad hoc responses to expat partners’ needs or crises. Companies realise that effective partner support requires a proactive approach, but they often struggle to find a way to achieve this.

Changing demand Over the years, the services we offer have grown. Thanks to the enthusiastic feedback we receive from partners via our regular surveys, we know what they expect from us. It has enabled us to develop from ‘a magazine with a network’ to a ‘onestop shop’ for partner support, including research and HR consultancy. Create fulfilling lives The new generation has new interests. Compared with twenty years ago, the number of partners lounging by the pool all day has decreased significantly. This doesn’t mean that the majority of them have – or are looking for – a regular job. Rather, they are looking for ways to create fulfilling lives for themselves that go far beyond that. Jacqueline van Haaften

Reduced manpower at HR Slimmed-down HR departments barely have the manpower and/or know-how anymore to develop partner support policies or to provide support. Therefore, companies are increasingly turning to consultants to develop their expat partner policies, and outsourcing the management and execution of these programmes.

Free Lunch Anyone?

Effectiveness A number of HR professionals have described to us the way their departments had struggled and failed to deal with partner support. A few readers admitted to having fallen for tempting propositions such as free intakes and introductory offers. They were then pulled into purchasing outrageously expensive support packages that weren’t even effective. One HR professional commented: “There’s obviously no such thing as a free lunch. It was more like a full course dinner in a restaurant I hadn’t chosen.” No more outplacement (Read more on page 3)

NETWORK VITAL FOR SAME-SEX COUPLE The importance of Global Connection’s expat partner network to other partners-tobe was recently underlined by the way we were able to support a same-sex couple, living in Denmark. The two women were used to the liberal attitudes in their home country, where they and their children were regarded as any other family. But can they continue to live their life in Athens? Job offer in Athens As part of their preparation for a possible posting in Athens, they posed this question to Global Connection. When we were asked to help, we used several approaches. First of all, we asked Global Connection members who were living in Athens. Many of them wanted to help, and shared their knowledge and insights. We also talked to intercultural experts (who, by and large, reached the same conclusions as our members!), researched literature on the matter, talked to schools, and advised on the steps the women could take that could help them to adapt to Greek society. The resulting report proved to be an important factor in the decision the couple ultimately made. Global Connection | March 2013



ALSO FEATURED IN GLOBAL CONNECTION’S MARCH MAGAZINE* Theme: Being well-prepared is key Not just for the physical move, preparing yourself mentally is vital. Canadian Richard Forrest, one of Global Connection’s Cycles of Change trainers explains: “What we try to do is give people a blueprint showing how cultures are generally constructed. This information gives them the tools to analyse any culture at a higher level.” Expat Partner & Work: Freelancing as a portable career “I can work when I want, where I want,” says Belgian graphic designer Stefanie Verstappen (expat partner DSM) in Chicago. “Salaried workers in the US can have as little as ten vacation days per year. So if I had a job here, I would never be able to go on home leave with my family. As a freelancer I can, because I just take my work with me.”

Katharina Dürbaum is Head of International Assignment Management and Gabriele Braun Sr. Vice President Corporate People and Organisational Development at Continental (tyres, automotive systems and parts), which has its headquarters in Hannover (Germany). They talked to us for the March issue of Global Connection Magazine. Here are some excerpts from the full interview: Expat experience important “The international exchange and internationality itself are true strategic goals for Continental. We really try to make the most out of it. Expatriation is therefore of great importance to us. Since last year we have adopted a policy whereby from 2014 all newly appointed top managers will have to have had international experience of at least one year.” Dual Career issue “We believe a personal approach is necessary to handle dual career as well as family issues. Don’t forget: you are not dealing with a commodity, you are dealing with people – people with a specific life and a specific history.” On-going support “We think on-going support for the partners is really necessary, and in that respect Global Connection is very important to us in a number of ways. For instance, there is an existing network, which means that expats and their partners can share their experiences. The on-going information that is offered is also very valuable.” Repatriation “Repatriation is one of the most challenging parts of an expatriation. It’s only successful if the expat and the responsible executive work closely together, both before and during the assignment.” 2

Global Connection | March 2013

Changing course: Making a dream a reality Dutchman Weynand Haitjema (expat partner HEINEKEN) had been working as the MD of a security company. When he found it impossible to pursue his career in Panama, he says: “I did a mental switch and thought about starting my own business. And I immediately thought of water sports, since that’s always been my passion.” He came up with the idea of providing tourist boat tours. Splitting up, two days before departure They both thoroughly prepared for the move. But then suddenly he turns round and asks her not to accompany him. This shocking bombshell was dealt to one of our expat partners, who explains to us what happened and how she is still trying to come to terms with it. * for spouses (B2B subscription)

ON A LIGHTER NOTE Vertical garden Many of your expats and their spouses moving to pastures new worry they will live in a congested city with smaller rooms indoors and less room outdoors. For gardeners used to a feeling of space and calm, here’s a novel idea that will help you allay their fears. Why not suggest they take up a course in vertical gardening? There really is such a thing! There’s even a Vertical Garden Institute in Oregon, USA, that reveals everything there is to know about the art of gardening in confined spaces and growing plants on walls. If they can’t make it to Oregon, they should visit the Musée du Quai Branly, with its vertical gardens, next time they’re in Paris.

GLOBAL MOBILITY IS UNDERPERFORMING International business leaders overwhelmingly see emerging markets and the need for global mobility as priorities for their organisations. But at the same time not enough is being done to address global mobility issues. Deloitte survey This is the conclusion of the 2012 Strategic Moves Survey by professional services firm Deloitte. For this survey almost 200 HR, talent and global mobility professionals from international companies were questioned. 70% underperform, 34% plan review That global mobility is behind the curve when it comes to driving business results is revealed by one of the survey’s statistics: 70 percent of the interviewed professionals say global mobility in their organisation is underperforming or needs improvement. And in another statistic, 34 percent of companies taking part in the survey plan to review their global mobility strategies in the next 12 months. Strategic purpose Only 2 percent of organisations regard their global mobility as world class. At the same time 88 percent of them do not use clear assessments of their mobility practices or link the results back to find solutions to their organisational challenges. The survey report recommends that organisations should agree upon the strategic purpose of global mobility, understand the value proposition of global deployments, and enhance the use of mobility data analytics.

NEW EXPAT & PARTNER GUIDE A new edition of the Expat & Partner Guide is now available. This book is a 300-page compilation of the very best articles from Global Connection Magazine. The guide covers all aspects and phases of expatriation, which explains its ongoing popularity among expat partners. Customised editions can be arranged.

SUPPORT MUST BE MANAGED No more outplacement (Continued from page 1) Another reader described how, in her company, partner support was regarded as being synonymous with career support. Consequently, an outplacement consultancy was hired to support the expat partner. It proved to be completely ineffective; expat partners looking for (broad) support hardly ever have the same needs and drivers as outplacement candidates. Invisible financial damage Such mistakes cripple the effectiveness of partner support and lead to substantial (financial) damage for the company. Less successful assignments are costly (see the ROI calculation in our December newsletter), but often not very visible, unless it results in a premature repatriation. The financial consequences of immobility – not being able to get the right person in the right place – can be heavy, but, in the short-term, again hardly visible. Support policy workshops Global Connection aims to safeguard companies from making costly mistakes in the area of partner support. Therefore, we monitor the needs and expectations of expat partners. Our latest survey results are due later this year. They will help us to update our support policy roadmap, which we will discuss with some of you later this year, in a series of policy workshops. More information will be published in the next issue of this newsletter.

NO MORE GUCCI A Global Mobility Director of a Fortune 500 company – who would like to remain anonymous – sent us the following message: I am impressed with your research study regarding the effectiveness of partner support. Your report inspired me to conduct a poll among our expat partners. I wanted to measure their awareness of our generous budget for reimbursable support and the substantial sum of money for partner support that is paid out each month as part of the expat’s salary (aka ‘Gucci money’). It turns out that only 50 per cent of our expat partners were aware of the reimbursable support and none of them were familiar with the details. Moreover, not one of them knew that financial partner support is included in the expat’s salary payments. No wonder our expat partners are not very happy with the support we offer. They have no idea what they (can) get! We will be putting this right as soon as possible. Better communication is our first priority for now, because we have just renewed the ‘Gucci money’ policy, unfortunately. Our second priority is to change as soon as possible our partner support policy by replacing ‘Gucci money’ with real support.

DIGITAL HR NEWSLETTER AND MORE Our HR Newsletters can also be distributed digitally. Please advise us if you would like to receive the digital version, as well as or instead of the print edition, or if you want to stop receiving our newsletters altogether. You can find all our HR Newsletters at, including related and more in-depth articles, such as the full text of the interview with Continental. Global Connection | March 2013


Expat Partner Support HR Newsletter SCHOOLING ISSUES Finding suitable schooling in a number of important expat locations is one of the great challenges facing expatriating companies. It is especially difficult to get expat children enrolled in international schools in Hong Kong, London and Brazil. In a recent article in the Mobility magazine, Liz Perelstein, founder of School Choice International, mentioned some specific challenges that expat parents could face: a limited number of places; high costs; curriculum gaps; and long commuting times. Debenture schemes in Hong Kong Debenture schemes are now the norm in Hong Kong. Parents (or, in most cases, expatriating companies) have to buy non-interest-bearing bonds to secure placement. That can cost up to US$ 250,000. Waiting lists in Brazil Waiting lists for international schools in Brazil can be particularly long, as local, well-to-do parents also use the schools to educate their children.

HONEST ANSWERS FOR PROSPECTIVE PARTNERS At the request of several companies, Global Connection has developed a new support model to help prospective expat partners decide whether to move abroad. It recognises the fact that an expat’s decision to accept a post abroad is hardly ever made at the office. The family’s opinion also matters, and crucial discussions tend to take place at home ‘around the kitchen table’. New roles in relationship Global Connection’s ‘kitchen table’ conversations are open, honest, and informal exploratory talks which examine what the expatriation will mean for the prospective expat partner. One partner recently spoke to Global Connection consultant Nynke Fonteijn about her hesitation to go to Indonesia. Nynke: “We discovered that she was having a problem coming to terms with new roles in the relationship she had with her partner. She was leaving for a foreign country with no plan of how she would spend her days, while her partner had a challenging job waiting for him. Identifying the root of her anxiety enabled her to make her own conclusions.” Realistic expectations “We don’t aim to persuade partners to go abroad, but to help them form clear expectations,” emphasises Global Connection’s Managing Director Jacqueline van Haaften. “This is in the interest of the potential expat partner as well as the expatriating organisation. An international posting is most likely to succeed when expat partners base their decision to move abroad on realistic expectations.” 4

Global Connection | March 2013

ABOUT GLOBAL CONNECTION Global Connection is an independent, international organisation that is exclusively dedicated to expat partner support. Our goal: to contribute to the well-being and mobility of expat partners and consequently to the success of the posting. We have 20 years of experience and more than 250 organisations use our services. We support partners of 80 nationalities in 140 countries. SERVICES FOR HUMAN RESOURCES Research: Global Connection conducts research into all aspects of partner support. Our studies include surveys among expat partners as well as HR executives. In addition, we conduct customised surveys to answer your specific questions. Consultancy: We help organisations with, among other things: partner support policy development, ROI calculations, improving cost efficiency and effectiveness, benchmarking, best practices exchange, supplier selection, purchasing/contracting, testing plans and new initiatives. HR management and staff training is also available. SERVICES FOR EXPAT PARTNERS Unique support model: Effective partner support requires providing the right information and service at the right time and in the right way. Therefore, we work according to a unique Triple Seven Support Model and provide a one-stopshop for expat partner support. 7 STAGES Pre-decision Pre-departure Settling in Settled Pre-repatriation Repatriation Repatriated

7 AREAS Life abroad Destination Networking Paid work Alternatives Repatriation Other

7 FORMS Needs assessment Media Support desk Network Local meeting Coaching* Training* * incl. test/assessment

B2B and B2C: Our support packages are exclusively available to expat partners of assigning organisations that have a contract with Global Connection. Our books are also available to the general public and can be ordered online. MORE INFORMATION Please visit or contact us: Business Development Managers: Irma Groenhof – Geke van Gurp – Managing Director: Jacqueline van Haaften –

ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER This quarterly Global Connection HR Newsletter is produced for all HR, Global Mobility and Talent Managers with an interest in expat partner support. For more information, please contact us at

Profile for Global Connection

HR Newsletter - March 2013  

HR Newsletter - March 2013

HR Newsletter - March 2013  

HR Newsletter - March 2013