Exploring leadership, agility and diversity

Relocate’s Festival of Global Mobility Thinking welcomed delegates and speakers to provide insight on the complexities of a rapidly evolving and increasingly globalised landscape.

Leadership, agility and diversity were the key themes of the lively and well-attended Festival of Global Mobility Thinking. Speakers and delegates debated the challenges of the digital age, and how individuals and organisations could respond in a rapidly changing world.Take a look at the highlights from the event in our Facebook album:The conference began with a thought-provoking analysis of leadership and what it means in today’s fast-changing workplace.Set in the dramatic setting of the Atrium at the St Pancreas Renaissance Hotel, London, the first session was an examination of leadership styles from a Shakespearean perspective.

Leadership training through the arts

Phyllida Hancock, associate at Olivier Mythodrama, which provides leadership training, explained how The Tempest had different archetypes of leadership styles at its heart, and challenged the delegates to think about their own approaches.
Olivier Mythodrama offer a unique approach, based in shared story, theatre practice, psychological insight and a deep understanding of the dynamics of organisational development. Their work is at the leading edge of bringing the world of theatre and the arts into the development of authentic leaders.The bespoke session designed for Relocate Global looked at the valuable conversations that inspire new ways of working together.

Agility in modern organisations  

The next session, by Dr Linda Holbeche, author of The Agile Organisation, talked about how organisations are going to have to become more agile if they are to survive.
Dr Holbeche is an international consultant, developer and author in the fields of HR, leadership, strategy and change. She said organisations needed to be more proactive and seek opportunities while at the same time doing their best to mitigate risk.“They need to ask, are we able to translate quickly from idea into action?” Dr Holbeche told delegates. “However if the focus becomes more and more on the short term, how can one stand back and get the whole picture? How can we reflect when we are so busy? It is difficult to make decisions in a timely way.”That is why organisations needed to be agile, but at the same time develop resilience, she said.“If you do make decisions, you will also make mistakes,” she explained.
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The key is to create a workplace culture which enables people to experiment.There needs to be a two-way communication valuing people at all levels in the organisation. That type of environment is not usually found in organisations with a “command and control” structure, and part of the process is about putting out new products so you can get feedback before they are finished.She cited the example of ING bank, which had taken the template used by the music streaming service Spotify and had built teams called “squads” which could work on short-term projects.“Digital takes no prisoners,” she warned. “It has crept into the most highly skilled professions – medicine, law, accountancy.”Another example was the US shoe retailer Zappos, which will wait up to six months to get the right staff to work in their call centre. Unlike most call centres, it is a job that employees love to do, because they have been empowered to “bring delight to customers”. “The obstacles are not out there, they are inside,” Dr Holbeche explained. “People don’t want to give up what they have. It affects the way people are rewarded. If you are rewarded for compliance, why would you think innovation? If you are rewarded as an individual, why would you think in terms of a team?“If you want people to work in new ways and be accountable, they have to trust you. Communications have to real and truthful and you have to take people on the journey.”As a case study she cited the work done by CEO Nick Roberts to change the operating culture of Atkins, an engineering company. He had to persuade the senior management team of his radical proposals, which would mean working across the hierarchical boundaries.The new nature of leadership, as he demonstrated, acknowledges that the people at the top don’t have all the answers, she said, and in a panel discussion talked of the “symbiotic relationship between people and machines.”When Arie de Geus looked at what made a long-lived business, in his book The Living Company, he identified a number of qualities that enabled organisations to survive. One very old company, Nokia, was originally a Finnish timber guild, then became involved in producing paper, and ultimately, communication via mobile phones.“Stick to your purpose but be prepared to revisit your values so that you don’t get left behind,” she said.

The value of nationality

In the afternoon session, there was a lively debate about the role of citizenship and the perils of a hard Brexit.Prof Dr Dimitry Kochenov is an expert in citizenship, nationality and immigration law. He is Chair of EU Constitutional Law at Groningen University in the Netherlands. He also chairs the Investment Migration Council, a global association of investment migration professionals. 
He presented the Henley & Partners – Kochenov Quality of Nationality Index (QNI), which ranks the objective value of world nationalities as legal statuses of attachments to states.The QNI ranks countries on a global scale of desirability, and looks at two groups of factors: internal (scale of the economy, human development, and peace and stability) and external (visa-free travel and the ability to settle and work abroad, weighing the quality and also the diversity of destinations that citizens can visit unhindered by visas).The third edition, updated with 2017 data, gives a global, dynamic overview of the quality of all the nationalities in the world, providing a sketch of contemporary trends in citizenship and migration regulation worldwide.Most entrepreneurial people usually move outside their country of origin, and they benefit from being able to go on short trips undisturbed, he said.“The QNI looks beyond simple visa-free tourist or business travel and takes a number of other crucial factors into account – those that make one nationality a better legal status through which to develop your talents and business than another,” he said.

QNI report: Brexit will be damaging for UK citizens

On this basis, Britain’s exit from the European Union will be damaging for its citizens, as the EEA is the world leader in terms of providing economic opportunity and ease of travel, he said.“The most significant fall in Quality of Nationality will be a hard Brexit,” he added. “Comparing the UK to Ireland, the benefits of having the UK nationality will be half of that of Ireland after Brexit.“According to my methodology, a hard Brexit will mean a 30 per cent fall in the value of the UK as a nationality. Compare this to Syria, which has only fallen nine per cent, although it did start from a lower base, despite all its troubles.”He described the Brexit vote as the UK initiating “an unprecedented self-inflicted wound on quality of nationality by its own citizens” because the European Union leads the pack of all the world’s nationalities.

The new digital workforce

Technology is changing our personal lives and shaping the way we do business, and organisations need to be able to adapt to this challenge, said Danny Taggart, Director, Global Workforce and Andrew Robb, partner Global Mobility Talent and Rewards of Deloitte, in the following session.Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends interviewed 11,000 people in 124 countries and looked at technology and how it was affecting individuals and businesses.The conclusion was that the pace of change is moving faster than we can keep up with, they said.Individuals were starting to use apps in a regular way in their daily lives, but most businesses had no idea how to incorporate that shift into corporate life, and public policy and the government and public bodies were lagging behind, the report found.

4th industrial revolution: 3 key issues business need to be aware of 

Danny Taggart describe the digital advance as the “4th industrial revolution” and said there three key issues that businesses need to be aware of:
  1. The power of the individual is growing, with Millennials at the forefront
  2. Businesses are being expected to fill a widening leadership vacuum in society
  3. Technological change is having an unforeseen impact on society and it creates a massive opportunity to achieve inclusive growth
He discussed how this might affect pay and relocation packages, and suggested that “structured flexibility” might become a watchword for overseas assignments.Andy Robb explained that it was “not that jobs are disappearing, it is that the nature of jobs that is changing”.In an increasing digital age, the differentiating factors will be the empathetic qualities, the human touch that AI, technology and machines cannot provide, he said.In terms of recruitment, technology can now look at the talent pool across the globe and match the employee to the role, layering in skills and experience, ease of move and tax rules.

Diversity in all of its aspects

Dr Susan Shortland, Professor Emerita at London Metropolitan University, introduced the afternoon session on diversityDiversity has become more recognised as issue that needs to be addressed within the global market,” she said. “This encompasses not just gender diversity but also race, religion, LGBT. A lot of employers are switched on to LGBT because of fears over risk and security, but they have perhaps not looked in detail about the issues around ethnicity and religion.”

Expat women outperform men - but only 27% are sent abroad by their employers 

She explained that 50 per cent of self-initiated moves abroad by women take place outside organisations, but only 27 per cent are sent by their employers in the corporate world.“Women are very successful as ex-pats,” she said. “Studies find they outperform men, they are preferred as co-workers by local people, they adjust better to career and family life. That comes from data from countries as diverse as Turkey, Japan, South America, India and Iran. The message is, women are good as expats and we need more of them, but women don’t get selected.”Looking at ethnicity, women who look the same as the local people are more likely to be treated as one of them. Inn countries where women don’t have the same rights this can be a problem.For many employers their policy on LGBT employees is risk based. Dr Shortland cited research, which showed that if people are “out” at work they are likely to perform better. “This community finds networks very valuable,” she said.In a panel discussion, Michael Grover, senior global mobility consultant at Mercer, said that not all line managers knew if someone was LGBT. It was “the invisible difference” which meant that the process of offering a relocation package needed to be designed so that an employee could reject the assignment without having to “come out”.“The issue for managers is what is the duty of care versus equal opportunities,” he said. One solution might be to have information on the company intranet and a briefing pack available when you make the offer of the assignment. This would enable the staff member to make the decision with all the facts available.“In the UK and Western countries we have made good progress on equality and tolerance but it is not the same in the rest of the world,” he said. “Compared to 30 years ago, the Nordic countries, US, UK and Netherlands were good and have improved, but with those countries that were the most oppressive, in some cases the situation there may even have got worse.”

Expat LGBT employees who might be at risk if political circumstances change need protection processes

He said that for LGBT employees who might be at risk if political circumstances changed, organisations needed robust protection processes, just as they would if they needed to evacuate staff from a civil war or Ebola outbreak. “Laws can change while a person is on assignment,” he said.Then there was the question of what happened to an assignee who had enjoyed the freedom to live their life as LGBT while posted to the UK, and who might have to return to a home country which was less tolerant.“What opportunities can we offer them? Could they have a sequential assignment, so that they don’t have to return to the place where they may be oppressed?”Andrea Piacentini Standard Life, Head of Reward, Standard Life, and founding partner of the RES Forum quoted figures from the report: Gender Diversity and its effect within multinational corporations – original RES Forum research from 2016.In the report, corporations said it was seen to be harder to identify and motivate potential female assignees, but that they were less likely to leave the organisation after they had been on assignment. However, when they returned, female employees didn’t tend to enjoy the benefits of having been on assignment.He gave guidance on what companies could do to help redress the balance:
  1. Reduce gender bias in selection procedures
  2. Increase organisational support
  3. Foster interest and empowerment of women

Preparing young people for the future

The day ended with a panel interview on how students and schools could prepare for the new digital and globally mobile world. It was a truly interactive conference, in which delegates participated in lively round-table discussions, heard some of the industry’s most progressive thinkers challenge conventional wisdom and provide inspirational case studies, and provide a rich opportunity to network and examine your own leadership skills.For related news and features, visit our Mobility Industry section. Find out more about our upcoming Relocate AwardsRelocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory 

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