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How Do You Know When Mission Accomplished?

I normally write with employers in mind and how they can attract the best qualified people to their companies. However, when candidates are better informed about an employer or the interview process this will benefit both sides. The more informed a candidate is about selecting an employer the sooner he or she can start the job, and it is less likely that they will run into frustrating surprises three months into the role. No one wants a relationship to sour because something was overlooked, forgotten or thought too obvious to mention during the interview process. But before we get to interviews let’s consider whether you are a passive or an active job seeker. A passive job seeker is someone content in their current role but open to new opportunities if they should arise. An active seeker is someone who is a lot more eager to­ land a new role because they are unhappy in their current position or without work. The ­first step, which ever category you fall into, is to decide what perfect looks like; the role, the companies, the industry and the terms and conditions. Write this down and pin it to your notice board or fridge. Any offer you receive should be compared with it and the trade-offs considered – no offer will be perfect. How eager you are to ­find a new role, the more willing you will be to give up some of your goals ……but never too much. Active job seeking takes much more effort and should be considered a full time job. You have to network and do research with the objective of gaining introductions to the companies on your target list with the aim of side stepping the search process – once a search is in the hands of a recruiter it is further out of your control. Don’t be perturbed if you are asked to attend a number of interviews. You are being tested for how you will ­ t with the team. These are likely peers and you need to consider it a two way process – like a good conversation. Be yourself – you need to make sure that you feel you ­ t and will be happy. Make sure you ask a couple of the same questions at each interview. Compare the answers to see if colleagues look at their work place in the same way. Is there a consistent attitude and outlook? Nothing should be off your list but don’t begin by asking about salary.

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Many companies will also ask you to complete a screening questionnaire, probably online. This is another useful tool that should serve you as much as the employer. It is designed to identify the values and competencies that you exhibit and to ensure that they align with those of the organization. The last thing you want to be is a square peg in a round hole. If you are curious ask to see where you will be working too. Ask about the on boarding process and what it will entail. An immediate, clear response will indicate an organization eager to get a new recruit off to a flying start.

You will hear the term engagement a lot these days and simply put, it means a happy work team. Happy workers are more productive, more creative and are absent less. Better employers will strive to achieve this. An important item that can emerge once an employee is on board is that the new role may not contribute to his or her well being. In fact, such a risk can be so significant that it could potentially spill over into how that person works with their team and serve to undermine a whole department’s productivity. While we are on the subject of negotiation let’s talk pay. I can be happy I hear you say, just pay me more, lots more. But employment is not a game of what you can get away with in negotiation. In the pursuit of engagement many employers are moving away from negotiated pay because of the impact different pay levels have on internal equity and team spirit. This is not a bad thing. You should take comfort from the fact that everyone is paid fairly and based upon the same principles. You won’t want to stand out that your close colleague is paid significantly more. Equally, if it is important to you that you fit in, being the standout in terms of compensation will not help that.

Higher negotiated pay when starting a new role is pretty much an illusion anyway since over time that will erode through lower annual increases to bring the new hire in line with everyone else.

When the offer is received make sure the terms agree with what has been discussed and that other terms are clear and unambiguous. In fact an offer in plain language rather than legalese suggests an open, transparent culture. Ask for clarification where necessary. Deciding whether to take a new role is a research project involving input from different sources that you need to compare. If the signals that you are getting suggest that a target company is not offering the culture that you want don’t hesitate to start again. Better take a little more time now than be unhappy for much longer. Equally, don’t dismiss opportunities, that arise in organizations that you haven’t considered – just undertake some more due diligence.

Happy hunting.

Paul Pittman is the senior partner and founder of The Human Well (www. thehumanwell.com), a collaborative HR consulting practice located in Oakville, Ont., with clients globally. He previously held executive HR positions with Alcan, RJR Nabisco/Japan Tobacco, Laidlaw and Massey-Ferguson, and was the Canadian HR practice leader for Arthur Andersen. He has lived in the U.K., Canada and Switzerland, and managed pension, benefit and compensation plans globally. You can reach Paul at paulpittman@thehumanwell.com. 

 

 The ROI in Expatriate Talent Management

Paul Pittman.pdfMobile employees are used by international organizations amongst other things, to: effect international growth; be headquarters’ “mind and management”; transfer culture and values; and conduct technical troubleshooting. However, companies have traditionally failed to invest in their mobile employees to the same extent that they have in their local staff. The cause may be cost which, according to one of our client studies, can be five times as much administrative time and three to four times the compensation of a domestic employee. Perhaps employers consider this enough Whatever the cause, there remain significant opportunities for improving the return on this “investment”, their engagement and attraction levels.

While the demographic shift occurring over the last few years necessitates a change in approach, companies continue to use a model developed essentially in the 1970s when the typical employee was male, the primary family wage earner, committed to a long-term career with a single employer and eager to see the world. Today’s expatriate can be male or female, is highly educated, worldly and has a working partner and — despite your best efforts — likely to work for multiple employers during their career.

A senior colleague was fond of saying that “high potential people will get to the top despite what you HR people do to them.”Mobility is similar and those who are willing and inquisitive will for the most part, notwithstanding what is put in front of them, find a way to achieve their goal. These people are not our primary concern in this article. Younger managers are generally not drawn to international assignments out of curiosity. They have traveled extensively outside of employment and readily connect to the rest of the world through multiple platforms. They need more family support than their parents and (usually) most employers have been willing to provide. Plus the mobile “gene” is often no longer enough. An employer may determine that despite an employee’s willingness, they don’t have the competency needed to represent corporate interests in an overseas market.Talent Management

Most HR folks would agree that a year on international assignment is worth five of domestic training and development, but how many organizations can you name that think of assignments as an investment? Most think in terms of the cost and, back in the day, the investment in a mobile employee could be recouped over a much longer career. It’s sometimes the work environment that imparts this development experience but business cultures tend to be similar, irrespective of location and especially in larger companies. An employee might be lucky enough to be thrown into an opportunity where they are allowed to innovate and experiment, but that’s not always the case. The personal growth that will outlive any structured training, comes from navigating and living in a different culture; the white space around work is where personal growth occurs and especially when a family is involved.

I attended a recent meeting comprising managers who had spent their entire careers in the same country. One person stood out. He listened intently, asked clarifying questions and contributed in short, clear sentences. These were skills learned in a multi-language environment, where clarity and understanding were critical to productivity and engagement. I learned later that he had had two assignments with a brand management company in Asia. We hear of companies planning to develop “international capability” through teleconferencing and increased travel. This qualifies participants only as a travel experts; no one becomes internationally experienced in business class, no matter how often they fly it.

Employers mostly “hope for the best” with expatriates. They seek volunteers and attract those with an inclination toward mobility, hoping that a star will emerge that will contribute beyond the cost of the assignment. Few act on the value created by the assignment and how this can be re-deployed or developed further. Returning expatriate retention rates are appalling because of this.

A recent experience underlined this problem. A returning manager with a very large international bank (a former colleague, in fact) found that her HR department wasn’t even aware that she was returning. Because no one had monitored her development or performance while on assignment, she had to re-earn her promotional spurs. What a shocking underutilization of an incredibly valuable asset — the bank had spent heavily on her assignment, only to create a candidate for departure. Fewer employees with the required skills and competencies means persuading those whose first choice is not a foreign assignment. The high-potential scenario once again: those ready and willing to undertake an international assignment will find a way to make it work. It is the less willing who have in-demand skills that we are going to have to find way to convince.

Hope For The Best.pdf - Adobe Reader

We are at a crossroads: a shrinking number of willing participants and an environment where employers are reluctant to invest further. To attract and support the less willing will therefore require better deployment of the funds currently utilized.

There are five major areas of expenditure in running a mobility program, none of which adds anything to making them more attractive or providing support for undecided families:

  • Tax Compliance — Monitoring and ensuring compliance with income tax, social security and corporate tax is now essential to mitigate risk. Many countries regard the tax generated from expatriates as an important revenue stream and will chase employers when they suspect underpayment by employees.
  • Employment Law Compliance — Immigration records are synced with tax records to assist revenue authorities improve revenue collection. Many countries place restrictions on foreign employment to facilitate payroll tax collection. Local employment requirements designed to protect lower paid locals impose costly severance and other conditions for expatriates caught in their net.
  • Employment Contract Administration — Often starts with a home country or point of origin employment agreement plus another in the host location to cover local payroll and work permit requirements. Multiple home locations and multiple foreign destinations results in an extensive matrix of terms and conditions needing to be integrated to maintain internal equity.
  • Benefit Plan Administration — Ensuring that local coverage is comparable or better than the employee’s entitlement at home, topping it up with an international plan or finding ways to continue membership of a home country plan (designed and integrated with the home country tax and social security systems), is only the start. Then there are currency issues involved in paying benefits, how a home plan is going to be treated under local income tax rules and how pension gaps caused by lack of participation in home social security or loss of tax deductibility as well as issues around medical diagnosis and treatment in a foreign language.
  • Home Location Administration — Employees never want to leave their home country social security plan and some literally can’t completely sever ties with their home country. Houses to maintain, elderly parents to care for, bereavements to deal with, discretionary medical or dental treatment all require continuing connectivity and for each home country, familiarity with local laws and practice is required by HR administrators.

It is not surprising then, why administration takes five times the work for mobile employees compared to locals. Additionally it is easy to see why the employers staff the function with an employee that is at home in the detail, but usually someone who rarely travels and has little empathy with the challenges faced by young families on a first assignment.

Not one of the items on this list increases the satisfaction or improves the life of an expatriate. Performing these tasks exceptionally well is only the basic skill requirement. Get them wrong or apply them inconsistently and administrators are tied up for weeks and employees disengaged. Erring on the side of “No” rather than “Yes” to a new request, thereby creating a precedent with rafts of administrative changes is also the norm.

We addressed earlier the question of value and cost. None of the items above do much to enhance or protect a valuable employee for the benefit of the employer. The significant professional development that is occurring during an assignment and its utilization in a further assignment or a further stretching role upon its completion should be of primary concern to the employer when competencies are at premium.

Employees are these days alert to only vague promises of how an assignment will progress their careers. They can point too easily to colleagues, similar to the young woman referred to above, who left the company within months of returning to their home location. Redirecting expenditure to systems that visibly enhance the brand, make the employer more attractive in a competitive world and that support wavering mobility would seem to be what the circumstances demand.

Creating a separate employment structure to manage a mobile workforce, as far as we can tell, has been around since the 1970s when first used to help Americans on assignment avoid U.S. social security payments. The Payroll Service Company or Global Employment Company emerged in the form we know it today in the early 1990s, when companies grappled with the original “War for Talent”.

The models that we worked on then were in the consumer goods sector to enable mobile managers to move seamlessly between new overseas markets. Since then we have contributed to models to help minimize tax exposure to cash-hungry developing markets, to improve employment and tax governance of an elaborate matrix of nationalities and host countries, to reduce social security exposure and to lift an employment brand to “best in class” and enable it to attract the best of the mobile skills available. The rationale and approach for each was unique in each case and sometimes did not involve unified employment. For each situation, the approach adopted aimed to differentiate the employer from its competitors. By definition, an off-the-shelf global employment solution does not exist; to optimize the opportunities each is designed around the needs and objectives of its sponsor depending on the objectives. However, a number of common outcomes were present with each:

  • A reduction in administration expense — a common employment structure radically shrinks employment agreements needed. A common employment platform means home leave, vacation, benefits, tax treatment etc and even compensation can be the same irrespective of where an employee originates.

Managing employment through a single company introduced a common legal platform and payroll regime. Despite the emergence of global pay scales, in many industries some employers continue to arbitrage labour costs by recruiting from different locations and omit compensation from their common approach with all other terms and conditions being identical. Some considered that severing ties with the home country to be too problematic and adopted common employment conditions but without a common employment entity. Whatever the degree of desired commonality, expatriates are treated the same, resulting in immediate administrative savings and creating the opportunity for automation. A single approach also permits centralization of administration as expertise in the expatriate’s home country is dramatically reduced. Central management leads to deeper holistic expertise and dramatic improvements in service.

  • Internal Equity — for many international companies their mobile workforce is their most important group because they are opening new markets and transferring skills, processes and values to new locations.

As we have seen, however, in reality they were often treated as the least important with equity non-existent within the group, as each expatriate had a different set of terms dependent upon where they came from or how strongly they negotiated. Using a global approach the terms and conditions for all expatriates become the same. Inequity occurs of course throughout HR programs but is amplified amongst expatriates and any measure to reduce it should be welcomed.Most important group.pdf

When thrown together in a host location, the one thing that expatriates have initially in common is their terms and conditions. The administrator gets the call when it becomes apparent that they are different which in turn contributes to the 5:1 ratio mentioned earlier and inevitably more cost.

In many industries and for some skill sets, common pay scales that cover the globe, continent or region have emerged. This has happened in recognition of two things: First, the scarcity of talent and its homogeneity — if you have the skills and are mobile you can command the same pay irrespective of where you come from; and secondly, the shrinking differences between the costs of living and consequently the requisite cost of living allowances. This often means paying more for the tables to calculate the difference than the allowance that results from the calculation. These factors, coupled with the recognition that many transferees may not return home and so why continue to anchor them to one location have begun to influence the move to common expatriate pay.

  • Compliance — a single, common employment entity will reduce the size of the compliance matrix that needs to be managed for personal income tax as well as corporate tax and social security. Matters of transfer tax and permanent establishment obviously don’t go away but they are clarified and use of an offshore entity can reduce risk and exposure for corporate purposes. However, the single most important advantage stems from the ability to provide oversight to income tax compliance around the world.

No local tax legislation provides insight into “how do we minimize tax exposure?”. CFOs, in the absence of clear black and white legislation, want to take a position of minimum direct impact to the company (and ideally, a predictable risk). Minimizing the complexity and number of locations in the matrix enables greater certainty. Penalties for failure to comply with income tax or social security are designed to encourage compliance, but revenue authorities will chase the employer irrespective of whether the employee is at fault placing corporate reputations at risk, as well as government approved licenses and other relationships that are predicated on the Company being a good corporate citizen. Companies can no longer afford a laissez faire approach to employee income tax compliance. A single employment company makes this less costly to manage and more effective at risk mitigation.

  • Talent Management — when companies adopt a global approach to expatriate management, it is often low-key, especially when the purpose is to reduce tax exposure. This is a lost opportunity and the approach can be promoted to potential new expatriates, especially those who have worked internationally for other employers. The structure, when marketed effectively, will demonstrate that the frustrations experienced with a prior employer are removed or minimized.

Common employment terms and conditions dramatically simplify the process of transferring an expatriate from one international location to another. The mechanism enables central tracking of all employees on assignment, and no one is left behind.

Without it the responsibility for home country redeployment falls to a local HR manager who has often never been on assignment, has no idea how the individual has grown, resents the perceived excessive pay and benefits and can only envisage the employee’s contribution as it was prior to the assignment. Consequently, the individual’s skills and experience are not put to good use causing early departure and destruction of value.

A simpler administrative structure introduces the prospect of benefits and features designed exclusively to support mobile families. The complex matrix demands that these be local arrangements designed for employees who stay home but modified to accommodate the expatriate. For example, EAPs designed exclusively for a mobile workforce and offering related services, benefit plans that are currency friendly to accommodate reimbursement in a location different from where the claim was incurred, host location orientation that is separate and distinct from real estate vendors and provision of spousal support services, etc. These can be customized to the profile of your workforce and prioritized and targeted at known frustrations and premature assignment failures.

Globalizing an expatriate program through the adoption of common terms and conditions and/or a single common employer is not only contemporary and timely but will:

  • Reduce the costs of expatriation;
  • Enhance success in the competition for scarce top talent; and
  • Mitigate financial risk exposure

The transition needs to be carefully planned and ideally, the experience of professionals who have previously undertaken these projects. These are once in a career projects with a high likelihood of failure which is dramatically increased when a well intentioned neophyte is asked to manage the project.

While ostensibly focused on talent management and therefore an HR initiative, a successful project will involve finance, tax and risk management across multiple jurisdictions and require an experienced leader who can coordinate and is familiar with the interaction of these functions in the management of mobility.

— Paul Pittman is the founding partner of The Human Well and has more than 30 years of international human resource experience. He consults to Boards and executive management on matters focused on improving the return on investment in people through compensation strategies, cultural change initiatives, solutions for employee benefit risk, expatriate management and M&As.

He has led successful teams at Massey-Ferguson, Laidlaw, Japan Tobacco International (formerly RJR Nabisco), Deloitte and the global reward practice at Alcan where he integrated HR practices world-wide following the merger with Pechiney. He led the HR integration teams in the $8-billion acquisition of RJR International by Japan Tobacco in 55 countries, the $12-billion IPO of Novelis Inc., and delivered $20 million in savings from global rationalization of HR.

He is a former member of the Conference Board of Canada’s Council of Human Resource Executives, speaks at conferences and publishes articles globally as well as having served as an expert witness on compensation matters.

He has lived in the U.K., Canada (Quebec and Ontario) and Switzerland and worked extensively in many other parts of the world. He is currently located in Toronto. He is an accountant by training. He has also served on the Board and as President of the Oakville Club. Please visit www.thehumanwell.com for more information. You can also reach Paul at paulpittman@thehumanwell.com. 

Resume Check.pdf

10 minute résumé health check

In a recent survey, two thirds of senior mining managers and leaders told us they are either already looking for their next role or would consider a new role if the right one landed on their desk today.

This begs the question: if the right opportunity came your way today, would your résumé be up to scratch for submission?

Clients expect the best mining recruitment consultancies to provide shortlists much more quickly these days. If you need to wait until a spare weekend to get your CV ready, you might miss out on the opportunity to be put forward at the earliest opportunity.

This article doesn’t aim to provide definitive guidance on writing a résumé. But if you have a spare ten minutes, why not invest them in your future career by giving your résumé a quick health check?

  1. CAN YOU FIND YOUR MOST UP-TO-DATE CV OR RÉSUMÉ?

Be honest. Can you quickly lay your hands on your most up-to-date résumé? Or would you, like many people, be searching your hard drive and turning up any number of out-of-date copies?

If you want to keep old or alternative versions (and I appreciate they can come in handy) create an archive folder within your main résumé folder and save them there. Sort out version control by incorporating the date into the filename of your document.

  1. ARE YOUR CONTACT DETAILS CORRECT?

Basic stuff I know, but worth checking. Make sure you have a professional email address. Avoid references to race, gender, religion, or particularly wild things in your username. Nicknames can get you remembered for all the wrong reasons

Email is an ideal way to first contact someone about a job, so ensure you’re giving an email address you can — and will — check regularly and frequently.

  1. IS YOUR CURRENT POSITION LISTED?

Once you’ve landed a new role, adding it to your CV is probably not your highest priority. But it makes sense to get it on there now, together with a brief summary of the skills you’ve demonstrated and recent measurable achievements.

  1. ARE YOU COLLECTING EVIDENCE OF ACHIEVEMENTS FOR THIS ROLE?

I always encourage candidates to keep records of any measurable achievements that can be used on a résumé, ideally with supporting evidence. If you’re not doing this already, now is a great time to start.

  1. ARE YOU CONFIDENT YOU CAN SUBSTANTIATE YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS IN PREVIOUS ROLES?

Read through the achievements you have for earlier roles. Are you confident you can talk about them fluently in an interview? Can you still describe your role in the process?

  1. CHECK YOUR REFEREES

It’s not essential to have referees listed but if you choose to do so, double check you’re including the most appropriate people and that their contact details are correct. Are they even still with the same company?

You might want to get in touch to make sure they are still happy to be contacted. It’s courteous and might result in a helpful networking conversation.

  1. HAVE YOU ADDED ANY COURSES OR TRAINING YOU’VE COMPLETED RECENTLY?

If you’ve completed any personal development in your current role, it’s worth making a note of it. Evidence of continuing professional development will always impress potential employers and it’s all too easy to forget short courses a few months down the line.

  1. DOES IT REFLECT YOUR ASPIRATIONS AS WELL AS YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS?

A résumé is a historical document, but it’s useful if it reflects your aspirations. If you have a clear career plan in mind that means your next role will require financial management skills, make sure your résumé reflects some experience of that.

  1. DOES IT STILL READ WELL?

The one benefit of not looking at your résumé for a while is that you can now read it with a fresh pair of eyes. Search for errors, inconsistencies, layout issues and any hint of BS. Read it out loud if you have time.

  1. GET SOMEONE ELSE TO READ IT, TOO

It’s tough to proofread your own work. If you can get ten minutes of anyone else’s time, ask them to check your document for typos, grammatical errors and sense. This objective check can be invaluable; what makes sense to you won’t always be clear to others.

If all you can spare is ten minutes this weekend, see these steps as the diagnosis stage and make time to address any issues as soon as possible. After all, you can never predict when the next opportunity will come your way.

 — Jane Banks in Principal Consultant for Stratum International, based in their North America office in Washington DC. With nearly 20 years’ experience in international executive search and more than a decade specializing exclusively in mining recruitment for Corporate and Operations roles, Jane has a track record of more than 600 successful searches within the sector.
Stratum International is a global mining recruitment and executive search consultancy specializing in business-critical roles in mining operations and mining project development. We can help clients find and attract mining project and operations professionals at the top of their game.

Stratum’s consultants are recognized experts in the field, focused on knowing the best mining talent available. They cultivate relationships with senior professionals across specific mining disciplines, including Project Development, Mine Operations and Executive Leadership, helping them plan their careers. This proactive contact means Stratum can provide clients with candidate shortlists in days rather than weeks. Please visit www.stratum-international.com for more information.