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Susan Gregory

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25 top tips from Grant Thornton’s Talent Mobility team


Following Grant Thornton's Talent Mobility team recently being awarded HR Team of the Year at the Re:locate awards 2016, Susan Gregory, Head of Talent Mobility, shares her 25 top tips for HR professionals to consider when co-ordinating international assignments:

  1. It’s all about the employee experience. You are moving people not objects; each are different so know your audience and focus on their specific, personal needs.   
  2. It's rarely easy to move people internationally so try to keep it simple
  3. Never underestimate the challenge or importance of compliance. Get the core compliance aspects right first – ie immigration, tax, social security and medical plans.  Entry refusal at border, deportation, imprisonment and death tend to give you and the programme a bad name and is extremely career limiting!
  4. Choose strong partners who understand the complexities of a truly global program and yours in particular. Find providers who work for you (biggest isn’t always best) and build good, strong relationships with them. They can be one of your biggest supports and sources of information and it does matter if you don’t like them
  5. Bring your partners together early and often to review processes, policies and to strategise
  6. Find a way to measure your success easily and I don't mean a monetary return on investment.  How to measure your success will depend on what objectives have been set
  7. Celebrate your wins. Remember that the majority of your colleagues, potentially including your boss, have NO idea of what you do, so make sure they hear when you succeed
  8. Design a program that works for your organisation’s needs. One size doesn’t fit all
  9. Don’t underestimate the value of considered and well planned repatriation; most organisations do and suffer retention issues for it. Repatriation should be planned at the same time as the assignment
  10. Set clear expectations of your team. Achieving these expectations and agility is a key requirement for a mobility professional and helps when you can't do the impossible, with no cost, yesterday
  11. Find an Executive/Stakeholder in HR, Finance, Corporate Tax or elsewhere in the business who understands the impact you have and make this person your best friend. They are your champion and crucial in your ability to gain buy-in on exceptional issues and you will need their support when an unreasonable business leader/assignee wants you to do the impossible
  12. Keep commitments and honour deadlines 
  13. Get clear expectations and objectives set for the assignment for all parties – home organisation, host organisation and assignee
  14. Be sure to gain buy-in from your key stakeholders for any policy change you wish to implement, and then over-communicate these changes.
  15. Have a strong exception policy from day one, with sign off by the most senior person who foots the bill. It will help to develop your policies in line with your organisation’s needs and enhance the likelihood of remaining true to it
  16. However, live with exceptions as long as they are exceptional
  17. Document everything, especially the “why”. I can guarantee you won’t remember why you did that in 6 months’ time when someone asks
  18. Understand and appreciate that we are all human and people make mistakes. It is the recovery that matters most, and insurance that whatever went wrong can and will be addressed for all future assignments
  19. Don’t be the first one to do anything, especially with technology. Let someone else be the guinea pig and iron out all the bugs – first usually means being way over budget in money and time, second is better, third or fourth better still. Learn from others doing the process before you
  20. Learn to advise what the listener needs/wants to know, not what you want to tell them
  21. Keep communication brief and to the point ie why am I writing to you (FYI, looking for advice or looking for help); headline/summary and 3/4 bullet points.  Definitely no more than three paragraphs
  22. Know your stuff and admit when you don't. Bring in experts when you need to – saves time and money in the long run
  23. Use your international colleagues to identify potential issues – eg discrimination is alive and well in many countries – can be legal or just a reality. Prep the potential assignee and the business accordingly
  24. Grow your networks – most people are really forthcoming if you ask for help but be prepared to share
  25. Be seen as having a “can do” attitude, not as a blocker – only if it is illegal or immoral, should you say “you can’t do that” instead of supplying alternatives. One of my mantras is – come to me with a problem and we’ll work together to achieve a solution. If you come to me with a solution, you may not be pleased with the response or outcome
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