Impressions from FIGT 2009 - Friday, March 6th

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We talked about sharing your expat story and how to live your best life abroad last week, now's the time for cracker barrels, practical tools, and a deeper appreciation of the big picture.

Friday started off with early-bird topics around various breakfast tables. I joined the eager group to hear Andrea Martin, founder of Expat Women, explain and discuss tips and tricks for blogging. Expat Women, of course, being the super-friendly, easy to navigate, one-stop-shop for personal stories from around the world, expertise that'll make your head spin, and well-organized platform for literally all sorts of information around the topics of international lifestyles. Andrea patiently explained all the basics and gave some great tips, and I hope all of fellow FIGT'ers went straight to wordpress (or blogspot, you know) to start documenting their own journey. (I'm on there too, not so much for blogging but for service providers, find me here.)

Seeing as Expat Women offers one communal platform for sharing expat information for women on the internet, wouldn't it make tremendous sense to have a similar database in your global company, supporting your HR departments and international relocaters with first hand information and do's and don't's about particular cultures that more than one employee get sent to? What is your company doing in terms of relocation advice? Is there a feedback system in place that provides intelligence on not only satisfaction levels with movers, but that also points out English speaking hairdressers in Rome, for example, or which school to enroll your kids in when in Hong Kong? How to deal with a particular local vendor, and which restaurants are best to hold team-building exercises in? Or do you reinvent the wheel for every single relocation without building on lessons learnt of the people who already lived through it?

The advantages of such a database of information were made abundantly clear by Dr. Neal Goodman, a celebrity among international HR managers, in his presentation on Knowledge Management tools. He effectively illustrated the impact of expat knowledge lost due to terminations and general memory fatigue and made a strong case for periodic surveying of and listening to expat employees' experiences in foreign cultures. For more information on how he can support you get a handle on your people's intellectual capital, please contact him at Global Dynamics.

In an effort to compensate the non-existence of cloning, some presenters offered 20-minute tasters of their longer presentation, to give FIGT'ers the chance to at least get a glimpse of the presentations on the menu. I would have loved to roam from table to table myself, but, alas, I was one of the presenters offering the aforementioned taste. My worst fear of not having anyone come sit by and talk with me did not come true, and though the time constraints are quite severe, I feel I connected with at least some of you guys. And to the others I repeat, drop me a line with any question you may have! Seriously, I'm not just saying that, I will respond! :-)

Friday was also the day where my hopes and dreams came crashing down, but not to worry, I'm mostly saying this for dramatic effect. What happened was that I went to the presentation on "HR Managers - a resource worth tapping into" and learned a lot about the layers of HR Managers, global mobility specialists, service vendors, agencies, CEOs, and solopreneurs like myself, and how we are connected in this game of "let's get everyone the support they need." I always thought that I could speak directly with the HR departments about their expats and spouses and what a useful yet non-threatening opportunity coaching is to ensuring happy families and successful assignments. Apparently I'm mistaken, and HR managers are better guarded than... a treasure that's very well guarded!

When a lady in the back row - bless her cotton socks - asked how solopreneurs best go about making contact with HR departments, the short answer was not to bother and instead focus on connecting with relocation service providers, who are the link between corporate and consultant/trainer/coach, and who would provide local contracts as needed. So that's why my efforts over the last few months didn't really lead anywhere, doh! That little tidbit of information was apparently well known and obvious to everybody in the room except lady-in-back-row and myself. Still, I count myself lucky having found out about it relatively early on and having a better idea of where to focus my efforts going forward.

Question: How's your business doing - are you sure you're spending your time wisely talking to the right people?

Friday evening was spent lounging on the terrace drinking wine and eating fabulous salads, putting the world to rights with new friends: Donna from Brats without Borders, Carolyn from Black and (A)broad, and Doni from Divine Basics. I placed the winning bid on one of the items Doni has generously donated towards the Pollock Scholarship fund, so I invite you to check out her store, there's some great stuff there. Just when I thought the conference couldn't have been more helpful professionally, it's getting top-marks for the Menschen as well.

Have you read something you like? Do you see how you and your company and your HR manager can benefit from the FIGT conference next year? Please leave your comments below, and do spread the word, forwarding the information to people whom you think might benefit. Thank you.

Til next week, have a good one! xx

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