As published on Expatica, Mercer’s Worldwide International Assignments Policies and Practices report (WIAPP) found that “Over 70 percent of companies expect to increase short-term assignments in 2013.” Very interesting article and report.
Excerpts below. For full article, click on Expatica link above.
If you’re an expat abroad, how long has your assignment been?
If you’re a prospective expat, how many years would you be comfortable living abroad?
(full disclosure: this is not an ad for Mercer).
The report showed that 55 percent of companies expect to increase long-term assignments and highlighted that, for the last two years, there has been an increase in the overall number of international assignments. The report found that China, United States, Brazil, United Kingdom and Australia are the priority destinations in their respective regions for expatriates.
Mercer’s Worldwide International Assignments Policies and Practices report (WIAPP) also found that more than half of companies reported an increase of long-term (52 percent) and short-term assignments (53 percent) in 2011 and 2010. The WIAPP report presents the latest trends in international assignment programme management, policies, and practices data.
Anne Rossier-Renaud, principal in Mercer’s global mobility business said, “International assignments have become diverse in order to meet evolving business and global workforce needs. Relatively low pay increases in some regions, and pressure on companies to attract and retain talent, have spurred many to embrace a wider range of global mobility strategies to incentivise high performers. Mobility and HR directors now face great complexity in the number and type of international assignments that need managing.”
According to Mercer, the top five reasons cited for international assignment programmes are; to provide specific technical skills not available locally (47 percent), to provide career management/leadership development (43 percent), to ensure knowledge transfer (41 percent), to fulfil specific project needs (39 percent), and to provide specific managerial skills not available locally (38 percent). Close to half of North American (45 percent) and European (46 percent) companies indicate career management/leadership development as one of the main reasons they have international assignments. In the future, worldwide, 62 percent of participants anticipate an increase in the number of technical-related short-term assignments, 55 percent anticipate an increase in talent development assignments, and half anticipate an increase in key strategic assignments.
Just a friendly reminder that the April 15th tax deadline is fast approaching with our friends at the IRS. Americans living abroad have until June 17th to file their returns, but still any taxes owed to the US government that are outstanding must be paid by April 15th.
For those in France, the US Embassy Paris has a page dedicated to taxation resources, including many links to IRS and forms (like the 2555-EZ form for Foreign Earned Income Tax Exclusion). As the article stipulates, if you’re American and work and reside outside the US, you may be able to exclude up to $95,100 USD annually in foreign income. Check out the links above for further information.
AARO has some views on taxation of Americans abroad, worth the read.
The Economist this week has a 14-page special report this week in its print edition that focuses on France, from its economy to politics, under the central theme of how economic structural reform is necessary in order to avoid a “time bomb” going off at the heart of the Eurozone. You can access the Nov. 17, 2012 print edition contents here. The leader article introducing the special report is here, and the special report link can be found at the table of contents site under “Special report: France” (there are 8 articles).
I’m delving into all this right now and encourage you to do the same. Even if you don’t agree with the magazine’s analysis, it is a highly-regarded publication for a reason: for asking important questions.
This is the not the first time the British news magazine has waxed poetic about France’s economic woes and potential for growth. Indeed, French economic and business paper Les Echos puts past covers and stories into perspective (in French).
What do you think are France’s biggest problems and do you think Hollande and Ayrault’s government can solve them?
I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving, and for those celebrating this weekend (comme moi), enjoy the festivities!
The Economist has an interesting piece in this week’s issue that talks about the newly automated line 1 of the Paris metro system which was completely outfitted with new technology and revamped to make it driverless.
Besides having better and more service during rush hour and a lower risk of accidents (automated line 14, which I take quite often, has had no accidents since its launch in 1998), the modernization of services also results in a welcome side effect for many: these automated lines will not be affected by the occasional public transport worker strikes since there are no drivers (see excerpt below).
What is your view on technology and innovation in France? Do you think labor costs are too high and discourages employers from hiring more often?
“…Strict labour laws, costly payroll charges and erratic strikes seem to make French firms especially keen on technology. Supermarkets, for instance, have enthusiastically adopted self-checkout tills. “All French hypermarkets have adopted this strategy over the past few years,” says Alexis Lecanuet at Accenture, a consultancy. The idea is to speed up queues at peak times for impatient non-technophobes carrying light baskets. But it also cuts costs. “Self-checkout has worked better in countries where labour is expensive,” says Serguei Netessine, a professor at INSEAD, a business school.
France excels at high-tech services: credit-card operated petrol stations, touch-screen fast-food counters, automatic car-washing. Two years ago, McDonalds pioneered the use of touch-screen, credit-card-based ordering in its French fast-food restaurants. Eléphant Bleu, a self-service high-pressure car-washing chain, has 472 outlets in France, and is expanding. All this in a country where the labour code runs to over 3,300 pages, an employer pays an average of 39% in payroll taxes, and unemployment is at 10%. Spot the connection.”
The Economist has an interesting business column that recently addressed the relationship that French workers have with their jobs. Over the past years, people abroad have heard of disgruntled factory workers “boss-napping”, holding different kinds of strikes and working 35 hour weeks. These are stereotypes, and most French workers are at the office more than 35 hours. In fact average work time for full-time employees is 41 hours) and all employees taken into account, 39.4 hours. I know I work more than that!
Incidentally it appears that often management teams at many French companies are responsible in part for this unhealthy relationship, as many directors come from a few grandes écoles (elite schools) and thus career advancement can be hindered within companies that retain top-down power structures with a few elite at the reins.
However, the article (below with some boldfaced parts) cites companies such as Danone which has been refreshingly open to basing promotions on skills rather than which elite school an employee attended. Other companies cited are Alcatel-Lucent and Schneider Electric.
What do you think? Do you agree, disagree? What is your experience working in a French company with French workers?
The French way of work
Managers must shoulder some of the blame for France’s troubled relationship with work
Nov 19th 2011 | from the print edition
EVERY year, Sophie de Menthon, a French entrepreneur, holds an event called J’aime ma boîte (I love my firm) in Paris. The idea is to counter the notion that the French don’t like work. Employees are enticed to make lip dubs (a video of them lip-synching to music, if you need to ask), massage each other, vote for the nicest colleague, arrange for the accountant to swap jobs with the secretary and other stunts to celebrate their firm.
The much-mocked campaign has not had much luck. In 2007 a national strike interrupted the festivities, and in 2009 a series of suicides at France Télécom spoilt the atmosphere. This year employees showed less love for their boîte than ever before. Only 64% of those polled liked their company, down from 79% in 2005.
A truer reflection of work attitudes came this summer when French workers covered office windows with huge pictures made up of Post-it notes. Employees at GDF-Suez, a utility, stuck thousands of them to the windows of its HQ near Paris to represent Tintin, a comic-strip hero. Société Générale’s bankers responded with a picture of Asterix and Obelix across six storeys. A few employers cracked down on the time-wasting, but most did not dare.
Many outsiders conclude that French workers are simply lazy. “Absolument Dé-bor-dée!” (“Absolutely Snowed Under”), a book which came out last year, described how state employees compete to do nothing at work. Another title in this bestselling genre on avoiding toil, “Bonjour Paresse” (“Hello Laziness”) by Corinne Maier, an economist, explained how she got away with doing nothing at EDF, another utility.
In fact studies suggest that the problem with French employees is less that they are work-shy, than that they are poorly managed. According to a report on national competitiveness by the World Economic Forum, the French rank and file has a much stronger work ethic than American, British or Dutch employees. They find great satisfaction in their work, but register profound discontent with the way their firms are run.
Two-fifths of employees, according to a 2010 study by BVA, a polling firm, actively dislike their firm’s top managers. France ranks last out of ten countries for workers’ opinion of company management, according to a report from 2007. Whereas two-thirds of American, British and German employees say they have friendly relations with their line manager, fewer than a third of French workers say the same. Many employees, in short, agree with Ms Maier, who recommends that chief executives be guillotined to the tune of “La Carmagnole”, a revolutionary song.
If French work attitudes are out of the ordinary, French management methods are also unusual. The vast majority of chief executives of big firms hail from one of a handful of grandes écoles, such as École Polytechnique, an elite science school. Through what is known as parachutage, they can arrive suddenly from the top ranks of the civil service. Air France KLM, for example, announced unexpectedly last month that its new chief executive would be Alexandre de Juniac, formerly chief of staff to Christine Lagarde when she was France’s finance minister.
Although the grandes écoles are superbly meritocratic—candidates compete against each other in a series of gruelling exams—their dominance of corporate hierarchies makes workplaces much less so. At a big French bank recently, a manager promoted an executive, only to be reproached by a furious rival who said he should have been given the job because he had done better in the final exams at the same grande école.
As Thomas Philippon, a French economist, pointed out in “Le Capitalisme d’Héritiers”, a 2007 book, too many big French companies rely on educational and governmental elites rather than promoting internally according to performance on the job. In the country’s many family firms, too, opportunity for promotion is limited for non-family members. This overall lack of upward mobility, argues Mr Philippon, contributes largely to ordinary French cadres’ dissatisfaction with corporate life. A study of seven leading economies by TNS Sofres in 2007 showed that France is unique in that middle management as well as the lower-level workforce is largely disengaged from their companies.
For those farther down the ladder, French companies are hierarchical, holding no truck with Anglo-Saxon notions of “empowerment”. And bosses are more distant than ever. A big change in French management, says Jean-Pierre Basilien of Entreprise & Personnel, a Paris research centre, is that industrial managers now seldom rise through the ranks. Fifteen years ago a leading graduate would have worked in factories before moving to headquarters. Now many come up via finance or strategy.
From the ranks
There are important exceptions. Danone, a food-products firm, is one. It has made a big effort to promote people solely on competence, says Charles-Henri Besseyre des Horts, a professor at HEC, a business school which is one of the elite grandes écoles. The 2006 merger of Alcatel, a French telecoms-equipment firm, and Lucent, an American one, created a less hierarchical group. Alcatel-Lucent even encourages teleworking, uncommon in France because it means trusting workers not to goof off. Jean-Pascal Tricoire, chief executive of Schneider Electric, an ambitious energy-management firm, came up from the ranks.
French companies have particular reason to worry now about their bad boss-worker relations. An important factor in the growing gap in industrial competitiveness between France and Germany, said a recent study by Coe-Rexecode, an economic-research centre, is that German bosses and employees are better than French ones at working together. French bosses badly need to follow in the footsteps of Danone and other modernisers. If they try and fail, then at least they can blame the workers.
The Economist has a long-running column “Which MBA?” and a recent post talks about something with which you are all likely well acquainted: the role of foreign languages in education. The article features two French schools: INSEAD and Grenoble School of Management.
Do you think that learning foreign languages is an important factor in deciding an MBA program?
Oct 18th 2011, 16:32 by S.H.
SPEAKING three languages wasn’t enough for Lenka Menden. When it came to choosing where to study for an MBA, she wanted a chance to absorb a new culture and learn yet another tongue. “My first language is Czech, I studied for a degree in business administration in Germany and I went on to take an MSc in Prague,” she explains. “I then worked for three-and-a-half years as an analyst at Morgan Stanley in Canary Wharf.”
Ms Menden turned down the chance of studying at London Business School, instead choosing IESE in Barcelona, because she thought it would open new doors. “Staying in London I would have been in the same environment and there wouldn’t be that many challenges. So I learned a new language alongside my MBA because Spanish is a very important language of business. I have extended my personal network to include people from Mexico, Spain and the Philippines. I can now work anywhere in Europe or in an emerging economy,” she says.
High-profile business schools still teach primarily in English. But many, especially in Europe, are beginning to realise that language tuition is a big selling point. The attraction of learning a language is two-fold. With so many alumni on the market, bi-lingualism distinguishes the exceptional MBA from the run of the mill. And in a global business, the ability to speak languages and understand cultures is vital.
INSEAD, which has campuses in France and Singapore, has a three-language requirement. Students joining its MBA programme must be fluent in English and proficient in at least one other. A third language of a student’s own choice is taught alongside the MBA. Facility in that language is a condition of being awarded an MBA. “It’s about developing a cultural sensitivity and is a way of becoming a global citizen,” says Leila Murat, the school’s assistant director of MBA admissions.
Mandarin is popular on both campuses. A quarter of students are of Asian origin and many Westerners come to the business school specifically to gain insight into doing business in China. Other emerging markets are shaping interest too: Portuguese and Russian are also becoming more popular, says Ms Murat.
Despite Anglophones’ reputation for lazyness in this area, such stringent language requirements don’t seem to be putting off English-speaking students. INSEAD has seen applications from America more than double in the past five years. Nevertheless, there are drawbacks. For one, teaching languages is expensive. The most effective method is face-to-face. That means recruiting native speakers.
But how easy is it to find a native Chinese speaker in a provincial city? At Grenoble Graduate School of Business in France, they can call on the university’s renowned languages department. But responding to students’ demands is not always easy. Japanese teachers are particularly hard to source, says Carol Gally, the school’s language co-ordinator. She says she often has to rely on the partners of people employed on the campus coming forward to teach.
Grenoble’s students are given 72 hours of language tuition over two semesters, with classes running into the early evening after the MBA teaching finishes. Compulsory French classes expose students to everyday situations, official documents and radio and television. Beginners start with the basics, such as how to shop, eat and drink. Other languages are then taught in the medium of French.
At IESE, learning Spanish is a big attraction for international students such as Ms Menden. Although the MBA is taught in English, some second-year modules are in Spanish. The school’s aim is to graduate students fluent in both languages. Ninety per cent of students pass the Spanish element and qualify for what is known as a bi-lingual MBA.
Students are advised to come to Barcelona to attend a summer language school before joining the programme. This makes them more employable, according to Javier Munoz, IESE’s admissions officer. The internships arranged through the business school demand fluency in Spanish; without considerable language skills the offers from Spanish banks, engineering firms and car manufacturers would not be forthcoming. Given the current economic situation in the country, they need all the advantages they can get.
This just in…taken from the Local’s website.
How long do your lunches last during the work day?
French lunch breaks fall to just 22 minutes
Published: 29 Sep 2011 10:51 GMT+1
Despite the widely-held view that French workers while away long lunch hours over three-course lunches with wine, a new survey shows that most grab lunch in just over 20 minutes.
A survey by insurance company Malakoff Médéric found the shortening of the lunch break has been dramatic. While workers twenty years ago took 1 hour and 30 minutes at lunchtime, the average has now fallen to just 22 minutes.
“The lunch break has become the flexible part of the working day,” said Anne-Sophie Godon of Malakoff Médéric, reported Le Figaro. “The content of the day has become more dense, while the distance between home and work has tended to get longer. Given this, workers have no other choice than to trim their lunch break.”
The way workers eat is also changing. Just one in ten now go outside to restaurants and around one in five eat in the company canteen. Almost a third of workers go home at lunchtime and 14 percent reach for a sandwich, up 2 percent over two years.
Doctors believe that rapid eating can have negative effects.
“When we eat quickly, we don’t have the time to feel satisfied,” Doctor Patrick Serog told Le Figaro. “When we eat in front of a computer, it’s even worse: we don’t pay attention to what we’re eating. The result is a tendency to snack in the afternoon.”
“Taking a proper break of about three-quarters of an hour is the best,” said fellow doctor Odile Renard. “Without this break, stress can accumulate.”
A final incentive to get out of the office and into a restaurant or canteen could come from a survey conducted by job site Monster, which found that the average office can contain 400 times more germs than a toilet seat.