Every Saga has Three Parts
Article written by Luca Palazzotto and Michael Steffens
We all know how it is to start a new job and we are all used to mobility as part of our life. Nevertheless, being uprooted remains a major challenge to our families. The support given to colleagues in this situation is an investment in their well-being, safety and effectiveness at work. What are the flaws of the support in Delegations and how can we improve?
We would like to look at this challenge in three volumes.
In this first volume, we will discuss how colleagues can best settle into a new environment and make the necessary arrangements for themselves and their family. We will also discuss how administrative or professional support in this process is of utmost importance and an investment worth making. At the bottom of this email, we make a number of concrete proposals that would help colleagues to settle into the new environment after their mobility.
Relocation consultants: one possible solution to many problems
When you land in a new country, you are projected in a completely new context with little or no support at all.
1. Finding the right accommodation can be difficult at times, due to arbitrary rules attached to security, to the low budgets provided in some locations, or a combination of both.
2. Identifying the right school for your kids may also be a concern for you and your family during mobility. Colleagues usually rely on each other reaching out to mothers and fathers already serving in the Delegation and enquiring about schools or nurseries. In addition, as schools demand early registration, colleagues are obliged to sign up their children remotely before even having seen the premises of school.
3. Information about internet/LTE providers, nannies and other type of questions is lacking.
We think in the majority of countries this situation could be improved through the involvement of professional relocation consultants that would ensure that basic issues such as temporary accommodation, housing, schooling, temporary transportation, car purchase and registrations, and all the basic information and advice that you need when you move to a new country would be addressed professionally.
For example, the relocation consultant can provide insights on the local housing market and how to approach the search. He or she could solicit offers from different real estate agents and be compensated for this service. In some places, a good relocation consultant could avoid unnecessary increase of accommodation allowances, or provide the necessary insight to enable the administration to identify the appropriate level of the housing allowance. The reduction of time spend in temporary housing could compensate for such services and would allow colleagues to settle in quicker.
USHU requests the administration to consider engaging relocation consultants to ensure colleagues find proper housing as well as schools for their kids, and to support in all those necessary activities that a move into a new country requires.
Align benefits, help integration and build a welcoming environment
The processing and alignment of privileges for colleagues is of utmost importance too. This includes processing the removal, reimbursing taking up duty flights and everything surrounding the official registration/visa in the new place of work. We know about cases where colleagues/families were hit hard because simply their vehicle or their shipment was not cleared in a timely manner. We understand that administration sections are not always in the driving seat when it comes to a timely processing, but they should understand their responsibility.
Improve the mobility table and post reports
During mobility, the tabular overview should contain key data to improve the job matching process. The introduction of OPSYS will result into less accessible information between Delegations, which will increase uncertainties for colleagues in the mobility. It is important that we can smoothly settle into the new country without surprises that could create major disruption for the entire duration of the mission. Post reports would also improve with a tabular overview carrying key information in the front of the report – often cost of schooling is, for example, not mentioned. The table would be easier to update regularly and thereby avoid unnecessary surprises. This would then also resolve the issue of outdated post reports, which has been flagged by colleagues regularly in recent years.
Address particular problems
We also want to encourage Delegations to be open about particular problems, e.g. in some locations the extensive use of generators, resulting in major costs for the staff. This is certainly a fact that should show in the post report.
At the same time, we think Delegations should be more forthcoming in addressing these issues. It should be mandatory to install solar panels with connected batteries to replace generators. It is not just about the environment or the financial burden (both quite important): it is also a health hazard that many of us have to live with due to the constant noise pollution of generators. Let’s resolve these issues in the spirit of the Green Deal.
Ensure social gatherings are organised
The organisation of socials of any kind, e.g. to bid farewell to old colleagues and to introduce new colleagues to our counterparts in various partner institutions are activities that always carry benefits. A number of our member states practised this. It helps tremendously to ensure colleagues settle into a new posting. In addition, Delegations should provide language courses for the local language. An organisation such as the European Union should impress its counterparts with the language skills of its staff.
Introduce ‘sherpas’ and allow colleagues to create a welcoming environment.
In some locations ‘sherpas’ are appointed among existing staff that help colleagues with administrative procedures on arrival and are their first point of contact. You might know that ‘sherpa’ are guides in the Himalayas to guide mountain climbers to the top of a mountain, most prominently Mount Everest. Well, administratively we have a mountain to climb on arrival in a new Delegation and any help is welcome by colleagues after their arrival. At the same time, this should not forego the important responsibility of management and the administration section to ensure colleagues are settling in without issues.
We ask Delegations to create a welcoming environment for newcomers and to provide them with networking opportunities.
Colleagues and managers are equally responsible to create social opportunities for the integration of the newcomers.
The EEAS should ensure administration sections are sufficiently staffed to provide the important role they play in Delegations.