Just back from the EuRA Relocation Conference in Dublin and not too long off the slopes of – you guessed it, Ischgl – I find myself reflecting on how the pandemic has affected us all. Practically and emotionally. Being able to meet and travel freely again is still exciting to me. And I don’t think I’m alone in celebrating mask mandates and the exit of the QR code.

When Deborah Seymus* visited Val Thorens in December 2019, she interviewed those who live life by the season. What was meant to be a series of interviews we could spread out over the year, was quickly rushed through in a single issue of ReLocate, as we scrambled to make sense of various support measures, travel bans, and more, whilst learning to survive the home office.

Thursday evenings were spent clapping for the frontline workers that struggled through their days without the PPEs needed to do so safely. Many of our members stepped up to do their bit and make the best of a bad situation. Coming home with a pack of toilet roll was the kind of victory that made our day, even if it did mean splitting the skin of our hands with all those alcohol gels required to leave the house. Numerous lockdowns and restrictions later, we are once again welcome to go about our day as we please. But things can always change again, and as Elke Van Hoof, CEO of Better Minds at Work puts it: “The Covid years have been a real-time experiment in mental resilience.”

Perhaps most importantly, we’ve (re)discovered the importance of empathy. At our 2022 AGM, ABRA keynote speaker Bart de Leeuw of The Oval Office spoke about the power of empathy in business. It matters hugely in the era of disconnection – think of digital vs human, individualism vs inclusion, privacy vs transparency, etc. – as expectations have changed. No longer do we work to survive or to guarantee a standard of living. Today, the human factor takes priority as the Empathy Value Index Employer Edition 2022 proves.

Empathy is about understanding, about being able to see things from someone else’s perspective. It’s about empowerment and connecting with each other on a human level. For us at ABRA, this means we cannot wait to welcome you to our upcoming AGM and Member Meeting on Thursday 25th May at International School Ghent. If you haven’t signed up yet, please be sure to do so, as keynote speaker and migration law specialist Sylvie Micholt dives into a societal issue that has been dominating the headlines for much too long.

We hope to see you there!

*As an aside, Deborah Seymus recently published her first book Vijftig Piemels Later, a daring and open-hearted autobiography that details her journey of self-discovery. If you enjoy a cheeky, fast-paced read, then please do support her writing by buying her book.

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Shorter, condensed, more dynamic; that’s how Anita Meyer would describe the evolution in the way events are set-up nowadays. The ‘Ignite’-principle – probably derived from Pecha Kucha – is one of the many positive changes. Speakers get five minutes during which they can show fifteen slides of twenty seconds each. The speed inspires a subject that’s close to the heart and ensures a lively presentation of a wide subject range, not necessarily related to relocation.

Visiting various events around the globe also sheds light on tendencies within relocation. Where in the past years digitalisation and compliance were important issues, this year social values and care for the climate are high on the agenda. John Mackey, co-founder of a successful supermarket chain and author of Conscious Capitalism, writes that a successful company makes profit on the one hand and cares for its surroundings on the other.

Meyer notes that translating this to the relocation business will take some effort, especially when it comes to the products. Yet there are some examples of good practice. A large global company, for instance, obliges its personnel to spend three days a year making an effort for our planet and its people and to show proof of that. Another company engaged orphans for small chores around the company and a Chinese CEO asked a widow to cook him and his staff a fresh, healthy lunch every day. In Sweden there’s a green housing service who shows its clients around on foot and treats them to a healthy, vegetarian lunch.

National Relocation Conference, London, September 10, 2015
The NRC is a one-day conference organized by the Association of Relocation Professionals (ARP). The dynamic program comprises 30-minute sessions on compliance, immigration, sales strategies and ‘moving stories’ from the removal industry, with here and there a Just a Minute presentation. Pickford Move Manager for example, the largest moving company (in business for a hundred years), and ACS, the largest international school in London, were each given five minutes to present themselves.

The plenary session was titled Vision Meets Reality and featured the best-known characters in the UK relocation industry. A panel of two relocaters, a mover and an apartment service, shared how they envisioned their companies five years ago and how they’ve actually turned out. In some cases vision and reality were worlds apart. The audience is always keen to listen when such experienced speakers are on the stand.

Two especially inspiring individuals were keynote speaker Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer for Microsoft (he plays the role of fortune-teller for Microsoft, see www.theenvisioners.com) and a wake-up-after-lunch speaker, Nicola Cook, Chief Opportunity Officer of Company Shortcuts (www.companyshortcuts.com )

A few quotes from Dave Coplin to trigger your curiosity:
– Work is an activity. It’s something you do, not something you go to (work). Choose any best place to do it from;
– Emptying your inbox cannot be the goal of the day;
– Unbox your inbox: email is where information goes to die;
– TLDR: ‘too long, didn’t read’: keep your messages short.

Nicola Cook, talked about sales strategies, the difference between products with a short life span (like yoghurt) and wholesale products (like tires) and how they differ from the sale of services. If you’re trying to sell a specific service like relocation, which can sometimes feel redundant to HR people, it all comes down to relationships. You may have to know people for years before they place their first order.   Nicola advises to:

– Win mindshare: be visible, in the right way (adapt your technique to your product);
– s’marketing: combine sales and marketing, preferably via internet;
– 75% of purchasing decisions are taken before the potential customer contacts you.

Zukunft HRM Expo, Cologne, September 16-17, 2015
It was the first time that EuRA was invited to participate at what is considered to be the biggest trade fair for HR management in Europe. Given the well-known abyss between HR-people and relocaters, the invitation to partake in this event was a great opportunity, and somewhat of a milestone, to draw attention to the available relocation services. EuRA was assigned a secluded office space and pressroom where the 15.262 attendees were invited to come in and ask questions about relocation.

“Since EuRA did not know what to expect as a first time attendee, and the visitors were not sufficiently aware of our presence, the opportunity was not fully utilised. For the next edition we will properly prepare advance marketing via Internet,” says Anita Meyer.

Visit www.zukunft-personal.de for an impression of the event.
Salon RH Suisse, Genève
September 30 – October 1, 2015

Another first: the workshop presentation EuRA held at the annual Human Resources exhibition in Geneva. The exhibition welcomed 2.736 visitors to 185 exhibition stands, and lots of interesting short, practical sessions, organised in speakers corner structures all over the exhibition area.

EuRA received great interest from the audience. Some of the topics that were addressed: is it a global trend for expat-contracts to move from long term to short term? (Yes) What do European or global memberships add to being a member of a national relocation association? (A broader view on relocation issues. In China, for example, each year three new international schools open. That’s interesting information you wouldn’t know otherwise.)

Anita Meyer presented EuRA together with Sabine Baerloche of Active Relocation and former president of SARA, the Swiss Association of Relocation Agents. They focused on the benefits of working with relocation professionals (save yourself some trouble) and the pitfalls if you don’t.

The EuRA presence certainly enhanced the visibility of the association and awareness of the necessity to work with accredited EGQS holding members. Quite a few people in the audience approached Sabine and Anita for more information on relocation, on training, on quality seals and more.

Executive Briefing, Boston, October 6, 2015
One day before the World Employee Relocation Council in Boston, networking guru Ed Cohen organized one of his famous networking events. Cohen is founder, owner and driving force behind the Global Business News Media. He has a radio station exclusively on the topic of relocation and earns a living by setting up lunches where HR-people meet with parties who’d like to sell their goods to HR-people.

The program included short presentations by and about the sponsors of the event. For example: a young man who took over his father’s moving company and a presentation on cultural trainings and how aspiring expats should be screened to establish if their families can cope with having him or her gone for a long period.

A panel of speakers comprised of relocaters, removal companies, Cost Of Living Allowance calculators, temporary housing companies, cultural trainers and corporates were presented a set of questions which enabled them to give their opinion on the same subjects, from a different point of view:
– What’s your strategy for developing young leadership?
– What’s your strategy for growing market-share across borders?
– What new techniques and technology are you developing for enhancing customer services and talent engagement?

Food for thought for both panel and attendees, resulting in an exceptional networking event with lots of useful information and eye-openers.

World Employee Relocation Council (WERC), Boston, October 7 – 9, 2015
“As president of EuRA I will limit my report to the EuRA cocktail in the Marriott on October 8, even though it was a vibrant, maybe the best ever WERC, conference,” says Meyer.

“The bar was on an intermediate level, with easy access and visibility, and ample place for networking for the many EuRA members and friends who attended. The EuRA cocktail is becoming a popular event at the annual WERC. Every year we have to look for a bigger room to accommodate the attendees. CORT was the main sponsor for the 3rd year in a row. Thank you Ken Barron & team.”

“Almost the entire board of EuRA was present, and we took the opportunity to invite everybody and his little brother to the Malta EuRA conference in April 2016.  All board members were sporting the blue sunglasses, the EuRA goody bag item that will be sold in support of the charity of the year. Just as in previous years, we are looking for a local charity in Malta. It’s such a lovely feeling when the destination is tangible.”

The 2016 EuRA Conference takes place in Malta from April 19th to 22nd.  Book your place online by visiting the EuRA website: www.eura-relocation.com

eura relocation charity
above: the EuRA board get into the swing of things and sport the EuRA charity sunglasses
top: thank-you painting by the orphanage that was supported through the charity auction at the 2015 Porto Conference

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We were warmly welcomed by  Mr. Bart Vandesompele, Managing Director of De Community Gent.  Ghent’s Mayor Daniël Termont, was the second speaker.  He explained, based on the questions and suggestions that came up during the previous expat event  in December 2014, which was hosted by the city hall of Ghent, the expat services Ghent has been working on the last year and the future, foreseen improvements.

Mayor Daniël Termont was followed by  Prof. Dr. Barney Jordaan, who entertained us all with his presentation about “Surviving in the corporate jungle. What can we learn from the conflicts in the animal world to solve our differences?” The lively remarks and questions raised by the public made for an interesting,  interactive discussion.  Afterwards, at the Vlerick’s ground floor cafeteria, an unconstrained networking drink was organised. The many expats in attendance, both from Ghent and other cities, were able to mingle with the stakeholders and sponsors of De Community Gent present that evening.

Again, De Community Gent’s effort to set in place an event especially focussed on its expats has been a real success.  Next up is the “Expat New Year’s Drink” on Monday evening 25th January. Around 100 expats have subscribed to this event and De Community is looking forward to it.

The association was created back in May 2013 and comprises three main partner groups: Expat Community; Jong & Wijs (Young and Wise) and Wijze Vrouwen (Wise Women).  In the future, other groups might be created in function of specific needs, Vandesompele tells us.

It was created as a meeting place for co-operation, exchange and interaction between the city of Ghent on the one hand and her societal, socio-economic, scientific, cultural, sport and other stakeholders on the other hand.  Its main aim however, is to further strengthen the city’s image by showing a vested interest and proactive approach to bringing stakeholders of all shapes and sizes together through regular networking and informative events.

The association is an interactive cooperative platform by the many organisations in Ghent that believe the city has the DNA needed to forge an even stronger identity in the international community.  “We want to show how attractive our city is to both the multinationals and the expats that they employ,” explains Vandesompele.  “Ghent is cementing its place on the destination map as Belgium’s third largest city.  We want people to see our city for vibrant, multicultural and welcoming place it is.”

The platform functions as a table for Ghent where people can meet around different themes.  With its 7 structural partners and over 50 member organisations, these topics span the broadest of ranges.  Visualise the activities of its member organisations as a four-leaf clover if you will:

“Expats who come to live and/or work in Ghent will always be made to feel welcome and contribute to the open-minded spirit that our city has become known for,” Vandesompele summarises.

Visit www.decommunitygent.be for further details on their work and upcoming events.

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