HRO Today Global Winter 2016 - 16

Global Mobility
A Moving Experience
Global Mobility Professional's Lessons Learned
By Benjamin D. Ivory
My wife and I relocated to Prague in December 2012. I am
what I call a late-bloomer expatriate. Over my 40-year career
in the relocation industry, I have traveled extensively, but
this was my ÿ rst experience living and working outside
of the United States. When the opportunity to lead our
growing EMEA center as its managing director in Prague
arose, I raised my hand to volunteer.
I started in the relocation business at a very young age. In
the early days, I personally moved families across the country
in the U.S. Later, I managed corporate accounts, developed
global provider networks and helped write industry
standards. I have been the doctor for clients relocating,
but more recently, I have also been the patient. I have
tried to use my most recent experience in Europe to learn
more about what makes a successful assignment, including
identifying a few critical elements for individuals and their
employers that contribute to the success of the assignment. I
would call these my top " aha " moments.
I believe the employee and the employer have unique
objectives with an international assignment. For the
employee and family, their hope is that " magic happens " -
making new friends and learning about a new culture. In
return for the costs, the employer expects that the assignee
achieves an important business objective and produces
an acceptable " ROI " (Return on Investment). In my case,
I wanted a challenge and felt I had a unique window of
time with my family to make it work. I did hope for some
" magic. " I certainly saw the opportunity to personally
experience the relocation process.
As an assignee now ÿnishing up a three-year commitment
in Prague, I consider my (including my family's) experience
very positive. At the beginning of my assignment, I put a lot
of importance on being in a safe, comfortable, and healthy
environment. (My good friend Anne Copeland, who helps
families on the move, reminds me that this follows Maslow's
hierarchy of needs.) Fortunately, Prague has proven to be all
of these. It must be one of the most beautiful cities in the
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HRO TODAY GLOBAL
| WINTER 2016
world. It is extremely safe, and because Prague is a walking
city, we have found is a very healthy place to live. While
safety and health are very important, I found that they are
not enough. I learned that it was more important to connect
with others, including colleagues in the workplace and
others in a non-work environment. In our case, this required
more effort than I expected.
Our ofÿ ce has grown to 60 employees, most of whom are
young professionals. They are very global and represent the
following nationalities: Bulgarian, French, Czech, Slovakian,
Polish, British, Irish, Spanish, Finnish, Canadian, Macedonian,
Dutch, and even Taiwanese. Our team enjoys learning about
the business and is anxious to take on new responsibilities.
Fortunately, this group has been extremely respectful to
me. Yet as their new MD, I realized it took time to build this
respect. I found that what I did was much more important
than what I said. Did I take time to get to know everyone? Did
I learn about Prague and the region's history? Did I stay late
to resolve issues? Did I care about my family? They watched
closely. Although my role was that of the teacher, I learned
so much from our young team. They taught me to really
listen better. Even in English, it took me some time to really
understand what others were saying. They also helped me
develop a new perspective on achieving a work-life balance.
Many of our team have young families, prefer the intimacy
of their family lives and guard their privacy. Nevertheless, I
have been privileged to ofÿ ciate a team member's wedding
after the formal, religious/legal ceremony, to mix mortar and
plaster the walls at another employee's self-built home, and
to play Santa Claus for our holiday party.
Because of the private nature of family, home, and culture,
I found it necessary to reach out beyond the work world.
My wife and I have been fortunate enough to meet
many individuals who have helped us " connect " and who
challenged me to expand my knowledge. Although the
Czech Republic is largely a non-churchgoing society, our
St. Thomas Catholic community introduced us to a variety
of people of all ages, races and nationalities. With the

HRO Today Global Winter 2016

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