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EUROMOVERS International

The independent voice of the global moving industry


In the world of relocation

Jun 20, 2013
A report from the EuRA annual conference in Bucharest.

Tad Zurlinden, EuRA CEO and Dominic Tidey, Operations Director ran the event like clockwork with the help of what was clearly a very experienced team.  Although, at first sight it appeared to be a similar format to most events in the conference calendar, it proved to be unique. Instead of the usual early-morning plenary kick off meeting, the EuRA delegates focussed on training in a wide range of subjects, sponsored by Oxford Brooks University, including: Managing International Mobility; Business Improvement Processes; the EuRA Quality Seal; and Making Connections across Cultures.  There was something there for everyone involved in the relocation process whether as a local DSP (Destination Service Provider) or as a Relocation Management Company handling some of the world’s largest and most complex corporate accounts.

Those not involved in the training sessions made full use of the hotel lobby, bars and meeting rooms for a constant stream of business meetings as friends and colleagues came together for their annual opportunity to discuss the successes and failures of the previous year and contemplate what the future has in store. It was a hive of activity the likes of which Bucharest’s flagship hotel would see rarely.

The first official social event was a First Timers’ reception on the hotel terrace overlooking the city.  The newcomers were quickly joined by the rest of the delegates which gave Tad and Dominic the opportunity of setting the scene for the rest of the conference. 

When the plenary sessions did start, not until almost 5pm on day two, everyone was all talked out and happy to be in the audience for a change.  Tad and the EuRA President Ase Löfgren Gunsten from Nordic Relocation Group, ably assisted by charismatic moderator, Frances Edmonds started off proceedings with a review of the EuRA year before introducing David Livermore, from the Cultural Intelligence Center in East Lansing, USA, billed as a Global Thinker and Author.  David looked at the ways in which cultural differences might affect behaviour but warned that not everyone complies with a stereotype.

Dinner that evening, sponsored by PIR Group, took place at the extraordinary Romanian Parliament building, renowned as the second largest building in the world (behind The Pentagon).

Final day business was kicked off by Steve Cryne, President & CEO of the Canadian Employee Relocation Council (CERC).  Steve presented the findings of ground-breaking research commissioned by CERC into attitudes towards international assignments. His conclusion:  “It’s an exciting time for those involved in mobility.”

Panel discussions followed looking closely at ‘Initiation’ – the process of how to begin effective communications within a partnership between DSP, RMC and end client; ‘Delegation’ – exploring partnerships across the supply chain; and ‘Communication’ – looking at the difference between what is said and what is heard in business relationships.

Tom Scott provided the final keynote address.  Tom is a self-styled expert in social media.  The gave some hot tips on how to make the best of social media, especially You Tube and, more importantly, how to get out of trouble when it all goes wrong.

Patrick Oman had the honour of being the last on stage. Patrick became the President Elect at the conference – he takes over the Presidency this month.  Congratulations Patrick.


Tom Scott

Tom Scott was the final keynote speaker at EuRA. He provided some good ideas about how to get company ideas out through the world of social media. His key message was that whatever you do, and whatever you spend, it will probably fail.  So, the key is to make things cheaply and to do many things.  That way, you increase your chances of success and, when they fail, it doesn’t cost you a fortune.  

When things go wrong and people say bad things about you, the best reaction is not to react at all.  Tom gave the example of a coastal survey in the USA that took a photo of Barbara Streisand’s house, along with thousands of others.  Streisand tried to sue the company.  Before the legal action the photo had been viewed only four times.  After the case had become public knowledge, it had been viewed 400,000 times.

“Nothing important ever happens only on the Internet.  It doesn’t mean anything until it spills out into the real world.  There is no such thing as being famous on the Internet.”  If people say bad things about you on the Internet Tom’s advice is to back off, turn off your computer and let it go away. “The interest will run out very quickly.”

David Livermore – cultural intelligence

David Livermore, the accepted world authority on Cultural Intelligence, explained the importance of improving the way we all communicate with other cross culturally.  He said that cross cultural training was often one of the first things to get tossed aside when budgets are squeezed. He acknowledged that in most cases common sense will get you through but it’s when people become stressed, by time pressures for example, that it becomes more difficult.  David’s main message was to encourage people to accept that cultural differences often do affect the way people behave and reach but it was wrong to jump to conclusions assuming people will fit within a stereotype.  It was much wiser to hold these typical traits loosely in mind until you know the individual’s personality better.

Steve Cryne, President  & CEO of CERC

Steve Cryne presented the results of ground-breaking research into changing attitudes towards international assignments.  He said that in the 30 years to 2010 40% of the workforce of developed nations was made up of immigrants.  In future talent will drive economic growth and, although there are already 24 million people unemployed in Europe by 2020 there will be a 40 million shortage of medium/high skilled workers.  It is an exciting time for those involved in mobility. 

The CERC research showed that Mexicans were most likely to accept an overseas assignment with Swedes and Australians being least likely. Favourite places to go were: the USA, the UK, Australia and Canada.  People in the telecom, IT and construction industries were most likely to accept an international assignment.

The key factor that encourages people to accept an international assignment is the guarantee of getting their old job back when the contract ends yet, Steve explained, very few companies have formed repatriation schemes.  Other major concerns were worries about spouses' employment and the education of children.


What did you say?

Dr. Carmelina Lawton Smith from the Oxford Brooks University hosted a half hour of play acting at the EuRA conference.  It was definitely fun, but with a serious side.  With the help of Mercedes Nacify D’Angelo (Cultural Awareness International), Eileen Lawler (Irish Relocations) and Dornet Venturanza (Reloc8 Group) as roll-play actors Carmelia took a light-hearted look at what people say and what people hear – demonstrating that they are not necessarily the same thing.

For example, saying that you need information ‘As soon as possible’ can mean different things to different people.  If an American says that he is looking for a ‘small house’ he might be expecting more than a tw0-bedroom semi that an English person might consider to be a small house.  When a customer asks for added value he may not be asking for a discount, “Don’t be combative,” explained Carmelia, “just ask ‘what do you hope to achieve’ or ‘what makes that important.”  The message was to listen with curiosity, consider whether you really understand what is being asked, and ask for clarification whenever a communication is not clear.   


Gala dinner

EuRA bussed its 500-plus delegates to the infamous Ceausescu Palace in Bucharest for its gala dinner.  The palace was built in the 1980s to be the seat of government in Romania and a home for Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife.  The building, constructed on land ignominiously cleared of local housing, was intended to be the largest building in the world and an obscene contrast to the squalor in which the people of the city were living at the time.  Rumour has it though that the architect got his sums wrong and it turned out to be a fraction smaller that The Pentagon: he paid a high price for his error and is alleged to be buried somewhere in the building.

The Ceausescu’s never moved in; they were executed in 1989 before it was completed.  Today it is largely empty but a fine venue for a gala corporate event and a true testimony to the mason’s art.

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