DACH region offers highest quality of living for expats

31 March 2017 Consultancy.uk

Mercer’s latest ‘Quality of Living survey’ survey again found Vienna to be the most amiable location for expatriates sent on international assignments, while Iraq is lowest ranked. Zurich and Auckland come in second and third respectively. The DACH region performed particularly well in this year’s survey, with seven entries in the top ten, while African and Middle Eastern cities continue to rank poorly.

Mercer’s latest quality of living survey explores the world’s largest and regionally important cities for their respective quality of living conditions. The 19th edition of the ‘Quality of Living survey’ report is based on a survey of 450 cities across the globe, for which living conditions are assessed based on 39 factors within key 10 categories. The benchmark provides an analysis of living conditions for companies that are considering to send staff on international assignments.

Remarking on the resultsof the firm’s survey, Ilya Bonic, a Senior Partner and President of Mercer’s Career business, says, “Economic instability, social unrest, and growing political upheaval all add to the complex challenge multinational companies face when analysing quality of living for their expatriate workforce. For multinationals and governments it is vital to have quality of living information that is accurate, detailed, and reliable. It not only enables these employers to compensate employees appropriately, but it also provides a planning benchmark and insights into the often-sensitive operational environment that surrounds their workforce.”

Global Quality of lving - Top 10 cities

Vienna, Austria, tops the survey this year, unseated from the position for the eight-year running. Zurich, Switzerland, takes the number two spot, followed Auckland, New Zealand. Munich, Germany, and Vancouver, Canada, round off the top five.

DACH cities perform relatively well in the top ten, with seven entries in the top ten, German has three, including Dusseldorf and Frankfurt taking sixth and seventh spots respectively, while Switzerland too has three, with additional entries of Geneva on eight and Basel at number ten equal with Sydney.

The bottom of the list includes largely African and Middle Eastern entries. Baghdad, Iraq, is the lowest ranked at number 231, followed by Bangui in the Central African Republic. Sana’a in Yemen, too scores particularly poorly on 229.

Top five cities by region

By region Europe remains the most liveable, with the most highly rated cities in the region as a whole. North America scores relatively highly, although the top cities are concentrated predominantly within Canada, Toronto on number 16, Ottawa on number 18 and Montreal on number 23. The only US city in the region’s top five is San Francisco on number 29.

The Middle East and Africa have their top five entries in the mid-seventies to mid-eighties range. Dubai in the United Arab Emirates comes in at number 74, followed by Abu Dhabi at number 79. Port Louis, Mauritius, is third in the region and number 84 overall, while South African entries Durban and Cape Town take the number 87 and 94 spots respectively.

Asian entries vary considerably in ranking, with city state Singapore coming in at number 25, followed by four Japanese entries, Tokyo at number 47, Kobe at number 50, Yokohama at 51 and Osaka at number 60. Aside from Auckland and Sydney, The Pacific region boast three other high ranked cities, New Zealand capital Wellington takes the number 15 spot, while Australian cities Melbourne and Perth come in at 16 and 22 respectively.

Slagin Parakatil, Principal at Mercer and responsible for its quality of living research adds, “The success of foreign assignments is influenced by issues such as ease of travel and communication, sanitation standards, personal safety, and access to public services. Multinational companies need accurate and timely information to help calculate fair and consistent expatriate compensation – a real challenge in locations with a compromised quality of living.”

Top ranked cities for infrastructure

Aside from ranking across key metrics, the research also explored the quality of key infrastructure assets across the cities surveyed, including, among others electricity supply, drinking water, telephone and mail services, and public transportation. Aside from Singapore, which ranked number one, Hong Kong, at number six, Sydney, which ranked eight, and Vancouver on number nine, the results found that European cities dominated the top ten.

The bottom of the list includes entries, again largely from countries in the Middle East and Africa. Although the outright last place in the infrastructure category went to Port au Prince in Haiti. Parakatil adds, “A city’s infrastructure, or rather the lack thereof, can considerably affect the quality of living that expatriates and their families experience on a daily basis. Access to a variety of transport options, being connected locally and internationally, and access to electricity and drinkable water are among the essential needs of expatriates arriving in a new location on assignment. A well-developed infrastructure can also be a key competitive advantage for cities and municipalities trying to attract multinational companies, talent, and foreign investments.”

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Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.