UK cities offer poor life quality for expats compared to mainland EU

11 April 2018

Continental Europe continues to dominate the index of the world’s most liveable city for expatriates. DACH countries monopolise the top three spaces thanks to the popularity of Austrian capital Vienna, Swiss city Zurich and Germany’s Munich equalling Auckland in New Zealand in third, while of the UK’s representatives on the list, only London, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Glasgow made the top 50.

The latest survey of the world’s Quality of Living ranking, released by people consultancy Mercer, shows that Europe remains on top of the world. The survey, which is focused on identifying the world’s most liveable cities for expats is based on a broad array of regional and international indicators, covering more than 417 locations across the globe.

Europe remains the destination of choice for those sent on international assignments by their organisations, with Vienna coming in first place. The city boasts strong public transport, high levels of personal safety and a broad array of cultural and recreational offerings. Zurich takes the number two spot, while third equal is given to Munich in Germany, based on its investment in infrastructure and cultural opportunities, and Auckland in New Zealand, based on its overall quality of life. Vancouver completes the top five.Top expat living destinationsWhile Europe as a whole continues to perform strongly, with Germany offering two further top ten contenders, Dusseldorf (#6) and Frankfurt (#7), alongside Swiss locales Geneva (#8) and Basel (#10), the UK performs comparatively poorly. Capital city London was the highest ranked British location outright, placing at #41, while Edinburgh placed in #46, and Birmingham and Glasgow followed, sharing #50 with Kobe, Tokyo and Philadelphia. The poor placing follows years of inflated living prices in the UK’s keystone cities, coupled with Brexit anxieties which have seen their favourability tumble in numerous industrial polls, compared to their continental counterparts.

With growing numbers of EU and non-EU skilled workers weighing up an exit from the UK, after the country’s secession from the EU wraps up in 2019, British employers are increasingly anticipating a shortage of talent. As a growing proportion of the nation’s ageing workforce reaches retirement age, the UK’s perceived unattractiveness to expats will no doubt concern businesses looking to grow their headcount in the near future.

Commenting on the growing importance of the quality of life offered by cities to their workforces, Ilya Bonic, Senior Partner and President of Mercer’s Career business, said, “With increasing globalisation and changing demographic of the workforce - attracting and retaining the right talent is set to be one of the key challenges for businesses over the next five years... Companies need to consider these factors in their value proposition to both their local and their expatriate employees.”Top regional citiesBy region, Western Europe is dominated by DACH  region entrants, while in Eastern Europe, Prague is the highest contender at number 69, followed by Ljubljana (#75) in Slovenia, and Budapest (#76), Hungary.  Further east, Japan dominates the regional ranking with four entries in the regional top five, Tokyo and Kobe shared the 50th spot, while Yokohama takes number 55 and Osaka number 59. Singapore is the region’s top performer at number 25.

While the US economy continues to enjoy a spell of bullish growth, Mercer’s chart shows that this has not necessarily translated into a boost in the living conditions in the world’s largest economy. In North America, the USA counts only one entry in the regional top 5, with San Francisco at #30 globally, the country’s highest ranked city. This stands in stark contrast to the slower growing yet more socially minded nation of Canada, with the US’ neighbours seeing Toronto come in at #16, and Ottawa and Montrial take the #19 and #21 spots respectively.Key indicators: sanitation

The survey considers a wide array of factors to determine the world’s most liveable cities. One of the statistics considered is sanitation, which covers the indicators of air pollution, infectious disease, sewage, water availability and quality and waste removal. Concern around air pollution has spiked in recent years on the back of diesel fumes in the West and development pollution in the East – particularly in India and China.

The top performers include Nordic cities of Helsinki, Stockholm and Oslo, along with Switzerland’s Zurich. New Zealand was also well represented in the top ten for sanitation, with Auckland and Wellington living up to the nation’s clean green image. London, which is currently bidding to get to grips with major air pollution issues, was some distance from the top of this aspect of the list, along with the UK’s other representatives.

“How successful an international assignment is hinges on the personal and professional wellbeing of the individual expatriate and the welfare of their families,” said Slagin Parakatil, Principal at Mercer and Global Product Owner for its Quality of Living research. “As well as a significant hinderance to a city’s, business and talent attractiveness, poor quality of living can considerably impact on an expatriate’s lifestyle. Younger generations, millennials in particular, often have high expectations in terms of lifestyle, leisure and entertainment opportunities.”



Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019

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.