Peace of Mind on the Move: Interview with Heather De Cruz-Cornaire Regarding REA Commissioned Study15 December 2023
Permits Foundation is pleased to interview Heather De Cruz-Cornaire about her REA commissioned Global Research Study entitled Peace of Mind on the Move. The resulting white paper innovatively combines big data (including data sourced from Permits Foundation surveys) and thick data to explore global workforce trends in an increasingly volatile world environment. This research summarises the global workforce trends emerging from industry experts, looks at them through the lens of global talent mobility and highlights each area of high value to act upon for ‘peace of mind on the move’.
In recognition of its contribution to thought leadership, Peace of Mind on the Move was shortlisted as a finalist for two awards in excellence at the Association for Business Psychology. The study achieved ‘highly commended’ in the category Excellence in Coaching.
Congratulations on your submission to the Association for Business Psychology awards! One aspect that we found very interesting about the paper is the equal emphasis on thick and big data. Can you explain why you took this approach and why you think companies can benefit from it?
For me as a Business and Coaching Psychologist it is important to have a holistic perspective whilst considering the complex challenges facing families on the move. To design a robust framework to both measure and explore, the methodology uses an innovative approach integrating both ‘big’ and ‘thick’ data because ‘what is measurable is not the same as what is valuable’ (Wang 2013, 2016). Wang inspired me to measure what is valuable about global talent on the move so that HR Policy can become more inclusive and more user conscious.
Combining the strengths of quantitative scalable big data with qualitative context-rich thick data generates metrics that have a greater value for companies. For example, Wang teaches us about the human insights missing from big data and how insights can be brought to life empathically by thick data. At its core thick data are the reactions, emotions, feelings, and stories that provide insight into our everyday emotional lives. Merging insights from both approaches has many benefits for the global talent community and this study pioneers this idea.
As part of your research you collected 360° input from REA Management, Team Leaders, Client Services, Coaches and also clients, spanning different locations and generations but there were certain cross cutting themes in the responses, what were they?
It was important to me to utilise a representative ‘talent pool’ available (N=34) and to explore data points across 5 target groups embedded in global mobility, key business hubs (The Americas, UAE, Asia & Asia-Pacific, Europe) and across 4 generations (Boomers, Gen X,Y,Z). A rigorous process of thematic analysis generated 3 overarching themes: (1) Health and Wellbeing (2) Resilience and (3) Human Connection.
Human connection emerged as the most important thick data finding in terms of impact and was the missing link from the big data. The transactional nature of the relocation process was counter-balanced by human-to-human interactions with HR partners, RMC Coordinators, Work/Visa Specialists and REA Professional Coaches. In addition, there were 5 key themes which emerged that made a difference between an individual feeling valued or alienated. These included: (1) DEI&B Initiatives (2) Dual-Career Work VISA support (3) Pre-move and Post-move Support (4) Remote Work/Hybrid Models and (5) VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity).*
*VUCA is the new backdrop to relocation due to increased disruption from geopolitical and socio-economic uncertainty.
You included data from Permits Foundation’s surveys of partners and global mobility professionals. What aspects of these surveys connected most to your research focus?
The robust body of evidence by Permits (2008, 2012, 2022) was a vital piece of the puzzle due to the enduring insight: ‘The role of the partner/spouse and dual-careers continues to be one of the most critical factors in the success of an assignment’. This connected most to the research focus along with the phenomenon of dual-careers ‘hiding in plain sight’. Furthermore, the wider context of Permits’ survey data shows how employment access for dual-careers has a direct impact on talent attraction, retention, and the overall experience of the mobile family on assignment. For this reason, the questionnaire included a question dedicated to dual-career work visa authorisation to explore the key workforce trends and impact on direct work access in mobile families. The inclusion of Permits big data was an integral part of the methodology and has contributed to the valuable insights emerging from this study.
A very striking aspect of your findings was the significance of meeting the ‘psychological contract’– the non-formalised expectations and beliefs held between employers and employees. What happens to the employee and indeed whole family experience when this psychological contract is compromised?
The main outcome of this study is for the complex ‘psychological contract’ needs of a globally mobile workforce to be considered. The findings show there is an added value and benefit of the ‘human connection’ to be embedded in an organisation’s Mobility Value Proposition. For example, there was a clear positive effect when a dual-career spouse’s career transition and ‘psychological contract’ needs were included as part of the mobility equation. This contributed to individual health and well-being on assignment, buoyancy in resilience and an overall sense of feeling valued. On the other hand, in the case where a psychological contract ‘breach’ was perceived, there was a feeling of alienation, exclusion, and negative impact to health and wellbeing. In terms of Permits’ survey outcomes, in 2022, 78% of organisations have policy in place to support dual-careers and partner employment, however, 65% felt their organisation should do more. My study shows how organisations can do more – by providing support that is customised to the unique needs of each family. Essentially, the whole family experience may be impacted as a consequence of ‘hidden’ expectations.
What examples did you find where employers pre-emptively protected the psychological contract for the benefit of the assignment’s success?
Examples where employers pre-emptively protected the ‘psychological contract’ resulted in good impression management, reflected in expressions of appreciation about the employer’s generosity and inclusion. Essentially, a declaration of gratitude of the ‘hidden’ expectation of the employer’s ‘duty to care’ as part of a company’s ‘duty of care’ obligations.
Here are some examples of ‘best practice’ for employers to consider, based upon this study:
(a) Provide adequate life and career transition coaching support as a core and standard benefit. The sooner this is offered pre-move, and the sooner the coaching support begins, the better.
(b) Provide timely and transparent information so that individuals and families can pre-empt potential barriers and navigate early solutions.
(c) The inclusion of ‘human touch points’ as part of the relocation experience will counterbalance a predominantly dashboard-centric process.
(d) Provide visa/immigration assistance to dual-career families. If there is no direct access to work on assignment, there will be a psychological contract ‘breach’ and the provision of life and career transition coaching support will mitigate the impact on health and well-being and resilience.
As companies are looking to make their internal policies fit for industry 5.0, given your findings, where do you think employers of international employees will be moving their focus?
Industry 5.0 is an opportunity for companies to put their people ‘assets’ front and centre of their business strategy. Evolving from automation, IoT, and machine-learning at the forefront of Industry 4.0, we are seeing a paradigm shift towards a focus on health and wellbeing as well as sustainability – both will be catalysts towards a more ‘human-centric’ focus.
In terms of a globally mobile workforce post-pandemic fit for the future and fit for Industry 5.0, the impact of ‘human connection’ arising from this study resonates with the aspirations of two conflicting needs. On the one hand companies need to innovate and drive AI-efficiencies with digitalisation and cost-containment measures. On the other hand, and as shown in the big and thick data of this study, there is a growing need for health and wellbeing to be firmly embedded in a company’s Mobility Value Proposition. Supporting talent on the move with ‘peace of mind’ policies that include the needs of individuals, families and dual-careers could be a game-changer – if an employer gets this right!
Heather’s study Peace of Mind on the Move, as well as an executive summary, can be viewed here.