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Data Is Great — But It’s Not a Replacement for Talking to Customers

kkgas/Stocksy

 

Summary: Many companies rely too much on big data and analytics in their hunt for strategic insights.  They’d do better if they actually went out and talked to their customers instead, as Toyota and Adobe do, because data is too rooted in what managers already think their customers are interested in.

 

 

The ability to gather and process intimate, granular detail on a mass scale promises to uncover unimaginable relationships within a market. But does “detail” actually equate to “insight”?

Many decision-makers clearly believe it does. In Australia, for instance, the big four banks Westpac, National, ANZ, and Commonwealth are spending large on churning through mountains of customer data that relate one set of variables — gender, age, and occupation, for instance — to a range of banking products and services. Australia’s largest bank, the Commonwealth, has announced its big data push.

Like the big banks, Australia’s two largest supermarket chains, Woolworths and Coles, are scouring customer data and applying the massive computer power now available, and needed, with statistical techniques in the search for “insights.” This could involve the combination of web browsing activity, with social media use, with purchasing patterns and so on — complex analysis across diverse platforms.

While applying correlation and regression analysis (among other tools) to truckloads of data has its place, I have a real concern that — once again — CEOs and senior executives will retreat to their suites satisfied that the IT department will now do all the heavy lifting when it comes to listening to the customer.

Data’s Deceptive Appeal

To peek into the deceptive appeal of numbers, let’s review how one business hid behind its data for years.

Keith is the CEO of a wealth management business focused on high-net-worth individuals. It assists them with their investments by providing products, portfolio solutions, financial planning advice, and real estate opportunities.

Like its competitors, Keith’s company employed surveys to gather data on how the business was performing. But Keith and his executive team came to realize that dredging through these details was not producing insights that management might use in strategy development.

So, Keith’s team decided on a different path. One that really did involve listening to the customer. They conducted a series of client interviews structured in a way that allowed the customer to do the talking and the company to do the listening. What Keith and his executives discovered really shocked them.

The first was that their data was based on nonsense. This came about because the questions they’d been asking were built on managers’ perceptions of what clients needed to answer. They weren’t constructed on what clients wanted to express. This resulted in data that didn’t reflect clients’ real requirements. The list of priorities obtained via client interviews compared to management’s assumed client priorities coincided a mere 50 percent of the time.

Keith’s business is not alone in this as studies have shown that big data is often “precisely inaccurate.” A study reported by Deloitte found that “more than two-thirds of survey respondents stated that the third-party data about them was only 0 to 50 percent correct as a whole. One-third of respondents perceived the information to be 0 to 25 percent correct.”

In Keith’s case, this error was compounded when it came to the rating of these requirements. For example, the company believed that older clients wouldn’t rank “technology” (digital and online tools) as high on their list of requirements. However, in the interviews, they discovered that while these older clients weren’t big users of technology themselves, many cared about it a great deal. This was because they had assistants who did use it and because they considered having state-of-the-art technology a prerequisite for an up-to-date business.

What Keith and his team also discovered, to their surprise, was how few interviews it took to gain genuine insight. Keith reports that “we needed around 18 to 20 clients to uncover most of the substantive feedback. We thought we’d need many more.” What Keith has encountered here is saturation; a research term referring to the point when you can stop conducting interviews because you fail to hear anything new.

Listening to the Customer

Engaging with your customers may not be as exciting and new as investing in “big data.” But it does have a solid track record of success. Cast your minds back to a historic time in Toyota’s history.

When Toyota wanted to develop a luxury car for the United States, its team didn’t hunker down in Tokyo to come up with the perfect design. Nor did it sift through data obtained from existing Toyota customers about current Toyota models. Instead, it sent its designers and managers to California to observe and interview the target customer — an American, male, high-income executive — to find out what he wanted in a car. This knowledge, combined with its undoubted engineering excellence, resulted in a completely new direction for Toyota: a luxury export to the United States. You will know it better as the Lexus. Listening to the customer is now embedded in Toyota’s culture.

Listening to the customer is also a fundamental component of Adobe’s culture. The company speaks of a “culture of customer listening” and has produced a useful set of guidelines on how to tune in to customers. Elaine Chao, a Product Manager with the company, has expressed it this way: “Listening is the first step. We try to focus on what customers want to accomplish, not necessarily how they want to accomplish it.”

So, provided your data isn’t “precisely inaccurate” employ modern computer power to examine patterns in your customers’ buying behavior. But understand big data’s limitations. The data is historic and static. It’s historic because it’s about the past. Your customers have most likely moved on from what the data captures. And it’s static because, as with any computer modeling, it can never answer a question that you didn’t think to ask.

Real insights come from seeing the world through someone else’s eyes. You will only ever get that by truly engaging with customers and listening to their stories.

March 05, 2021
Source: https://hbr.org/2021/03/data-is-great-but-its-not-a-replacement-for-talking-to-customers
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5 Ways to Build Employee Confidence and Increase Engagement

Leaders and human resource managers build a high level of employee engagement and confidence to create a productive workplace environment. As a leader, whether you are a manager, supervisor, or team lead, it is your duty to encourage employee morale, including attitude, feedback, and satisfaction. During the Covid-19 pandemic, corporations and businesses had to transition and develop effective ways for engaging their personnel.

The task was complex at the beginning of the pandemic, especially for companies without the technologies to continue operations virtually. Employers implemented engaging online activities comprising team building, team meetings, conduct assessment, counseling, and other learning and interactive engagements. (1) You can control and create a culture in the workplace that builds positive employee morale.

Advantages of Building Employee Morale:

  • Increased productivity.
  • Boost in sales for products and services that increase profits.
  • Higher level of customer satisfaction.
  • Builds trust between the employees and leaders.
  • Creates transparency throughout the entire workplace environment.
     

Research studies prove that practiced employee morale in the workplace has a positive effect on employees’ job performance and productivity. You want to ensure a cultural attitude that ensures all employees of your organization are giving their best efforts. Your primary focus should be to continuously reinforce the importance of committing to the company’s goals and values.

Your employees have to trust their leaders and see transparency in the workplace. You must avoid showing any kind of favoritism and treat each employee equally with respect. It will ultimately increase customer satisfaction and increase sales and profits.

Five Tips to Help You Build Confidence and Increase Engagement of Your Employees

1. Empower Your Team with Training and Resources

When your employees receive training and have resources to help them fulfill their duties and responsibilities, the results are confidence and empowerment. Employers can experience a high rate of employee turnover because their team members lack training or received incorrect training. Training helps to build confidence, and it ensures each employee knows what to do and how to perform all assigned tasks. (2)

2. Communicate Efficiently to Team Leaders and Members

Effective communication between team members and leaders helps to build trust and confidence. It encourages engagement to resolve internal and external issues in the workplace. If your employees know they can communicate with you openly and regularly, the outcome is an increase in productivity and engagement. Set up weekly team meetings to have open discussions about improvements within the organization to make it a better workplace environment.

3. Use Recognition and Reward Incentives

Human resource managers and leaders should use recognition and reward incentives to uplift their employees for a job well done. It shows them that their works are valuable to the organization and keeps them motivated to perform their best daily. You can recognize your employees with recognition certificates or plaques and rewards, such as gift cards.

4. Provide Ethical Training to the Employees and Management

Ethical training helps to create a thriving workplace culture to cultivate principles, making it fair and safe. It teaches ethical behavior, the importance of customer privacy and data protection, and code of conduct. You and your employees will learn about customer relations and the significance of customer satisfaction.

5. Offer Fair Compensation and Benefits

Employees and management work more productively when they receive fair pay for their work. Benefits, such as health insurance with wellness programs and investment plans, help to increase employee engagement and confidence. Health benefits and fair compensation are definitely ways to encourage and motivate your employees.

The psychological approach for engaging employees involves their emotional, cognitive, and physical engagement in the workplace. (3) You have the obligation to provide for your employees’ needs in training and building a friendly and positive environment, while they are at work. It will influence them to contribute to the organization and commit to reaching the company’s desired goals.

Despite the pandemic, employers are implementing virtual and outdoor activities to engage their employees and their family members. From virtual learning to stress relief webinars and lunch video conferences, human resource managers and organizations are getting more creative. Millions of workers are returning to the workplace after receiving Covid-19 vaccines, but the online engagement activities will remain active. It is a trend that will continue in coming years for improving morale, careers, and the cultural environment.

Sources

1 Chanana, N., Sangetta. (2020, October 1). Employee Engagement Practices During COVID-19 Lockdown. NCBI US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7536939/

2 Knight, R. (2018, April 25). How to Manage an Insecure Employee. Harvard University Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2018/04/how-to-manage-an-insecure-employee

3 Osborne, S., Hammond, M. (2017). Effective Employee-Engagement in the Workplace. International Journal of Applied Management and Technology, Walden University. Retrieved from https://scholarworks.waldenu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1239&context=ijamt

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Agile Talent Strategy: Why You Need It and How to Develop One

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

(Editor’s Note: Today’s article is brought to you by our friends at SilkRoad Technology, a provider of strategic onboarding solutions to drive workforce readiness and organizational transformation. They were recently recognized as one of Chicago’s Best Places to Work. Congrats to them. Enjoy the article!)

 

Every day, more people are getting vaccinated and looking forward to their personal and professional re-entry. However, that doesn’t mean we’re all going to simply go back to the way things used to be. Too much has happened. This is an important issue that businesses should not ignore.

When the pandemic first started, organizations had to make quick decisions and not everything went according to plan. But I believe that employees, customers, and everyone else tried to be very tolerant and empathetic. That was then, this is now.

Organizations have been operating under this scenario for over a year. During this time, customers changed their expectations and spending habits. Employees changed the way they feel about work. Unfortunately, it’s possible that organizations didn’t adapt fast enough to the changes around them, according to a new report from SilkRoad Technology titled “Full-time Flexibility: Do employees feel supported working from home?”.

One of the biggest takeaways for me from the report was that 2 in 5 office workers plan to look for new job opportunities based on how their employer handled the pandemic. This aligns with other articles we’ve recently seen about the labor market. An article from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) suggests that up to a quarter of workers plan to quit their jobs once the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us. Prudential’s Pulse of the American Worker Survey says that one in three employees don’t want to work for an employer that requires them to be onsite full-time.

So, what does all of this mean? I know that organizations are very focused on economic recovery right now. However, organizations need to start thinking about their talent strategy as part of that economic recovery.

Talent Strategy is a Key Component of Business Strategy

The good news is that talent and business performance have always been intertwined. And the solution for both is intertwined. We’ve been talking for a while about how business agility is important to business success. Organizations need to be able to quickly react to changing business conditions.

Well, the same holds true for talent. Organizations should adopt an agile talent strategy that allows them to react quickly to the changes in the labor market. Here are three components to consider in developing an agile talent strategy:

WHERE we work. Before the pandemic, working remotely was more of the exception than the rule. Then during the pandemic, remote work – specifically working from home – became the norm for many. Moving forward, organizations have the ability to create a best practice in terms of a hybrid model. The question becomes what does that hybrid model look like?

I wish there were some concrete answers to share regarding the right balance of remote and onsite work. Even the SilkRoad report notes that organizations haven’t reached consensus in this area just yet. But that doesn’t mean organizations shouldn’t consider a hybrid work environment. What it does mean is that it could take some trial and error to find the right balance for your organizational culture.

WHAT we work on. During the pandemic, 63% of employees took on new responsibilities, according to the SilkRoad report. Totally makes sense – everyone just did whatever it took to get things done. But given the statistic, it’s time for organizations to look at existing jobs. Make sure the right people are doing the right things and make any necessary adjustments to work responsibilities.

This has a cascading effect on other talent-related activities. HR departments will want to reevaluate whether to buy, build, borrow, or use bots when it’s time to hire. Ideally, they should be looking at all four strategies. Managers should be provided with the training and tools to effectively manage a remote workforce. The SilkRoad report noted that over half of workers wanted more support from their employer. Finally, onboarding programs should be adapted for a hybrid work environment. If organizations want employees to be successful, they have to spend time setting employees up for that success. We all know that starts on day one.

HOW we get things done. There’s a McKinsey study that reported the pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation by as much as seven years. While that can be an overwhelming statistic, it’s equally important to remember that all digital transformations are not equal in terms of results.

The SilkRoad report cites that the reason digital transformations efforts often fail isn’t because of the technology but rather because organizations didn’t make the investment in people, who are responsible for executing the transformation. If we think about these three components – where we work, what we work on, and how we get things done – it’s a good reminder that organizations will need to invest in learning, training, and development to ensure ongoing business success.

I totally understand that organizations are anxious to get to the next normal. Lilith Christiansen, chief strategy and product officer at SilkRoad Technology, reminds us it won’t happen overnight. “Our current environment and the change and disruption we’ll all continue to experience presents an opportunity for organizations to redesign their employee experience or talent strategy.”

The good news is that data – like the data found in this SilkRoad report – can help us identify where to focus our talent strategy. Christiansen reminds us that organizations need a successful talent strategy to have a successful business strategy. “We should continue to deliver intentionally designed experiences as well as a cadenced delivery of content, learning, and performance conversations. We also need to prioritize flexibility over rigidity in our approach to where work gets done. If we are to be successful in the future, we must increase our focus on communication, inclusivity, and alignment, and adopt more outcome-oriented performance strategies that drive engagement and contribution.”

Source:  https://www.humanresourcestoday.com/?open-article-id=16049562&article-title=agile-talent-strategy–why-you-need-it-and-how-to-develop-one&blog-domain=hrbartender.com&blog-title=hr-bartender

 

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TIPS FOR A COST EFFECTIVE LIFE ABROAD

If you’re looking to move abroad, but you don’t have the budget, don’t panic. Some countries do offer the possibility of enjoying an excellent quality of life along with a low cost of living. So here are some tips for living overseas for cheap from Jerry Nelson, a US expat blogger living in Argentina.

My housekeeper has her own chauffeur. Really. He brings her by the condo once a week and lingers in the automobile while she spends several hours tidying up the mayhem, which has taken me a week to create.

I’ve offered and encouraged her driver to come inside and join me on the mezzanine for matè (a traditional South American infusion), but he chooses to wait in the car.

Regardless of his reason for ‘social distancing’, when was the last time you heard, in America, of a maid having her own driver? My hunch is you never have.

Having a housekeeper who has her own chauffeur isn’t a sign of my being rich. It’s a gauge of life which is available once the twisted chains to America are separated.

The prices are decent. More than reasonable, really.

A gallon of milk? $1. A litre of soda? Eighty-cents. How about a breakfast of four empanadas, coffee and a medialuna (croissant)? $2.58.

A nice steak dinner is lomo — the Argentine version of ribeye — baked potato, salad and dessert—$ 7.75.

What about travel costs? A person can fly from Buenos Aires to Washington DC for less time and money than it takes someone to journey from Washington DC to Los Angeles to see their parents and crazy Uncle Henry.

Travel overseas enough, and you’ll see something in the Americans you meet. Most of the people I know in the states are handcuffed to repetitive tasks, uncertain relationships or uneducated about the world beyond the horizon.

The expats I’ve met have visited almost 150 nations and rarely show evidence of boredom, worry, or regret. Almost all seem to be the personification of what an Australian man told to be on a dirt road in the Outback. “Don’t spend time, enjoy it!”

Americans’ poverty line stands just a tad over $12,000 a year — for a single adult with no kids. $12K won’t get you far in Oakland, but it will get you a full year of awe in one of these three nations. In each of these $1,000 a month covers housing, food, and access to exploits which Americans can hardly imagine.

Bolivia
Everything is super-cheap in South America’s least-visited country. A room in a five-star hotel runs $5 a night, and they will let you take a (leashed) alpaca for a ramble at no cost.

Landlocked behind Peru and Chile, Bolivia is an even greater bargain than backpacking sanctuaries like Cambodia.

Bolivia has the largest Native American culture in South America, and they practically created the frugal experience such as Cholita. In Cholita wrestling, the Bolivian counterpart to America’s WWE, women battle it out for your entertainment. The cost to watch a match is about five-cents.

Bolivian natives never look to be in a rush. They manage to maintain links to their 3,000-year-old ancestors. In the past 185 years, they’ve had almost 200 heads of state. They’re not in a big hurry to put the past behind them.

Mountain biking on the treacherous road leading from Coroico to La Paz is a blur of microclimates which tosses mud in your face. Given the nickname, “death road,” the highway was dug into the side of a mountain in the 1930s and connects the Amazonian rainforest to La Paz.

Georgia
No. Not Atlanta. The former Soviet republic which gives ‘cheap’ a new meaning. Tbilisi, the capital, overflows with cafes and wine bars. A nice bottle goes for $5 and a hotel room for $8 at Fabrika, a former Soviet-era garment factory since converted into a dazzling hotel and community centre.

Most expats shell out $150 a month for a nice apartment. But don’t talk politics. It’s better to debate white versus red in the wine-crazed nation.

Grenada
This West Indies paradise has plenty of exotic beaches to nice places to relax. Welcome to the Caribbean. Going local means navigating retirement in style and luxury. Get into the national dish made with coconut milk oil residue and enjoy the one-pot stew of breadfruit, callaloo, okra, cabbage, fish, dumplings, turmeric — and anything else on hand.

A traffic circle near Grand Anse Beach bounds an outdoor marketplace named “Wall Street” with banks on opposite ends. The circle attracts locals busy buying open-air-grilled meat and fish for beverages sold directly from blue and red ice chests in pickup beds.

Late at night, cars blare music and parties. The distant calypso music fills the barbecued night air and therein lies your cue to follow the music of steel drums. To see it all and do everything, plan on spending about $20.

The takeaway
From Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, each James Bond has lived, worked and played in the world’s top-shelf vacation spots. Part of the reason is no one wants to believe that a world-class spy would work anywhere other than world-class regions. James Bond in Cheboygan doesn’t have the same flair.

But I believe that Bond couldn’t afford to live his lifestyle in America, so he goes overseas where life is cheaper and living well is less expensive.

source:Expat.com

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International Customer Service Week – Customer Appreciation Post

Customers are a foundational part of the activities of every successful organization. The importance of the Customer can be conceptualized and likened to the root system of a tree. They provide businesses with leverage and control in the market share of whichever industry that they operate in. Yes, indeed customers also provide businesses with feedback and first-hand insights on the quality of services over the years.

In that regard, we can agree that the relationship between a customer and an organization or service provider should be mutually beneficial and not merely a parasitic one.At GroConsult the needs of our customers are paramount and play a vital role in aiding us to maintain our level of excellence in operations. Therefore we cannot downplay the contributions of our customers to the growth of our vision

For this and many other reasons, we would like to appreciate your involvement with the firm by saying a big thank you to both existing and potential customers. GroConsult deeply acknowledges your commitment to our cause and your involvement with us.

Growing Businesses Delivering Results

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5 TIPS TO EFFECTIVELY MANAGE A REMOTE WORKFORCE


5 tips to effectively manage a remote workforce
People around the world are getting a crash course in managing a remote workforce due to the novel coronavirus and you can expect some growing pains ahead.

But like any crisis there are opportunities and new ways of doing things that will emerge. If anything the novel coronavirus may have simply accelerated trends in the workplace that were already happening.

Here are 5 tips to manage a remote workforce effectively

FLEXIBILITY IS YOUR NEW COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
A remote workforce buys you a lot of flexibility. The downside for remote workers is that the day may never seem to end if they don’t follow healthy work habits. The upside is your teams can scale up based on workflow not a schedule that’s dictated by commutes and operating hours. You can use this flexibility to win in the field vs. less nimble competitors.

COMMUNICATE WELL AND OFTEN
The knock on remote work is that you don’t get those chats over coffee and cohesive culture. To replicate that you need to make sure you’re visible on Slack, have an open door (messaging) strategy and make use of video conferencing. This communication theme is easier said than done but it needs to be emphasized. Open office hours via video conferencing may be worth a try so your remote team can get adjusted. Also keep in mind that you’re never going to be able to communicate enough so aim for continuous improvement.

USE VOICE, VIDEO AND THEN WRITTEN FOLLOW-UPS
Face-to-face meetings should usually have a written follow-up so there’s a record and less confusion. With a remote team, this best practice is even more important. You have to work harder to make sure people are on the same page.

USE ALL THE TOOLS AT YOUR DISPOSAL BUT REMEMBER QUALITY NOT QUANTITY
Most enterprises have a handful of video conferencing tools, team management platforms and chat apps. Pick the ones that work and go with them. YAT (yet another tool) is a curse for remote workforces. It is best to use the collaboration tools that folks are using already. Collaboration doesn’t have to be fancy.

THINK AHEAD – HOW THIS EXPERIENCE WILL CHANGE YOUR WORK PRACTICES IN THE FUTURE
After some growing pains, it’s likely that you’ll find your team happier and more productive. Pay attention and think through how the future of work for your team needs to evolve. Enterprises are likely to use this novel coronavirus crisis as a big A/B test for expenses ranging from sales and marketing to travel to commercial real estate holdings. The old way of doing things may not make sense in the future.

Source:expat.com

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Which countries are luring expats with visas?

While many countries are playing it safe regarding their border closures, others are currently introducing new visas to attract visitors and expats, skilled professionals in particular. The United Kingdom has just announced a new visa for healthcare professionals from August 2020. Canada is also coming up with a new bill along the same lines.

The UK wants to attract more foreign professionals and students
With the new Health and Care Visa, the British government is looking to improve its healthcare system. This visa mainly aims at attracting the best health professionals from around the world and allowing them to join the National Health Service (NHS) network rapidly, including in social healthcare. Fees applicable to this new visa are lower compared to Tier 3 visas intended for highly qualified professionals. Also, applicants are exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge. The government points out that Health and Care Visa applications will be processed within 3 weeks following receipt of biometric data from applicants. Those who are not eligible can still request the refund of the Immigration Health Surcharge provided that payment has been made by March 31st, 2020. The UK government has granted an additional fund of £ 1.5 billion to the healthcare sector to address the labour shortage.

The UK immigration and visa policy are also subject to changes that will take effect at the end of the Brexit transition period, that is, from January 1st, 2021. This point system applies to healthcare workers, skilled workers, young graduates as well as international students coming from the European Union and third countries. To qualify and benefit from the same rights as Britons, foreign professionals must obtain at least 50 points after securing a job offer that is on the eligible professions list. Qualified professionals should have level RQF3 or higher skills, have a good command of English and earn a salary of at least £ 25,600. However, there are exceptions for those earning less but more than £ 20,480.

Besides, the Global Talent Scheme will be accessible to nationals of the EU, the European Economic Area, the Swiss, as well as highly qualified scientists and researchers even if they haven’t secured a job yet. A new pathway will also be available to students graduating in the UK from summer 2021. They will be authorised to work in the UK or to look for a job for 2 years or 3 if they have a PhD.

Canada: strengthening the health sector
Although Canada is not likely to reach its target of welcoming more than 340,000 expatriates this year – owing the sharp drop in immigration rate to the COVID-19 crisis – the country still has wants to attract more foreign professionals. The Canadian government is looking to grant permanent residence to asylum seekers who are currently working in the health sector. This bill will soon be brought to parliament as a sign of recognition for the contribution of asylum seekers to the fight against the pandemic and to the Canadian economy.

The world’s first digital nomad visa
With the evolution of technology, digital nomadism is becoming increasingly popular around the world. The COVID-19 crisis has also forced thousands of employees in most countries to work from home during the lockdown. According to data from Global Workplace Analytics, nearly 30% of the global workforce could have to work remotely several days a week by 2021. What if you could also work remotely?

Estonia took a revolutionary step by launching the world’s first digital nomad visa. This visa is valid for one year and should allow employees and freelancers to work remotely while taking advantage of the country’s mild climate and pleasant environment. With this new visa, Estonia aims at attracting at least 2,000 digital nomads, especially those from non-EU countries. It’s worth noting that Estonia has been facing a brain drain for the past few years and is now focusing on young entrepreneurs.

If you have always dreamed of living and working on a remote island, Barbados, located in the Caribbean Sea, is another interesting option. The Barbados Welcome Stamp, which will soon be launched, is a 1-year visa intended for digital nomads. Holders of this visa will also be allowed to work in Barbados from abroad for 12 months.

Russia: relaunching tourism in 2021
While Russia plans to keep its borders closed until further notice, the government is currently reviewing its visa policy, especially regarding tourism. As of January 1st, 2021, nationals of 53 countries will be eligible for a single-entry tourist visa with a 16-days duration. This electronic visa will be free of charge for children and comes with a fee of around $ 50 per adult. The application can be made online, on the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, and will be processed within 4 days.

Egypt has also introduced an electronic visa system for visitors. Applicants from eligible countries no longer have to go to an embassy to apply for a visa. Egypt reopened its borders on July 1st, 2020, taking all necessary measures to prevent a second wave of COVID-19.

Article translated from Quels pays proposent de nouveaux visas pendant la crise ?

Source: expat.com

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The Key To A Stress Free Life As An Expat

Jerry Nelson is an American expat writing his way through life in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This week, he tells us a little about the challenges he has faced as an expat and how he has dealt with them. Transport, shopping, language… Argentinian punctuality (or lack thereof!). Here are his keys to living a stress-free expat life!

My editor gave me a challenge. Write a piece about the 5 greatest challenges I’ve faced as an Expat in Argentina.

Simple enough assignment, right? Then why did it take me 4 days, 3 rewrites, and multiple cups of coffee to come up with a post with which I was happy?

Easy. There is a key to leading a stress-free life as an Expat — anywhere. A person doesn’t even need to be an Expat. The solution works even on the Crosstown Express when it’s crowded and running late.

The rebuttal to stress, anxiety and frayed nerves works in every aspect of life, but in keeping with the assignment, let’s look at 3 areas:

Transportation,
Shopping, and
Language
Transportation
Just how do you get from here to there? A bicycle is always an option, but only for relatively short distances. In Buenos Aires, where traffic lights and white lines are only a suggestion, bike riding can be a contact sport making it hazardous.

Not speaking the language makes taking public transportation challenging. If you can’t read the signs, it’s hard to tell exactly where to get off. Maps are available and the ones here are written well and in such a way that figuring out what bus line to take is made easier.

For me, taxis are the easiest solution anytime I leave the barrio. I just have to make sure to write the address down before I leave home. The cab drivers can read my writing, but they can’t understand my ‘foreign’ dialect.

There are shortcuts though, it just took a while to figure them all out.

The subway is my favorite though. The ‘subte’ can only go two directions — back and forth. The choices are easy and with a light-encoded map which displays the next stop, everything is a piece of cake.

But when you get off the subway at the destination, it’s back to trying to figure out which way to turn next.

Shopping
Life in Buenos Aires in 2020 is kind of like living in the 1960s Brooklyn. Everything is a specialty store and there isn’t a ‘big box’ store near.

If you want meat, go to the butcher. Looking for fresh bread? The baker is just around the corner. Looking for men’s shoes? The men’s shoe store has a wonderful selection, but if you want a pair of women’s shoes as a gift, the lady’s shoe store is around the corner. No challenge here.

Language
I still don’t speak Spanish. I know enough words to be able to ask where the bathroom is, but not enough to find the ketchup in the “mercado”.. Yes, there are limits to this manner, but between polishing my pantomime skills and blending them with the few words I know, I can get by.

But even pantomime only goes so far and it can get embarrassing to pantomime “where’s the bathroom”, especially if it’s an emergency.

But still, Argentines are friendly and understand and appreciate even the smallest, weakest attempt to learn the language.

Homesick
When it’s time to start missing the home country, 2020 is the best year to do it. Between relatively inexpensive long distance, Skype, Zoom and tk, it’s easy to stay in touch with the folks ‘back home’.

Weekly phone calls to talk with parents or children are cheap and most kioskas, or small convenience store type outlets sell compatible SIM cards.

Don’t expect magazine subscriptions from home to make it through customs on a regular basis. The men and women in the dark blue sports jackets grab those as soon as the periodicals hit the city.

Give up the need to control
Stress and anxiety in addition to frustration and anger tend to stem from unresolved control issues. Someone, or something, doesn’t behave the way you want. The result is more frustration, stress and anxiety.

As a 30+ year member of Alcoholics Anonymous, a line from the Serenity Prayer sums it up for me. “Accept the things I cannot change…”.

The short version? Screw it.

If you can’t change it, screw it. The world doesn’t march to the beat of my drum. No amount of foot-stomping will change that.

Need to… ? Mañana
Okay. Maybe there is this one thing that it is difficult to deal with!

“mañana”. It seems to be Argentina’s answer to everything.

Need the WIFI connection fixed? mañana.

Need tickets to America? mañana.

The laid back atmosphere of Latin America helps to make sure that nothing gets done on time. But that may be a good thing.

Unlike America, where everything is ‘rush and do it now,’ Latin America has not angered every single decent country on the planet.

Close kin
A close cousin of “Mañana”, is punctuality. There is none. Anywhere.

Invited to a party at a friend’s house to begin at 8pm? Don’t even bother showing up before 9:15. If you do, you’ll be the only guest there and will need entertain yourself, in the living room, looking for something to do.

Either that or ask your host if you can help. And then ask every ten minutes because it’s better to be a nuisance than a lump sitting on the love seat, taking up space, until the party starts — maybe mañana.

Shopping? Ignore the hours posted on the door. If the sign says the store will open at 9am, that’s not for you. That’s for the employees. The workers are expected to be there at nine and begin preparing for that day’s work. Basically, you won’t get in until 9:45. Deal with it and welcome to Argentina Time.

Source : expat.com

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The post-COVID-19 cost of living on the rise around the world

While the health crisis and the subsequent economic crisis have caused prices across the world to rise, different countries have found different ways to deal with this phenomenon. In Abu Dhabi, for example, authorities are investing massively in the agro-industry to boost local food production. Sweden and the Netherlands have also been the least affected by the rise in prices while in Saudi Arabia, the VAT has been increased to 15%.

The UAE wants to cut down the cost of living
Abu Dhabi will mostly rely on foreign talent to boost its economy after the crisis. Today, the expat exodus affecting Middle East countries is having a direct impact on their economy. The United Arab Emirates have therefore decided to bet on an affordable cost of living to attract more professionals in the near future. Local authorities are considering the slashing down of prices relating to education, accommodation and entertainment. In addition, they are planning to inject funds into research and innovation in the agro-industry. A budget of $ 100 million has already been earmarked for companies looking to build vertical farms.

It’s worth noting that expensive cities, such as Dubaï and Abu Dhabi, drop down to the 23rd and 39th places respectively in the latest Mercer Cost of Living Ranking.

Hong Kong is the world’s most expensive city in 2020
According to the Mercer report, Hong Kong is now the world’s most expensive city for expats. Surprisingly this year, Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, comes in second, followed by the legendary Tokyo, Zurich, Singapore, New York, Shanghai, Bern, Geneva and Beijing. Note that the ranking takes into account the prices of more than 200 products and services, including rent, transport, leisure and food, in 400 cities around the world. On the other hand, Tashkent, Bishkek, Windhoek and Tunis are some of the world’s cheapest cities.

Cairo, ranked 126th, is cheaper than Tel Aviv, for example. In Africa, meanwhile, Ndjamena, the capital of Chad, retains attention, while Tunis remains cheaper compared to other major cities.

Europe looks more affordable for expats, mainly because of the eurozone crisis that Italy and France have been facing since the end of 2019. Paris, Milan, as well as Frankfurt, are also much cheaper, according to the report. London, ranking 19th, remains in the top 20 most expensive cities despite the Brexit.

In the Americas, New York remains the most expensive city, followed by San Francisco and Los Angeles. Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver became more affordable in the past year, like San Juan, San José and Montevideo in South America.

Sweden and the Netherlands the least affected by price changes
According to a recent survey by Ipsos, the prices of food, products and services increased significantly in more than 20 countries during the COVID-19 crisis. Argentina, South Africa, Mexico, Turkey, Chile and Belgium are the countries with the highest rises. Overall, more than half of the respondents believe that the prices of food, groceries and household supplies have increased in recent months.

Most respondents in Turkey, Chile and Malaysia also agree that the utility bills, including water, electricity, heating, air conditioning and telecommunication services, have skyrocketed during the COVID-19 crisis. An increase in the prices of hygiene, health care and leisure products and services was also noted in these countries. On the other hand, one in four respondents in Hungary and South Korea has seen a price drop since the beginning of the crisis. Many respondents in Japan and Russia also feel this way.

In Sweden and the Netherlands, however, nearly half of the respondents believe that prices have remained unchanged — which suggests that the economic impact of the crisis was mitigated.

Rising prices in Saudi Arabia with a 15% VAT
Various factors account for the rising prices in many countries. However, most people agree that they were compelled to buy more expensive products due to a shortage in the supply of products they are used to. Add to that the cost of delivery during the lockdown when businesses were closed, and people weren’t allowed to move around. It’s also worth noting that isolation and remote work during the lockdown resulted in higher electricity bills.

In Saudi Arabia, the value-added tax (VAT) on all products and services rises from 5% to 15%. This came as a blow for the whole population, including expats who are currently facing a salary cut.

What you should expect after the crisis
The COVID-19 crisis will obviously have a long-term impact on the global real estate market. Taking into account current border and travel restrictions and the slowdown of immigration, property prices are dropping quickly, even in countries like Australia, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates. Since the supply looks greater than the demand, governments are providing property investment incentives. Some of these measures are low-interest rates on bank loans, cutting down of service fees, etc. The UK, for its part, is slashing down stamp duty so that young people get the chance to become homeowners. However, the situation is likely to change soon, taking into account the gradual lifting of border restrictions. In many countries, property prices have started rising.

The Netherlands seems to be the only country with a profitable real estate market during the COVID-19 crisis. In fact, an 8.8% price increase in prices was noted during the past few months. The Netherlands has one of Europe’s most in-demand real estate markets. In 2019, the Dutch government implemented measures to increase the number of constructions in major cities in order to meet the growing demand. Currently, a property in the Netherlands costs $ 380,000 on average. In France also, the prices of new homes in big cities like Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Toulouse remained stable during the crisis. On average, prices range from 361,400 euros for a studio to 785,600 euros for a 3-room apartment.

Sources :Reuters.com

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Post-crisis: Study finds expats now prioritise health and well-being

A study by Allianz Care found that financial priorities of 52% of expats interviewed had changed as a result of the crisis. More than half of them stated that health and well-being was now a priority for them. Family also weighs more in the balance these days, expats say.

The COVID-19 and its resulting health and economic crisis has sure changed the way we see life. The unprecedented lockdown, closure of borders and halt to almost all economic activity will definitely cause shifts in our way of life for the years to come. How will this crisis impact expat choices? Already, an Expat.com survey found that 38% of expats were planning to head home after the crisis. Another study by Allianz Care has only just found that expat financial priorities had also changed following the crisis. Indeed, 52% reported having seen a shift in their priorities because of the crisis and 53% of these explained that they would be spending more on health and well-being now than they did before the COVID-19 crisis. The news was reported by the news outlet, International Investment.

“2020 has been a life-changing year for many of us across the world as we deal with the implications of COVID-19. Massive lifestyle changes have forced on us almost overnight, which in turn have forced us to re-assess how we live our lives and re-evaluate what’s truly important. The same is absolutely true for expats who are living and working across the globe. This comes across strongly in the increasing prioritisation of health and family”, said Paula Covey, chief marketing officer for health at Allianz Partners to International Investment.

Other than that, the survey also found that the profile of the “expat” is slowly changing. While in past surveys, Allianz Care tended to find that most expats moved abroad temporarily on work assignments and for high pay positions, it seems to be changing. Indeed, expats seem to have a higher interest in finding long term work abroad. Paula Covey mentioned that 76% of expats mentioned having changed jobs since living abroad and 58% were planning to remain in their country long-term. A study by Expat.com had also found last year that only 35% of 3, 500 expats had plans to return home at the time of their expatriation.

Expats mainly living in the United Kingdom, Canada, the United Arab Emirates and Singapore were surveyed. Most of them, 49%, mentioned they had initially moved abroad in search of better pay and financial benefits. For others, it was the search for a better quality of life that led them to move abroad. 71% of respondents had moved abroad with their families.

Source: expat.com