Expert Interview Series: Stacy Garn Stacy Garn is Senior Manager of Global Mobility Solutions at Rockwell Collins. With more than 17 years of HR experience, Stacy Garn is a subject matter expert in global mobility, with particular emphasis on compensation and expatriate tax. She is a proven partner of both the business units and the corporate risk management teams (i.e. Corp Tax, Corp Legal, etc.), and is known for her collaborative skills and ability to bring key stakeholders together to achieve desired results for all involved. Her extensive exposure and experience in both US and international HR activities provides a depth and breadth of experience and knowledge from recruitment to compensation to employee relations. Stacy, would you start by explaining your role at the company? Sure. I'm the leader of the global mobility solutions team. We focus on the geographical movement of current employees. We do all relocation except for new hires. The expat program is a big part, but we also do domestic assignments, permanent international relocation, and permanent domestic relocation of current employees. Would you mind telling us about your previous experience in international HR? I started in 1999 with a company called ARINC which used to be Aeronautical Radio Incorporated. I came to the role at a lower level with no HR experience and no international experience. There were reorganizations and reductions a few years down the line. We had a person in an international HR role which encompassed all local national activity and the expat program, but the total population was probably about 30 people. Most of those were locals. The company viewed that position as a project manager, and I had some proven project management experience. They said, "Just go and do that role and you'll be fine. It's really about managing a bunch of vendors." As we all know, that's not true. I learned a lot about what to do, and what not to do. The role grew from there. They added another person to the team to handle immigration, and we grew the team from there. We added a dedicated manager. We divided the group into local national activity and expat activity, and during that time I became the manager of that expat work under ARINC Incorporated. Three years ago, we were acquired by Rockwell Collins. Rockwell had no dedicated global mobility group. They managed 100 assignees and, during the acquisition, they decided it was time to start a regular program. I learned by doing. I had no formal education. Over time, I developed those skills on the job. Do you have any tips for other HR professionals who want to pursue a career in mobility or international HR? A foundation in U.S. employment law is a good place to start. I got my SPHR several years ago because I found that we were having a lot of employee relations issues. Not having that knowledge was impeding my ability to do my job. It's a great place to start because so much of the activity for organizations that are U.S.-based is U.S.-inbound and U.S.-outbound. Be open to any opportunity with anything to do with business outside the U.S. Be a person who is excited about and good at problem-solving. Lots of HR is about solving problems. Working with business across borders is not just resolving issues, but resolving issues that no one has seen before. Be flexible, read everything you can get your hands on and build a strong network. Without a strong network, it's hard to succeed in this part of the business. Do you have any tips for those who are already in mobility and want to advance their careers? There are lots of opportunities. We have people who are tax specialists. They specialize in expat taxes and taxes related to movement. We have global mobility specialists who are the face of the program with our assignees. They are the primary points of contact for anything and everything to do with the assignee. That takes a certain personality. You need to be compassionate and invested in the people on a personal level. We have people on our team who specialize in domestic movement and permanent moves, and we have a person who specializes in immigration. There are lots of opportunities to diversify within mobility. One way to do that is to find an area that appeals to you, that speaks to your heart and mind, and learn more about it. There are lots of opportunities to work in legal departments within your organization. Our team has a lot of bleed over into new country development, so there are ways to get involved in that way as well regarding where we go next, and how we will do that. Many people work in the mobility management business say, "I've done this. I've made these moves myself, so I can identify with people and empathize with their situations." Do you have any of that kind of experience? I wish I did, but I do not. I've got a lot of that experience on my team, but I have not been on assignment. I've traveled, but only to the usual places. I've been to Singapore a lot, to the UK a lot, a little bit in Europe, but not as extensively as would have liked. If you're a person in the space who hasn't had that experience, I encourage you to get it when the opportunity arises. Surround yourself with people who have. We have several people who have been on assignment in Iraq, Egypt, and China, who have traveled extensively. That adds a lot of credibility to the work we do. People want to know what we know about this personally. I think it will become more important to the business that we have that first-hand experience for roles identified within each organization with requirements for international assignments. They're going to want to deal with people who have been there and done that. How often do you or your team members travel to the places where you are working with or sending people? We have made it more of a priority lately. Two weeks from now a small group of us are going to Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Toulouse, all for relationship building. We have another trip planned to Asia Pac for the same purpose, then to India, China, and Singapore in the first quarter of the next calendar year. The economy is tight everywhere, so getting the approval to spend that money has been difficult, especially from an HR perspective. It's hard to get the funding to make the trip. But we have made the case that it's critical to the program. It's essential to what we do. Would you summarize Rockwell Collins? What the company does, how many offices and employees it has around the world, and so forth? Rockwell Collins is headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We have hundreds of offices globally. We have 9,000 people who are at our headquarters location. The rest of the population is spread out across the globe. There are 20,000 people in total in the company. We are an aviation solutions company that focuses primarily on the cockpit. If you've ever been on an airplane and seen all the controls in front of the pilots, whether it's a 737, or a business jet, or anything between, military or commercial, we have probably had something to do with that. That is a primary basis of our portfolio: the hardware and software that go into these units. They're diversifying more into the cabin and more business jet services. We also do ground transportation through rail transport, and other similar means. What are the objectives of the mobility program at Rockwell Collins? I mentioned that the company I was working for was acquired in 2013. Rockwell had just put together a project to revisit the global mobility program. We have a global growth goal of 50% revenue from outside the U.S. by 2020, which is aggressive, but achievable. They decided it was time to have a team dedicated to that objective. When we were acquired, we had a dedicated team. They were looking for somebody from that team, so it worked out nicely for us. They saw us as experienced experts in the area. They merged our teams, and then added more people to the team. We started out with two from the ARINC team and about four people from the Rockwell team, and now we are a team of eight, adding a ninth in January 2017. The objective is to leverage the global mobility program to support the global growth of Rockwell Collins through the movement of people. What are the greatest challenges you're facing? What are you doing to overcome them? We had two sets of policies. Rockwell is not a small organization. They make acquisitions all the time, but they wanted to take the ARINC work and learn from it and take the best of both. We took both corporate policies and created a single, new policy. It caused changes in the program, both in how we practice what we said we would do, and to the actual policy provisions. We did a lot of collaboration up front so the transition hasn't been as difficult as it might have been. We're still going through some of that change management. We've gotten a lot of things under control. Our exception management numbers have gone down dramatically. Our satisfaction with the program has increased with the assignees, who seem happy with the choices they're being given with our Core Flex program. They have a bigger say in their assignment as far as what they receive and when they receive it. Getting everyone moving in the same direction is probably still our biggest challenge and creating a program that was a bit decentralized and trying to centralize it. How did you address potential policy changes with internal stakeholders? We worked with Mercer a lot and we took it slowly. Our project team was about 30 people from across the organization. From day one of the project, everyone in the organization who needed to have a voice had a voice. We brought in the business partners. We brought in other shared services. Anybody who would be affected by this had a voice. That made it a long process on the front end, but it makes a longer-lasting implementation on the back end. We took 18 months to pull it together and to roll it out. You mentioned your Core Flex program. What approach do you use to compensate international assignees? We took an approach to Core Flex differently from most other companies. My familiarity was with a Core Flex program where the leadership has a choice. These are things you need to write into the core program. These are things you can make a choice about regarding what you provide your employees. There was a strong voice in the room from many stakeholders during our project meetings that giving a choice to the manager was the wrong thing to do. We need to give a choice to the employees because that creates more fairness, equity, and it gives ownership to the employees. I was initially not a believer in this. I was a strong voice against it. I had never seen it done in another program, but it has been the most successful thing that we've done. You've got to listen to other people and take a risk even when it doesn't feel right. The feedback that we've gotten from everyone who's touched the program has been that has been a real milestone for us as an organization. We have a set of flexible items. Employees on our standard long-term may choose two out of the four. They include storage, relocation allowance - determined by your accompanied or unaccompanied status, a pre-move visit, and additional home leave. They get to choose two of four. We don't know of any other company that does this, but one of the programs had a very rich home leave policy that allowed for business class travel, two tickets for travel per person per year. (Storage is provided only for the initial term of the assignment, so beyond that, they pay for it. They can keep it, but the company won't pay for it beyond the first period of assignment.) The other corporate program had a standard, one-ticket, reimbursable with receipts, economy class per year. We turned the home leave benefit into cash, so they get paid out once a year. If they choose the additional home leave, they get 50 percent more cash because of making that election. That's been a huge success. We don't get asked for exceptions for home leave anymore, and we don't get requests for exceptions for relocation allowance anymore, which we used to get all the time. We have had no one come to the end of their storage period, so it'll be interesting to see what happens with that. That's more flexible than many other approaches. It creates a higher level of equity because the employees choose. It takes out the argument of, "My leader chose these flexible benefits for one employee but didn't give me any," which is what we used to see. If you give the manager a choice and they opt out for one program and opt in for another, maybe one employee shouts louder than another, so they get all four flex items. But the other employee isn't inclined to speak up, so they don't get any. We wanted to remove managerial discretion out of the program, make it equitable, and make it a little cash neutral. Now everybody is happy with what they get. How often do you reevaluate what you're doing, or plan to reevaluate going forward? We rolled out in April 2015, so we're just about a year and a half into it. We have a group called the Global Mobility Council that's made up of representatives from the HR business partner group, and representatives from the business, plus my team. We have no regular schedule for review yet. We'll probably look at it annually, or as the need to do so becomes apparent. We do it through the council and then our team and our higher leadership. How do you keep abreast of trends in mobility? I read a lot of domestic and international publications on the subject. It's easier said than done, but I try to keep up with the ERC group and HR Magazine through SHRM regularly. Like everyone else, my inbox is always full, and I try to read as much of that as possible. Having a network is critical, particularly with mobility where things are changing so much. There's not as much published data as there is for the rest of our HR industry, though there is more than there was a decade ago. Who you know at other companies becomes essential to evaluate your program, get a feel for things, and gather data for your organization. Do you localize employees on longer assignments and, if so, what's the process? This is something new for our program. When we created the program, part of the initiative was to have a quarterly evaluation of who was what we define as a longer-term assignee. Our definition of that is if they've been on assignment for over three years and we have no current plans for them career-wise beyond that point; no plans for repatriation, no plans to localize. We don't have another job ready for them, so we leave them on an assignment until there is something else for them to do. It's a typical problem for every organization. We decided to identify those people. We going to worked with the HR business partners and our leadership to come up with a plan to reduce the number of assignees on this list. We meet quarterly with the senior VP of HR to ensure that we have plans in place for these assignees. We started out with 13 or 14 on our listWe have pared that list down to two assignees over the past 18 months. We've repatriated some of these assignees. Some have decided that they would be localized, and some there's been a determination that they're so critical to the organization, they've been out there so long that to remove them would be detrimental to the business. But, for those people, with one exception, there's been a scale back. It's not pure localization, but a reduction in benefits over a three-year period to get them to a more normalized level, or to a lower cost level that works better for everybody. Localization is part of our long-term policy. There's a paragraph that says, "We will seek to localize." We have no localization policy separate from that. We handle it case-by-case right now. It's hard to say we will have a hard stop after three years because the reason we send people on assignment is different every time. We send people to work on projects, to build the business, and for rotation. We're not a consulting firm, where you have a lot of assignments for the same reasons. We have variation, so it's difficult to have a blanket rule that says everybody localizes after three years, because that may not be the right decision for the business. What are the most common places you're sending people? U.S. to France and France to U.S. is a big push for us right now. We have an 800-person operation center there, so they're a big volume location. There are a lot of opportunities. We just have the right populations at the right levels to generate that mobility. We see a little more activity south of the U.S. border. We also see a lot of domestic assignment movement within the U.S. and movements within Asia Pac that are more permanent. Are there any common challenges moving back and forth from those places? Tax and culture are our biggest challenges. The French culture is so different from the American culture that it is important to help people to succeed in both. We have a cultural training program. But the U.S.-inbound work is new for my team, so understanding that the U.S. turns out to be such a more difficult place to expatriate people to has been a learning curve for us. Simple things like leasing a car. It shouldn't be hard, but it is. Things that are simple become more difficult when you bring people into the U.S. It's perplexing if you've never done it before. One of our challenges right now is being successful with those moves into the U.S. in a way that is as painless as possible for the assignee at a time that's stressful for them. What about language issues in either direction? We are an English-speaking company, meaning everybody we hire speaks English right now. That might change. We provide Rosetta Stone as a benefit and, in countries like China, we provide more intensive language study programs and more one-on-one tutoring. When we hire new employees, we expect them to know the English language. Bringing people here to the U.S. hasn't been an issue. I'm close with our French office. Everybody there speaks English, which is a benefit because most Americans speak no second language nowadays. That will change, but currently, that's the situation. It hasn't been an issue for us yet, but it could be down the road. I think it will be for all organizations down the road. Is there anything else you think I should know about your mobility program? I would just say that having the right people in the right jobs at the right time is critical. You've got to have a team that loves what they do. But also, in our role, because international work is so new to some organizations and is such a foreign space for a lot of HR people, it is important to ensure that everybody who needs to know is in the loop. When you're working with one group, you may assume that others in another group already know about the issues since they're all talking to each other. We've learned that you can't assume that everybody talks to everybody else. You've got to be a mediator and liaison and a communicator to bring people along, especially when you're doing international work. People don't know what they don't know. We must become that voice within the organization to help to bring people together in the organization who need to understand how we do this work. We must do this, not just for mobility, but also for doing business internationally. It is essential to the growth of an organization for everyone to know how it ties into the work that we're doing. What's the greatest challenge someone in your role or on your team faces? Things that come to mind aren't exclusive to us. The 24-hour work day is a particular risk in the jobs we have. Wherever you work, when you log off for the day and go home, somebody else is logging on.In my role, one of my challenges is helping my employees have a work-life balance, so we provide a lot of flexibility. As long as they do their work and our customers are happy, it doesn't matter where they are or when they do their jobs. Having the ability to be flexible with your people is critical in the mobility space because they have to get on calls at 10 o'clock at night. People have a life outside of work that doesn't include working 20 hours a day. You've got to have a certain amount of flexibility and trust that your people will get the job done even if it's not on a traditional work schedule. We need to understand that we're dealing with people and personal issues in their lives. We're putting their kids in school; we're telling them where to live and what car they can drive. These are all very personal things. It's easy to forget they are real people and that the parts of their lives we're dealing with are personal and intimate in a way that the rest of HR isn't. That can be hard sometimes. You've got to be diligent about it. You've got to personalize everything that you do. Is there an achievement in mobility that you're most proud of, or that you're most proud of on behalf of your team? I'd say starting a new program. It's been an interesting journey. I am so proud of the way my team has come along. We have a split on our team of people with lots of mobility experience and some who are very new to this area. I have two people on my team who have been in it for 10-plus years. I have people on the team who are new to it, new to HR, and just came in with an attitude of, "I'm fascinated by this, and I can be good at anything. I will learn it and get it." That's a big learning curve. Mobility is an interesting and difficult space. One thing I love it is to bring order to chaos. I love finding something that's a mess and bringing order to it, and then finding another thing that's a mess and bring order to it. Mobility is a space where you can thrive if you have that. It can be a real struggle if you don't. I'm proud of how we've put this program into place. We all have this high sense of ownership over what we do. It's been hard to take a program where we didn't have any documentation of procedures, then to bring people in, and they ask, "How do we do what we do?" And we say, "I don't know, we've got to figure it out." They've all stuck with it and now have a lot of expertise in what they do. They've become experts. They're regarded as partners. And, they're passionate about mobility. That's exciting. That's where we shine. It was a major shift for our whole organization to say, "We're going to stop doing certain things." We were doing things like not adjusting the goods & services allowance unless it went up. Our policy said, if it went down, we would shift it down. But we didn't do that because it felt like it would be too painful. Now we shift it down like clockwork every quarter. I did not know how that would go over, but I'll say we've had tremendous success with shifting the program and getting people on the new program, that I had not anticipated.