Mira Pathak, who has been working in Human Resources since 2006, is thoroughly international: She has German and Indian roots, studied in Paris and Berlin and has lived in London for 15 years. There she and her sister founded an office yoga company called Pathak Yoga with the aim of promoting mindfulness and work-life balance in companies. Since 2018, Mira has held a silent partnership there and works in the area of Global Mobility for the company AIRINC. What is AIRINC and what do you do there? Since 1954, we have been in business and we are surely best known for providing cost of living, hardship and housing data. International HR managers use our data to create salary packages for employees who have been sent abroad. But we also carry out numerous studies on benchmarking, advise on global mobility policies and develop IT solutions for other types of international assignments. For example, we have tools for long-term assignments, Local (plus) Moves, a calculator for Lump Sum Allowances, a tool to help you choose the right policy and benefits and much more. You are a Client Solutions Manager at AIRINC – what exactly does your job entail? As a Client Solutions Manager I am the bridge between AIRINC and our customers. For example, we work on joint projects, cooperations, and product developments. In my position, I look after customers, but also advise them. Above all, it is also about staying up to date with all international HR matters, in order to find effective solutions together with and for the customer, for example, IT tools, policy elements or to assist in change management. We at AIRINC understand the relationship that we have with our customers is a partnership. In other words, we are not just ‘data suppliers’, but with mutual trust and respect, we can learn a lot from each other and achieve a great deal. How big are the companies you work for? I can imagine that your ideas might sound a little too sophisticated for small and medium-sized companies? We work industry-wide and with any client who wants to send employees abroad. Be it a company with two employees or over 5,000 assignees. Some companies send more employees abroad than others. But the issues we can help with become relevant as soon as you send your first employee abroad. In fact, this is even more difficult to implement than if you have thousands of postings and therefore better structures for their management.
“[…] often managers have primarily financial goals in mind. Of course, return on investment is important. But how do you measure it? Many managers don’t understand that the success of an assignment is dependent upon a well thought out plan and only realise that when it doesn’t work out.
Have you ever worked in Human Resources in a company? No. I have not actually managed internal employees yet. But I was and still am an expat in some respects. I think having experienced everything from the other side myself, is also valuable. Every case is unique, and you have to remember that every assignment affects more than just that person, often it even affects an entire family. Especially in this highly technological age, this awareness is very important. What was your most exciting project in terms of HR and why? I think that a lot of things in International HR are very interesting. It is a subject that keeps you in touch with the times. I love that I know the capitals of countries I might have otherwise never come into contact with and that sometimes I even know what the cost of living there is and why it costs what it does. It’s difficult to pick out one project, but I immediately think of a particularly hard project that I worked on once. We re-evaluated every detail and adapted it to the specific company. There were a lot of circumstances and it was really fascinating to look at them from all sides. Hardship is still one of my favourite topics. The concept is incredibly interesting. There are often many different opinions on it, which can lead to lively discussions. What is your experience with Managing Directors? What do they expect from HR? Generalising is always dangerous, there are many exceptions … But often it is the case that managers have primarily financial goals in mind. Of course, return on investment (ROI) is important. But how do you measure it? Many managers don’t understand that the success of an assignment is dependent upon a well thought out plan and only realise that when it doesn’t work out. The Global Mobility Team is the most important component in the successful planning and execution of an assignment. It has the expertise and the necessary tools. I believe that more and more managers are recognising this, especially if they have experience abroad themselves.
“Numerical understanding, knowledge of the country, tax and legal issues are important. However, it is equally important for an HR Process Consultant to be able to put themselves in people’s shoes […] Relocating to live and work in another country should not be underestimated. Especially if the family goes along, there is a lot of room for conflict.”
Where do you see the Global Mobility and HR roles in ten years? Global Mobility is currently going through a major upheaval. Although many trends have been forecasted for quite some time, things have been slow to change. Only in the last few years has mobility been addressed in a different way. Many companies are moving away from overly lucrative benefits as an incentive for foreign assignments. This certainly has something to do with cost cutting. More important than monetary bonuses, however, are areas such as talent management, and especially the employee experience, that are now being associated with Mobility. So how do you combine all these different areas? How do you learn from things that went well or not so well during a posting abroad? And above all, how and where do you capture them effectively? Even if you have a good tool, who evaluates all this and uses this knowledge for future assignments? I don’t think the trend is really turning away from technology. The right tools are incredibly important. But a new focus will certainly be back on people, the question of how to connect tools, the people who use them (for example, Global Mobility Teams) and the people who are being relocated and whose families are moving with them. What qualities should International HR Process Consultants have? Numerical understanding, knowledge of the country, tax and legal issues are important. However, it is equally important for an HR Process Consultant to be able to put themselves in people’s shoes. Many expats are not after big money. They want to gain experience abroad, promote cultural diversity in the companies, and improve processes. Relocating to live and work in another country should not be underestimated. Especially if the family goes along, there is a lot of room for conflict. This must be clear to HR Process Consultants, and they must be able to listen carefully and find solutions. Of course, having experience abroad is always a huge bonus, but there are also people who have the necessary empathy by nature. If you were not on a mission for AIRINC, in what industry or role would you like to make a contribution to society? I have already made one of my dreams come true and founded a company for Corporate Yoga. We have helped to promote physical and mental well-being in companies. It was a lot of fun and we may not have changed the world, but we gave numerous individuals a new awareness of work-life balance. A topic that has been close to my heart for a long time is the fight against female genital mutilation and forced marriages among young girls. At some point I would like to become more involved in this area.