Drilling down to the detail in Houston 2017

FEM’s 2017 Conference in Houston was my first hosting duty for FEM in the Americas and like all great events, it left me wanting more.

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We had an intensely packed day of plenary and track sessions and I think the speakers did a superb job. Imparting their expert knowledge with a winning combination of authority and grace, they not only understood and empathised with attendees’ concerns but also shared examples of the similar challenges they had faced, and crucially, they gave practical advice on how to resolve some of the most difficult problems.

Kicking off in style

Our opening panel really set the tone for the day, with five, great figures from the global mobility industry teasing out the issues associated with what might seem the rather dry topic of cost containment. Berna Anderson of Weatherford International, Marie Butler of Wood Group, Elizabeth Karcher from Discovery Communications, Renee Robideau of the Mosaic Co. and Jennifer Manis of Haliburton drilled down (pardon the oil & gas pun) to the detail and injected the discussion with great humour and style.

Following that, our discussion of outbound and inbound US immigration with Blake Chisum of Fragomen, Ruth Clark of Berry Appleman & Lieden and Judy Lee of Foster Global, positively crackled with energy as we grappled with the controversial changes from the new US Administration. Blake gave us some thought-provoking points gleaned from his experience of working inside Congress, while Ruth and Judy shared illuminating examples of how they are dealing with the far-reaching implications of the recent and ongoing changes.

Then after a brief networking break, we moved onto the Track system, where Jane Munoz of Diamond Offshore Drilling expertly moderated all the sessions in Track 1 and I remained in the Imperial Ballroom for the Track 2 discussions.

Experts from Greenberg Traurig, Fragomen and Noble Energy tackled with great elan, topics as diverse as Trump’s new trade treaties, immigration problems and managing employee benefits in emerging markets, so I’m most grateful to Jordan Cowman, Kristin Aquino-Pham and Megan Long, as well as Dan Brown and Blake Chisum, and Elizabeth Minter for pushing us on through so much unmissable content in such style.

If only it were possible to truly multi-task

I only wished I could have been in two places at once, because Berna Anderson of Weatherford gave a great presentation on managing assignees in the Middle East among other challenging destinations, followed by an exploration by Renee Robideau of the Mosaic Co. of the importance of cultural agility.

Having seen Jennifer Manis of Haliburton in action on our opening panel, I would have loved to have heard her talk about how to deal with an ageing workforce and anticipate skills gaps as I’m sure it was a really engaging discussion.

After a great networking lunch in the exhibition hall, where it was good to catch up with newly-made friends such as Rob Moorhouse of Newland Chase and long-time FEM supporters, Cynthia Pedigo of Intel and Cathy Heyne and Michael Cadden of Living Abroad, I was delighted to have so many delegates join us for the launch of FEM’s annual Policy in Practice Report.

A great launch

Again, we had an outstanding panel to discuss the findings of Managing Risk and Compliance in an Uncertain World in the form of Berna Anderson, Matthew Burns, Elizabeth Karcher, Jane Munoz and Renee Robideau. The results of FEM’s global survey revealed a mixed picture of readiness for dealing with risk, with some very encouraging reports of great practice and other, contrasted with rather shocking gaps in cover. The discussion was a lively one, and in a positive way I think, raised even more questions to be addressed.

Back to the Tracks, I know Heather Falk of Lloyd’s Register delivered a compelling and timely talk about localisation in Track 1, followed by Sarahi del Castillo, Rob Moorhouse and Herman Van Reekum of Newland Chase who cast light on the many challenges around business travel to and from Canada and Mexico.

In my own Track 2, Matt Burns gave us the benefit of his many years’ experience at Lockheed Martin and some thought-provoking questions and sage advice about workforce diversity.

Jill Firse then delivered her presentation on handling currency and inflation with great energy and made what is a very complex topic both comprehensible and fascinating.

Kimberly Range and Jenny Midyat of Parker Drilling Company maintained the momentum with their exploration of talent management in partnership with global mobility. Their lively role-playing scenarios clearly resonated with our audience and much of the laughter was of wry recognition.

Rounding things up - but wanting more

Our closing panel looked at ways to rebrand global mobility to the wider business and Matt Burns, Heather Falk, Jill Firse and Jane Munoz admirably kept the discussion both lively and helpful.

It was a real privilege and pleasure to chair this year’s Houston Conference and I am so grateful to everyone who took part. Our superb speakers maintained an extraordinary level of energy and shared their expertise so generously. They made what I know was a lot of hard work look almost effortless. Our thanks go too to our sponsors and exhibitors – without whom such events would not be possible. Of course we are also grateful to all the attendees who came from as far away as Azerbaijan and who posed so many interesting and insightful questions. I’d also like to thank the Hyatt Regency, Houston for all their support in staging the event, and our own, FEM Ops team who (as ever) organised everything so brilliantly.

Giving my thanks here in print is much easier than in person it turns out, because if you were in the room for my closing remarks, you will know that I had an unintentional slip of the tongue, that though it caused me some embarrassment, at least sent everyone else on their way with a smile.

I hope everyone who attended not only enjoyed that moment, but the whole day, and returned to their work today with renewed vigour and optimism. I know I have and I’m very grateful to be part of such a great community. I very much hope to see everyone again in Houston next year on February 20th and before that in Denver for our Americas Summit on May 3rd and 4th.

If you want to know more about the FEM Houston 2017 Conference and to register for our two-day Americas Summit in Denver on May 3rd and 4th (as well as the all-important Americas EMMAs) please see our website: www.forum-expat-management.com

If you were a registered delegate please don’t forget to fill in the post-event summary to give us your much-valued feedback and to collect your HRCI credits.

Delegates may also request conference materials by emailing me: Claire.tennantscull@centaurmedia.com

You can read my personal account of the Conference on LinkedIn.

Claire Tennant-Scull

Global Director, Content & Events, Forum for Expatriate Management

Claire Tennant-Scull is Global Director of Content & Events at the Forum for Expatriate Management (FEM). She produces and chairs all FEM’s Conferences and Summits in Amsterdam, the Americas, APAC and EMEA and oversees FEM's global awards (EMMAs). Claire works closely with key clients, leads FEM’s London Chapter and oversees the FEM website, reports and publications. In addition to her experience in Global Mobility, Claire has more than 20 years’ expertise in publishing, working as a managing editor, writer, journalist and broadcaster, both in the print and digital world. With thousands of contacts across the Global Mobility community, Claire is always keen to welcome new members and to broaden the FEM community.

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