Magali Toussaint, Founder & Certified Coach at U Diverse
Being a French high skilled migrant in multiple countries before, Ms. Magali Toussaint set up U Diverse to help expats and high-skilled international workers tackle those challenges she has faced. Backed by strong background in HR and cross-cultural working experience, Ms. Toussaint and her team of multilingual coaches and trainers help expats find new careers abroad, adapt to their new living and work environment.
In the interview, Ms. Toussaint described a myriad of methods U Diverse employ in the process as well as some of the issues such as spousal support, expatriate selection, reverse culture shock, technology and career mapping.
Q: Can you tell us about your background and why you decided to set up U Diverse?
A: I am a certified expat career/leadership coach and cross-cultural trainer with seven years of experience in career development, diversity, recruitment and human resources (HR) internationally.
I hold various certifications such as a certified career management coach, cross-cultural trainer and job search strategist. I also graduated with a Masters in cultural diversity and certified in Human Resources.
After years of international and HR experience in UK, Australia, France and the Netherlands, I realised the difficulty for highly-skilled migrants and expatriates to achieve their career goals internationally while adapting to new cultural environments. The dissatisfaction in a country is highly tied to personal experience, which can prevent someone to fully achieve their career goals and personal transition goals.
I also have personally experienced career transition from recruitment to career development while working and living abroad. I have experienced culture shock and thanks to my HR background and international experience, I have put to practice my passion for helping others in a challenging and empathetic way.
This is why I decided to start U Diverse to help highly-skilled professionals and expatriates achieve their career and transition successfully abroad.
Q: How does your company help the internationally-mobile population?
A: U Diverse helps expatriates and highly-skilled migrants achieve their career goals. We use the unique combination of career and cross-cultural and leadership coaching/training in multilingual environments.
U Diverse helps individual clients and organisations globally. I work with a team of intercultural and multilingual coaches and trainers (French, English, Dutch, Arabic, Spanish, etc..). All coaches hold certification from the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and are certified/qualified trainers. We provide support in career exploration, leadership, team development, cross-cultural adaptation, country specific training, career management for expats and highly-skilled migrants.
We help our clients with coaching, training and assessments. We help them with specific requests through training and tailor-made solutions.
Q: What is cultural training, and your method of coaching?
A: U Diverse use a combination of methods and tools in a structured and flexible way. They include:
- Co-active partnership ICF
- Positive psychology and neuroscience
- Strength based
- IRC Assessments (Intercultural Readiness check)
- Various cultural models Lewis model, Radar, Schein and Hofstede.
- Strengthscope (Strength-based assessment)
- Looking at the values of the person
- Challenging and empathising
Q: Name some things that you think are essential in an expat package, but are often overlooked by the company’s HR.
A: Expatriates failure rate can reach 30 to 50 percent, so it is important to consider certain aspects. HR should consider spousal support, expatriate selection and fit, culture shock and repatriation.
Spousal and family support is essential in an expat package.
The spouse may not fit and adapt successfully, which may create tension in a relationship. This may add extra pressure to the assignee and distract him from performing the assignment fully. This costs a lot of money to the organisation.
A manager may perform very well in his function in his local environment but does not possess the cultural adaptation or flexibility to work in a different cultural environment.
The expatriate selection is often overlooked. The skills, strengths and fit of the manager is often overlooked and not considered as being important. If the manager is not sufficiently prepared or aware of their cultural communication, they may fail in the assignment, not engage multicultural teams, or even create tensions. This aspect may contribute to culture shock or even depression if the assignee is not prepared enough. So, it is essential that the HR select and prepare expatriates carefully before sending them to an assignment.
The reverse culture shock is often underestimated.
The last point is to carefully prepare the expatriate before they return to their own country. The expatriate may have changed after a few years and no longer fit in his local culture and office. Processes and colleagues may change. People may expect the person to be the same though expatriation has profoundly changed him/her. It is essential to keep regular contact with the home office and prepare a career plan before he returns and follow up. It is important to manage expatriates return from the point of view of the talent and benefit from his/her experience abroad and what they have learnt.
Q: How can assignees use technology to their advantage?
A: I would suggest to using technology to keep contact with the home office and keep a continuity in communication with various stakeholders. Video conference tools and relocation management tools can be very helpful to make sure the assignment goes well.
Q: What advice would you give to an assignee?
A: I would advise an assignee to prepare their expatriation and ask for what they need (support for the spouse, training, preparation, etc). They should also make a strong career plan to discuss the return to their own country and keep the continuity in their career.
I would suggest working with an experienced coach and trainer to prepare them for the cultural and psychological change, especially if they are moving to a place that is drastically different.