What’s in a name? What are our top-performing Global Mobility clients doing to match people, their personalities and their pronouns with the paperwork needed during an international move?

Global Mobility and HR professionals strive to help staff work, live and thrive overseas—where ethnicity, age and gender are often viewed differently than in their home country. We’ve listened to, and learnt from our clients—and are sharing some useful insights in this latest edition of our popular blog, Reloverse, particularly around gender identity policies that limit LGBTQ+ employees’ chances of success.

Everyone’s individual

Each overseas assignment is unique—and so are the international assignees who embrace them. Many locations bring their own challenges, particularly when it comes to sexual orientation or gender identity, and most clients publish policies that support employees and empower non-LBGTQ+ staff to become advocates or allies. But recently we’ve noticed many of them don’t completely cover things as simple as identity paperwork throughout the move. The answer is amazingly easy and something you can put in place today.

A matter of identity

Many first names such as Alex are unisex, but making the one-letter move from being Robert to Roberta can be less simple than it sounds, particularly when it comes to passports, visas or mundane matters such as home rental contracts or medical insurance. For around a third of people transitioning, legally changing their name is a daunting but exciting part of the journey. It’s a line in the sand moment, and it’s common for people to change their given and surnames entirely. This often means something completely fresh, rather than simply Abbie Wang becoming Adam Wang. Many people retain their surname because of supportive parents and siblings. But a similar proportion want a ‘clean break’ from past relationships and situations, or they just never liked their name in the first place as it wasn’t truly who they were. This can be straightforward if you’re office-based in Oslo or Osaka—but less so when it comes to border control, banking, payroll or property when your international talent is on assignment, particularly in an unfamiliar, far-flung bureaucratic state or province a long way from home.

Split personalities

Changing names as part of a transition isn’t just limited to LBGTQ+ staff. Lots of people from South East Asia adopt more Western-sounding names for professional reasons, while many with traditional names with historic or spiritual connotations embrace a new name if they are irreligious and make their home in a more secular state or society. But by definition, trans is short for transition, meaning to make a change, moving forward from being one thing to the next. During that process, it can be painful and frustrating to hang on to the old you, because policies, procedures and documents demand it.

Who do you think you are?

There’s often a gap between who we are and what we’d prefer to be called. We maybe Professor Micheal Kent or Doctor Maryam Khan on our resumes, LinkedIn or our passport—but to our colleagues, we might be Mike or Mary. So, it’s important throughout the documentation process of any international move to know how people want to be addressed. The 25th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, was universally known as Teddy, and on memos, just TR. So, which do you choose as a Global Mobility or HR professional? The answer is … to ask, record and inform every touchpoint.

Name, rank and tax identification number

Different countries define things differently. Given name, legal name, married name—while the use of a transgender person’s previous one is called, pointedly, ‘deadnaming’. It’s a way people feel mocked, misgendered or denied their true identity–but in our commercial world, more likely a result of officialdom, legality or bureaucracy.

What’s your name, again?

Aitana Yusta, DSP Consultant at Santa Fe has been at the centre of making sure our customers and clients are met, greeted and treated as they’d like to be. She said “We have a simple solution to this potentially complex situation. We ask three questions: How should we address you by email, in formal communication, and verbally, face-to-face? That might be just Jack, Captain Jack Sparrow, Lord Marshall of the Caribbean Sea, or Johnny Depp as it likely says on his passport. But asking eliminates confusion, and it takes seconds to integrate into your Global Mobility policies and processes. Once in place, everyone throughout the supply chain, from warehousing to Destination Services, knows who’s Jack and who’s Johnny”.

Pride in your identity

This is particularly pertinent during Pride month, but it also effects a surprising number of our clients’ most important international staff. When you get an email, letter or contract that has half your name, the wrong name, or a past name, it can make you feel frustrated, unimportant or undervalued. If you were to find yourself sitting next to Hassanal Bolkiah ibni Omar Ali Saifuddien III on Brunei Airlines, he might like to be called His Royal Highness. Seated next to Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson on Virgin, he’d probably prefer “Richard”. But we should always ask before we answer.

Professional partnership

Titled, gay, straight, pondering or finding a new true you: If you’re looking for an expert partner who understands the personal and professional importance of global workers being their real self on international assignment, we would love to support you and your teams. Simply drop an email to reloverse@santaferelo.com and we’ll get back to you.

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