Director - Total Rewards, Discovery Inc.
Elizabeth Karcher is the Director Total Rewards at Discovery Inc., a global leader in real life entertainment, serving a passionate audience of superfans around the world with content that inspires, informs and entertains. Karcher is an internationally-recognized leader of Global Mobility workforce operations, transformation and integration. At Discovery Inc. she is overseeing the tax, the immigration and the relocation for their mobile employees, whether that's domestic moving within the United States or internationally. Before joining Discovery Inc., Elizabeth worked at Karcher Relocation and Lockheed Martin.
In this in-depth interview, Karcher describes how workplace communication has changed over the last 20 years and how this impacts the global mobility industry; discusses the lessons she learnt in her career; explains why Listen and Understand to Other People’s Perspectives is a key leadership skill; and admits that Global Mobility is the best career ever!
Hello and welcome to the View from the Top, a podcast brought you by Benivo.
My name is Brian Friedman. Some of you may remember me from my days as the founder of The Forum for Expatriate Management. But these days I'm better known as the Strategy Director of Benivo, the world’s leading welcome as a service mobility tech company.
So I hear you ask: What is the View from the Top? Well, it's exciting, it's innovative, it's something new and we hope you enjoy it. It's your chance to hear from some of the most well-respected and experienced professionals in the HR and the talent mobility industry.
And over the next few weeks, I'm gonna be interviewing some of the most influential movers and shakers in our profession. So you can hear from them: How did they get to the top? Who influenced them along the way? What life lessons have they learned and perhaps most importantly, what issues and challenges do they see coming down the turnpike?
My guest today is Elizabeth Karcher, who is the Global Mobility and Total Rewards Director at Discovery , Inc.. And I am sure you will know Discovery. It's the hugely well known and highly respected television and media network. So, Elizabeth welcome.
And to kick us off Elizabeth how could you just tell us a little bit about your role, your global mobility program and maybe just a the bit about Discovery?
Of course. Thank you so much for having me Brian, I really appreciate this. I work at Discovery Communications, it was formerly Discovery Communications, it's now Discovery, Inc.. We have recently gone through a merger and an acquisition with Scripps, and our television empires growing with now got the Food Network and HGTV, which are very popular here in the States, in addition to are very well-known Shark Week.
My role is Global Mobility Director is overseeing the tax, the immigration and the relocation for our mobile employees, whether that's domestic moving within the United States or internationally.
I have a terrific team that oversees really those three functions, and it's been at Discovery for now seven years, and it's been really terrific.
How exciting! And tell me Elizabeth, roughly how many people do you move each year? And how many people are with you at Discovery in the team who are helping move them full and part time?
So I have three direct reports in the mobility function, and we move approximately 100 international moves, whether that's an assignment or permanent transfers and about 100 moves domestically a year.
Okay, so you're pretty much moving one person every working day of the year.
That's a good way to look at it.
It's a very responsible position to get to in your career. So tell us, how did you get there, what was your route to the current senior position that you hold?
I started my career in mobility when I moved to Washington, D.C. which is about 20 years ago. I started at Karcher Relocation, which is essentially a destination service provider in the Metro Washington D.C. area, and I was helping diplomats and their families, and executives from corporations and enterprises here in Washington relocate to this area. It was wonderful! I met people from all over the world every day who were coming to make their lives and to have a career in Washington. From there, I moved to Lockheed Martin, I worked in international Human Resources with Lockheed Martin, and then I moved to Discovery to run and start this program to create a mobile workforce.
How exciting! And tell me as you've progressed through your career, you must have met a lot of people who inspired you and possibly some of that they didn’t, but we won't go down that particular round. Tell me the people you met, who was it that you say really inspired you in your career, and what was it that they taught you that the learning that you took away from the people you met as you progressed?
I've met fascinating people from all over the world, people with very different learning styles, very different communication styles but the two things that I'd say that I've learned and I take to work with me every day and that is to be tough and hold my ground and fight for what's right, but also be kind, and listen to people and understand how to understand what it is, where they're coming from, and what their perspective is.
Okay, I think we might have touched on this just now, but I wanna just tell of a little bit deeper to someone who is maybe where you were 20 years ago, someone who's starting out in the profession, what lessons would you perform to those people who also maybe looking to get into global mobility for the first time and to build the career in mobility.
I think the biggest, I mentor employees, I mentor other younger professionals starting their career and one of the lessons that I always go back to is to listen and listen to what people are saying, if they're sharing their opinions just listen to that because that will give you a lot of insight into what's really happening. And I'd say in addition to listening and to take some time and take some classes, whether it's in tax or it’s in immigration or attend conferences and start to meet and network with people on a one-to-one and ask people, ask for a coffee, and say what is it that you do? and what do you think you're bringing to the table? and is this something that, and think to yourself whether this is something that you'd like to do for a career?
Brian Friedman: I think that's a great point, I do think people get into mobility from different angles. I sometimes liken it to a decathlon that there's all these different sports that decathlete has to be good at but nonetheless they all seem to have one sport which is their best sport. And so in our world it may be someone has come into mobility through tax or immigration and it sounds like from what you're saying is that you came into it through destination services as your if you like core skill but then you've broadened out into all the other areas you have to know.
Elizabeth Karcher: Exactly, that is how I started. If you were to say and my decathlon, yes I'm a DSP at heart, but you do have to broaden out and and the way to broaden out is listening to people and talking to them and finding out what it is they do and whether that's something that you think that you'd be a skill that you'd like to either improve or maybe move into that field completely in that direction.
Brian Friedman: Indeed. Okay moving on a bit, I don't want to make you sound anxious and I do apologize I know I am chivalrous but obviously you have been in the industry for many years what are the biggest changes that you've seen throughout those years in your career?
Elizabeth Karcher: I would say the biggest are the communications and the ability to communicate. Of course with cell phones and computers and all that but also the way we're communicating with one another and that it enables us to have a more agile workspace and workplace. So I would say that those the ability to communicate and then that plays into the second biggest piece, the biggest changes the whole concept of working from home or working remotely. 20 years ago people went to an office whether they did people went to an office you didn't work from home and of course we can work from home because of communications. So and then the other piece I'd say that we are creating a more global workforce and people are able to travel, there are fewer barriers to entry compared to 20 years ago that's my sense anyway is that people can travel and do business. You can physically be in different workspaces, you can do work remotely but also that you can have these telecommunications where you can have a conference call such as this where people are in different time zones and able to do an interview that actually has really changed the complexion and the way we work today.
Brian Friedman: Okay that's definitely. And then getting more specific about the future what would you say, I don't mean to put you all on the spot here, but what would you say are your top three objectives for the next 12 months, what's top of your all the burning issues on your plate if that's not mixing metaphor?
Elizabeth Karcher: Well, I think actually for most businesses like ours we have the concern about Brexit and what's going to happen with immigration in and out of the UK.
Brian Friedman: Don’t get me started on Brexit.
Elizabeth Karcher: Yeah that's a burning issue.
Brian Friedman: Absolutely.
Elizabeth Karcher: One of our major hubs is in London and so of course that's going to be changing a lot of what we do in that space. The second is we're moving our headquarters in the United States from Silver Spring Maryland to New York, so one of my objectives that my team has is moving all those people from either from Silver Spring either to New York or to Tennessee or two different locations, so we have not necessarily a group move but a very big move of a number of people.
Brian Friedman: So how many people do you think you're moving to those two destinations?
Elizabeth Karcher: I think close to 70 maybe 80.
Brian Friedman: Okay so you're not going to be sleeping at night.
Elizabeth Karcher: So that statistic of moving one person everyday it's now moving two people for everyday of the year we're moving someone.
Brian Friedman: I wish you all the best with that.
Elizabeth Karcher: Thank you!
Brian Friedman: If we go out more than 12 months what do you think are going to be the biggest changes over the next five and 10 years that are going to affect global mobility both at Discovery but also more generally?
Elizabeth Karcher: Well it goes back to what I think the biggest changes over the last 20 years have been and that's communication this agile workspace. I see that that's just going to be continuing to change that more people going to be having these flexible work schedules work from home, we have the increased ability to communicate with one another whether it's cell phones or computers virtual reality in conference rooms where we're doing virtual learning spaces. So I see that as part of the future and in some ways that makes it easier you don't necessarily have to be moving people but the importance that when you do move people and when people are traveling to do work in remote in other locations whether it's a different office that people are showing up in the office to actually meet with the people who are the business travelers who are coming there. So if everyone is staying at home or working remotely then there's actually very little needs moving people. I think that's part of the exciting piece of mobility but also part of the challenges that if we're all working remotely then what are we actually moving people for.
Brian Friedman: So do you think we're going to get more mobility or less mobility in say 10 years time compared to today?
Elizabeth Karcher: I think that this pendulum is going to swing and we're going to have more people actually go into offices again there's going to a happy medium where people are not working remotely a 100% of the time but they're not showing up at the office a 100% of the time either. And so I think, I'm hoping that it would be more orchestrated that people are given the flexibility to work from home but also showing up in an office at certain dates so that when you've got mobile transferees and mobile employees that they're actually having face-to-face time with their counterparts and their colleagues. That's what I'm envisioning.
Brian Friedman: Okay so exciting time, do you think artificial intelligence is going to be coming into this?
Elizabeth Karcher: Absolutely.
Brian Friedman: Yeah I can see a world where things like the mobility policy there's a lot of artificial intelligence around the design of it and the assignees using it and indeed you've touched on virtual reality and you know the old look see visits might start disappearing and people will do them virtually. I think we're in for an interesting 5, 10 years or so.
Elizabeth Karcher: Yeah I agree, I think the concept of pre acceptance trip and I think those will be incorporated with a business travel and then the look see for home finding we're going to be relying more on virtual reality for that.
Brian Friedman: Okay just changing the subject again, I appreciate that an organization like yours, with the complexity of the number of moves, that you're doing and you'll be working with a number maybe quite a large number I don't know of service providers and vendors and certainly there'll be many that want to work with you even if they don't really, what advice would you give to a service provider who wants to work with Discovery wants to partner with Discovery?
Elizabeth Karcher: This goes for any service provider and that is to know the culture of your audience, know the culture of the business that you're working with. It's interesting to me when I worked at Lockheed Martin, when I worked for myself in Carter relocation and now Discovery, the culture of the people that you're working with is very important to understand how they communicate and what their audience is. So for instance in Discovery its television these are people who are creative and passionate about content and communications on a screen and so that's the audience that people have to focus on when they're pitching something to Discovery.
Brian Friedman: Okay we're getting towards the end of our interview, Elizabeth what I would like say you've had a fabulous career starting off as a DSP but moving to this base senior role of global mobility and Total Rewards Director at Discovery Inc.. And it sounds like you've made a lot of very positive steps throughout your career and I'm sure some of them were plan, and some of them were lucky, fortuitous move things that happened serendipity etc. But my question is this, is if you had your time again what would you do differently?
Elizabeth Karcher: I think that's a great question Brian! I would take more time to network, to socialize, just to get to know the people a little bit better. Sometimes we're just moving so quickly that we just need to get the tasks done but when you take the time to meet the people and know the people that you're working with it actually and build a relationship I think that that actually improves the quality of your life, it improves the quality of your working time, and in crew it improves the quality of the services that you're providing. So if there's anything I would do differently it would just be to slow it all down and take time to actually get to know my colleagues better, my assignees better, my vendors better.
Brian Friedman: But no regrets at working in global mobility?
Elizabeth Karcher: No is the best career ever! This is been a perfect match for me I'm so pleased that this is the career that I've been able to create for myself.
Brian Friedman: And you recommend it, from what you're saying too, in looking to get into the career.
Elizabeth Karcher: Absolutely it's been a great ride and and it's not over yet.
Brian Friedman: Excellent! Elizabeth Karcher it's been absolute pleasure talking to you and hopefully all our listeners have enjoyed this podcast the View from the Top featuring Elizabeth Karcher at Benivo. We've got more of these podcasts to come, we hope you've enjoyed it and tune in again next week for the next podcast. Ladies and gentlemen that was Elizabeth Karcher, I've been Brian Friedman many thanks Elizabeth and thank you all for listening.
Elizabeth Karcher: Thank you!