Competition for best talent continues to intensify on a global scale, against a backdrop of changing travel restrictions and increasingly stringent immigration policy.
As such, organisations are more reliant than ever on global mobility functions to help navigate the environmental challenges and meet their people needs.
We look at three key areas where global mobility teams can focus on delivering much-needed value as organisations respond and adapt to external developments, while ensuring a focus on return on investment and contribution to organisational objectives.
For global mobility professionals, adding value means going beyond the role of the administrative enabler. While this remains an important base to cover, the real difference is made where mobility professionals are operating as strategic advisers to the organisation:
Flexibility in relation to people strategies has become a key driver as organisations look to move quickly to attain and retain competitive advantage. While the preference is to minimise ad hoc and on-the-spot adjustments, as by their nature they are likely to inflate cost, within agile, fast-paced environments, the capacity to react and deploy and employ personnel quickly, safely while remaining fully compliant presents organisational benefits.
As employers favour a combination of ethnocentric, polycentric and geocentric approaches to recruitment, mobility professionals can deliver real value by anticipating, advising on and proactively responding to the future mobility needs of the organisation.
For example, we are seeing employers increasingly favour shorter term assignments and deployments, due both to cost drivers and to the agility and flexibility afforded to the organisation, with long term and permanent locations demanding higher investment levels required and fixed and inflexible commitment for the employer.
Strategic business objectives are increasingly involving the global mobility perspective. Mobility professionals are taking their seat at the board table, to identify issues and mitigate risks early enough within key initiatives and projects to ensure effective outcome with minimal cost and resource drain.
For example, a merger or acquisition will impact your sponsor licence.; deal with the mobility implications of a change in organisational structure too late, such as waiting until sponsor licence renewal, and it’s likely you will be in breach of your duties and as such, be liable for a civil penalty.
Organisations undoubtedly benefit where there is close alignment between global mobility and talent development.
Take for example succession planning strategies. Global mobility professionals are best placed to nurture a sustained and effective approach to international experience, which will be a critical element in the development of high-potential employees and future leaders.
Organisations with globally-mobile workforces need an awareness of external factors – legal, political, social, economic etc – affecting their overseas operations, both now and in the future.
The COVID pandemic continues to present challenges and will remain high on the strategic and operational agenda for some time to come. Presence in or entry into emerging markets may seem an obvious area of concern. However, the increasingly protectionist stance toward immigration taken by developed countries is impacting business immigration.
Local immigration rules are being restricted for public health reasons, while technologies are developing to support tracking and information sharing between nations about travellers.
Global mobility professionals should be positioned to advise the organisation on these environmental factors, understanding the impact on workforce and operations, and to lead the drive to maintain control, compliance and competitive advantage.
Cost remains a pervasive pressure, and we are seeing mobility functions responding in a number of ways.
Improving operational efficiency
Underpinning most cost reduction strategies is operational efficiency and maximising productivity of mobility processes and systems.
The challenge for mobility professionals when reducing costs is ensuring standards are maintained, and that operations remain effective and compliant.
This is resulting in investment in automation and new technology to support with efficiencies. This movement is also supporting focus on measurement of mobility practices. Collating data to inform and evidence performance and importantly value.
It has become popular practice to outsource elements of the mobility programme to specialists in areas such as legal and relocation services. There are many benefits to this approach particularly where inhouse mobility functions are looking to focus on strategic contribution.
Engaging an external provider, formalised with an effective SLA and KPIs, can help retain focus on value and return. This should look beyond the cost outlay or savings – what is being derived as an organisational benefit? Are you seeing improved visa application processing times? Have you passed a Home Office inspection?
Changing types of mobility activity
Mobility professionals should be take a proactive approach to assessing the relative merits and benefits and cost of different types of portfolio, aligned to organisational objectives.
For example, while the number of overseas assignments are generally on the increase, certain areas are seeing a decline – notably permanent relocations, largely for cost reasons.
As an extension of this, we have also seen savings being made on assignee support packages.
The flip side however is that more short term assignments naturally mean more administration and processing – where operational efficiency steps up.
Faced with the increasing vigilance of immigration authorities across the globe, a significant area of concern for global employers is immigration compliance.
Business travel is on the increase – as are the risks associated with this type of mobility. Organisations self-admittedly tend to lack full knowledge of their employees’ business travel activity.
There is a need for better tracking, for internal training of key employees, for effective policies and systems which enable data sharing and efficient, effective, real-time handling of business travel.
Right to work
All UK employers are under a duty to take steps to prevent illegal working. The risks here are substantial. Can you confirm at any one time the immigration status of all of your UK employees?
You are obligated to carry out a formal process to verify and record each employee’s right to work in the UK. Your process must be non-discriminatory. You must have a full audit trail. Do your policies, procedures and processes meet the required standards?
UK employers have to be licensed by UKVI before they can employ non-UK resident workers. But applying for a sponsor licence is only the beginning. Immigration compliance risks present on a day to day basis and at every stage of the sponsor licence process – issuing certificates of sponsorship, managing the licence and notifying of changes of circumstances, through to licence renewals and Home Office inspections.
Mobility policies, procedures and systems remain critical to ensuring your compliance. Technology is also providing solutions through automation, data capture and sharing, particularly for high risk cohorts such as those employees with time-limited permission to work in the UK.
While operational effectiveness and compliance continue to be primary demands, a key objective for inhouse global mobility professionals must be to deliver and evidence positive contribution to organisational objectives.
We advise multinational organisations on meeting their business immigration needs through a combination of strategic global mobility advice and managed immigration services. If you have a question relating to global mobility or immigration compliance, please get in touch.
Last updated: 2 January 2021