Really Now, How Prepared are Companies in Evacuating Assignees During a Crisis?

Evacuating assignees during a crisis is  a challenge that global mobility managers do have to prepare for. More important, they have to constantly do it, updating their plans, checking support systems and replacing them if they prove to be outdated. It would not be an exaggeration to say that no region, continent, or country in the world today is totally invulnerable to cataclysms that can trigger the sudden evacuation of foreign workers. Anything from an economic crash, civil wars, the spread of an epidemic, rising floods to heatwaves can trigger an exodus. 

One recent example is the once economically impregnable Hong Kong; non-stop mass protests against a law that allows for extradition to the People’s Republic of China have scared off investors, tourists, and foreign nationals. 

Expatriate executives who had lived and worked in the financial hub for a decade are forced to contemplate a return to their home countries, simply because their own companies are relocating somewhere else. Closer to home, organizations in northern California watch over any weather disturbances caused by climate change in order to respond effectively — and thus prevent an evacuation of their workforce.

While an evacuation program is part of global mobility manager’s role, these days speed and adaptability are essential to their formation, development, and deployment. As Davidson Morris points out, complacency can be counterproductive, or possibly even lethal. What worked for expatriates five years ago may no longer be applicable today. 

The global mobility manager must always ask themselves: how fast can I mobilize my assignees when the need arises? How safely can I transfer them from one location to another? Do I have contingencies in place, in case the unexpected — such as a closed airport, no health centers in the immediate vicinity, disrupted telecommunications — happens? How skilled are my global mobility team members in coming up with a backup? And if the crisis itself is overwhelming, how much pressure can my team and my assignees take?

Mercer gives the building blocks or the foundation of a sound expatriate emergency evacuation program. These have to be in place as soon as your assignee signs their contract, and long before you send them to their new place of employment:  

24/7 communication access, medical evacuation service, trained security and evacuation personnel including security guards on the concerned premises, kidnap and abduction insurance, and wartime or conflict insurance, just to name a few. Some VIPs and members of the C-suite might just need a bodyguard or two, depending on their position and value they bring to the company. 

Don’t quibble with insurance. Negotiating payment terms is understandable, but do not dismiss this service out of hand. Insurance companies are competent when it comes to assessing risks, coming up with a plan of action that will safeguard your executives and assignees, and ensuring to it that the evacuation happens without incurring astronomical costs on your part.

Having an assignment support process tasked specifically with immigration and extradition can also ensure your assignees and teams’ safety, advises NES Global Talent

Sometimes, when the usual borders close and formerly reliable airports are shut down, the only choice you might have is to extradite your team to a third but safe back-up country. That option may be the safe haven you need before flying your charges all the way home. That’s why you need specialists who can connect you with the authorities in these countries at short notice. They can also assist you in fulfilling the paperwork that will make the transition legal and comfortable.

Crises can be managed, and evacuation — while never easy —  can still be painless, thorough, quick, and relatively convenient. Just put the proper safeguards in place at the soonest time possible.