Tech Conscious, But Not the Same as Doing: Companies Still Wary about Implementing Automation Amid Crisis

Global mobility managers have been quick to acknowledge technology’s role in the improvement and streamlining of tedious processes of talent mobility. But what many may not have noticed, even with widespread acceptance, is the fact that companies can still be hesitant to take action in integrating automation and digitization in their work. This was before the pandemic when they were not considered worth the cost and time.

Harvard Business Review’s research indicates that incremental steps in delivering the core value proposition is sufficient. While paradigm shifts do occur in some technological applications, they don’t necessarily mean immediate business disruptions. 

For instance, the Covid-19 pandemic has stirred companies to adopt technologies in different aspects of their business operations. And yet, there are still many global mobility teams who have failed to execute plans in using technology to their advantage. 

A Global Mobility Now Survey by ECA International mentioned that salary calculation was discovered to be the most commonly automated global mobility process implemented by only 28 percent of 400 companies. Given the current circumstances with Covid-19, an increase is expected.

With companies cutting costs to cope up with the financial hurdles caused by the pandemic, it’s unlikely for them to take in new staff, leaving global mobility managers with more administrative duties to attend to. Instead of focusing on strategic and value-adding activities, they’ve got their hands full working on mundane and repetitive tasks. Now, many seem to see the worth of automating these processes.

The same survey demonstrates that the following are the top global mobility processes that companies should consider automating:

Salary calculations

Companies that recruit global talent (yes, even in this pandemic) should expect longer hours of manual salary computations, that is if there’s no automation. Handling dispersed talent would mean varying salary calculations based on an assignment’s location, thus, having to make tailor-made compensation offers for each assignee.

One case study of an investment bank demonstrated challenges in creating customized assignment packages to attract and retain its global talent. The company reportedly spent some time and manual effort in computations for local gross salary, which were complicated by currency fluctuations in a specific host country. 

Topia managed to save the company more than $1,000 per assignee by integrating automation in their salary adjustment process. The result: the company was able to generate customized offer letters in a day, which normally takes one week to make. 

Establishing workflows

Establishing workflows provide managers a method to improve talent management and increase task traceability. Following a workflow’s establishment, the challenge is in optimizing the series of processes — making them more organized, controlled and easier to adhere to.

ECA International encourages companies to include these key functions when creating digital workflows:

  • Date-based triggers/automated notifications
  • Ability to involve stakeholders, particular assignees
  • Vendor access 
  • Exception management 
  • Data transfer and interfaces with HRIS (human resource information system) and/or third-party software
  • Reporting

Successfully integrating these functions can potentially reduce errors, promote transparency and foster accountability. 

For example, global mobility managers are able to conveniently check essential data that are gathered by automatic processes integrated in a company’s workflow system. This helps managers report on Key Performance Indicators with less errors. 

Tax calculations

Tax calculations can be especially tedious when working with a mobile workforce. What’s even more tedious are the costly penalties and processes that ensue when companies fail to comply with tax regulations in a specific country, state or local jurisdiction. 

Having centralized tax records and global compensation data can help global mobility managers avoid confusion in compensation calculations relative to tax responsibilities. Other companies move a step further by implementing pre-programmed tax withholding computations by leveraging global tax data.

BDO Alliance USA prides itself by providing mobility managers with a digitized solution to their tax compliance needs. The company promises to serve its clients with a holistic and automated approach to avoid risks and examine tax-saving opportunities when designing crossborder incentive compensation packages. 

Cost estimate calculations

The pandemic has definitely led to serious worldwide economic ramifications that affect the costs of global assignments. The uncertainty of travel restrictions mixed with stringent health advisories has made relocating costs more unpredictable. Hence, global mobility teams are considering introducing automated cost estimators to better support talent mobility in an attempt to reduce costs.

Since employee deployment can be costly, it’s crucial to make accurate cost estimates to support global mobility managers’ decisions on assignments — whether to proceed with employee relocation or not. 

With efficient digital tools, companies can make valuable insights from the cost implications a specific scenario assumes in just a few minutes. 

Mercer, for instance, helps companies strategically budget mobility finances by providing cost projections. Its Cost Projection Calculator enables companies to perform cost estimate calculations with respect to the duration of an assignment in its user-friendly too,

Vendor initiation

Bringing third-party entities to support HR leaders with regard to talent mobility can be a wise investment. The challenge here, though, is the ability to communicate in real-time with these organizations on workflow processes that need to be adhered to. 

Providing vendors with access to important workflow data allows them to be notified automatically on important changes the company makes, giving vendors ample time to anticipate the time frame of specific deliverables expected from them. 

Overall, companies that have not made investments on technology prior to the pandemic may face a lot more risk compared with companies that are taking the new normal seriously and looking to rely on technological solutions to save them, if the pandemic lasts too long for anyone’s comfort.