Why Global Mobility, Recruiting Can’t Afford to Stand Still

Part 1 of 2

Imagine a new assignee, Mohit, moved to northern California and before he could even unpack, COVID-19 arrived to spoil his move. Worse, he signed a multi-year lease on his rental. Even if he moved alone, his loved ones would be stressed out by his sudden uncertain future in his host country. It’s a big move that can make him anxious right away. However, he has no choice but to stay because he is stuck with the lease.

These days, though, one need not be burdened by long-term leases. People have more choices. Mohit or his employer could have gotten him a flexible corporate rental, furnished and with all the amenities he can think of, for six months, not more than a year. Knowing this, Mohit would not be saddled with a contract when he could even lose his job in the process.

This is the part where global mobility managers and corporate housing providers like California Corporate Housing come in. The former needs to assure assignees that things always change for the better — and the pandemic’s effect, while unprecedented in our lifetime — will eventually go away; not right away but at some point in time. There’s nothing much one can do anyway, except learn how to make it easier for assignees to cope in the new normal.  

In terms of housing, companies can then rely on California Corporate Housing to handle assignees’ housing accommodations without the anxiety.  

Crown World Mobility has also learned something in the current health crisis that has affected movement of people from everywhere. Below are some of its suggested strategies to help global mobility professionals, employers and assignees hurdle these challenges.  

1. Manage employee mental health and well-being 

Employees and their families may be experiencing different levels of stress, concern, homesickness, culture shock and connection to their communities. On top of that, assignees also face unfamiliar healthcare systems, expiring visas, lack of confidence in the local language.

For these reasons, companies need to prioritize employee mental health and well-being.

• Find the right balance between over- and under-communicating with a mobility population, using more than one approach depending on individual preferences (text, email, phone calls, video conferencing, etc.). Some employees say they aren’t getting enough communication and others have said they have had anxiety from over-communication. 

• Raise an awareness about mental health issues among the Global Mobility team but let them know they don’t have to be the experts. Ensure that your team can recommend and rely on trained professionals like those found in an employee assistance program (EAP) or through International SOS (ISOS). 

• Provide mental health and well-being information to all employees and their families, so that everyone can have information and resources available when they need it. Some companies are scheduling webinars with mental health and well-being presenters for their mobility populations. 

• Develop a basic script for the global mobility team and update it when there is new information, so that the mobility population is getting a similar message. This ensures there aren’t big disparities in who is hearing what message during a crisis. 

2. Make proactive conversations with business partners 

Mobility teams need to be focused on the growing pipeline of employees who will be needed to fill all kinds of assignments and transfers once borders reopen and people are able to move. These will require the use of short- and long-term assignments, new hires, permanent transfers, commuters and business travelers. 

It is critical for mobility teams to have proactive conversations with their business partners to ensure that they understand that with remobilization the tap might turn on – but authorizations cannot all happen on day one. Scheduling regular conversations is vital:

• Review employees currently in the pipeline and ensure that details that will impact “ready to move” are captured, including variables such as home and host location combinations, family situations, willingness to go and immigration requirements..

• Determine business conditions, national guidelines, and availability of relocation and expat services in impacted locations, including quality of medical care available, household goods shipments, schools reopening and accepting new students, destination service providers, availability of temporary and permanent housing, pricing adjustments, etc. 

• Create a pipeline for waves of moves based on the many variables, so that there are realistic numbers of authorizations in each wave; have alternative plans in order to adjust as needed. 

3. Forge ahead with immigration plans to prevent backlog 

Even under normal circumstances, obtaining visas and work permits are critical when planning for international assignments or transfers. 

The timing for filing paperwork and processing applications is not always predictable, yet, when getting ready for a move, obtaining the visa and work papers determine the timing of many other steps, including the employee’s arrival in the new location. 

Some might think that during this pandemic, while borders are closed and travel bans are in place, the immigration process is at a standstill, but the opposite is true. 

Immigration teams supporting the mobility industry are providing daily and weekly updates to organizations on evolving country-specific guidelines, norms and attitudes around movement within and across borders, and locations where governments are showing leniency and understanding for expiring visas and permits (and where they aren’t). 

Steps you can take with immigration partners to avoid the inevitable backlog

• Contact immigration providers so they can start assessing the cases and develop case strategies. 

• Once everyone agrees with the timelines and case strategies, HR and global mobility can initiate the cases so that the immigration team can proceed with documentation procurement, and with preparing and drafting documents and applications for filing with the respective labor and immigration authorities (where possible). 

• Start the first phase of the work permit process, such as filing petitions with the labor and immigration authorities in countries that allow it. 

• Know that consulates continue to provide assistance and some urgent services to their nationals, even if they are not issuing visas. 

• Understand that processing times at the labor and immigration authorities can take between six weeks and six months during normal circumstances. Starting the process and paperwork now could save considerable time during the adjudication process. 

(To be continued)