Your global mobility team is critical to your organisation’s success

Global mobility team is critical to your organisation

With the global pandemic continuing into 2021, businesses need to transform to find new ways to get old jobs done, and new ways to get new jobs done, write Ablean Saoud and Caroline Hickson.


International and domestic border closures, strict quarantine requirements, and only a fraction of commercial flights still flying, mean the challenges of acquiring and retaining talent where the business needs it most, as well as keeping track of a work force that has become more dispersed than ever before is a challenge.

This presents an opportunity for global mobility teams to step up and make a real difference to their organisation. With restrictions starting to ease, and a vaccine tantalisingly close, the challenges are only just beginning.

In this article, we explore four ways that global mobility teams will be crucial in the coming months to support their businesses to flourish in 2021.

1. Ignite motivation in your teams to transform your business operations

Organisations are looking for flexibility, adaptability, creativity and guidance from mobility programs. This means first creating and then embracing a new normal. Think about how you are going to generate new ideas to redevelop your global mobility program, and how you will define how to do things differently.

  • Have you surveyed current or former assignees?
  • What have you stopped doing since the pandemic hit?
  • What have you started doing?
  • Which of those things work well?

Analysing past actions to identify ways to transform can be an incredibly powerful tool.

Critically, your team and indeed the whole business will need to adopt a change mindset. This is not always something that comes easily as we humans can be incredibly resistant to change. But this is an opportunity like never before to completely transform the way that we work across borders.

Spark excitement, generate a sense of anticipation, and get your teams ready to drive that enthusiasm!

Maximising positive change and transforming negative disruptions into opportunities is key.

For example, not being able to travel overseas to build up new business in person might initially feel like a huge blow – but does the fact that these roles now don’t involve physical travel, and can be done from anywhere suddenly open them up to a more diverse pool of applicants?

Perhaps those stellar candidates who ruled themselves out of international roles due to caring responsibilities, a disability, or mental health issues that might be exacerbated by time away from support networks now feel empowered to apply?

Make this a win for your organisation’s I&D objectives.

2. Know what your organisation’s biggest problems are and prioritise solutions

Global Mobility teams’ abilities to solve problems and get things done remain in sharp focus.

Top priorities for global mobility resulting from the pandemic centre around cost management in a time of business volatility, mental health of assignees, and managing mobilisation within border restrictions, whether the need to mobilise is personal or business driven.

But you need to ensure you know which problems are top of mind for YOUR organisation. By cultivating and reinforcing a culture of openness and honesty you will ensure that problems are articulated early, and your team is kept informed and therefore in a position to help.

Communication here is critical – make sure you are clear on who your stakeholders are and communicate with them frequently and regularly.

  • What are their needs and how can they be met?
  • For example, does exchange rate volatility mean overall cost of living expenses are increasing in some locations?
  • Does this warrant an 'off cycle' review of cost of living allowances, or balance sheet calculations?
  • What about additional costs the business agreed to early on such as temporary accommodation or storage?
  • Have any of these employees’ arrangements now transitioned from temporary to permanent meaning it’s no longer necessary or appropriate to offer additional support?

For many organisations, the initial focus on duty of care is now moving to focus on cost and compliance. Global mobility teams have an important role to play in monitoring this and ensuring fair and consistent application.

3. Keep sight of the fundamentals – tracking, monitoring and compliance

Information overload has been a challenge during the pandemic.

Which sources of information are reliable and where should you focus attention first?

The rapid rate of change means that organisations’ comfort and confidence levels across tax withholding, social security, immigration and employment law compliance are low and expert advice is often required on a case by case basis.

As a starting point you need to be able to identify where people are, and what obligations exist in each of those jurisdictions in order to get a handle on tax and payroll compliance.

Once you have this information and control (understanding who is where and what that means for compliance purposes), you need to maintain it, meaning you need a reliable way to keep informed of changes.

Newly-enacted legislation is appearing in many jurisdictions around COVID-19 tax concessions and extensions but often these are time limited.

  • Where international borders are closed are there any exceptions, and how can these be accessed or applied for?
  • Where and when are borders opening up?
  • How does that dove tail with priority travel locations for the business?
  • Are there any countries (or country combinations) that are no-go?

With rules and guidance evolving frequently it’s important to develop tools to monitor and manage this. Continue to engage with trusted partners – the COVID-19 situation is still evolving daily and obtaining reliable information about the latest flare ups or danger zones, or guidance on where operations are safe to resume, is critical.

4. Think big! What might the future look like for your organisation and what does this mean?

With a ‘new normal’ dawning in the global mobility space we are already seeing heightened flexibility, with more acceptance of remote working arrangements.

In other predictions for 2021 and beyond we anticipate a shift towards local talent reducing the need for business travellers, an increase in longer term assignments and permanent transfers.

There will be more demand for more stringent policies and improved reporting to enhance visibility over people’s whereabouts.

  • Do these predictions align with what is happening within your business?
  • For example, were you previously moving people with skillsets that were already available in the host location?
  • If so, how can you focus on identifying these individuals in each of your locations and/or upskilling them, to further reduce your organisation’s reliance on travel?
  • For those people who then travel less as a result, what should their new duties look like?
  • Where could this freed up time and money be spent when not on air travel?
  • With changing international working practices, what new policies need to be created or updated?

Many organisations are exploring international “work from anywhere” policies but the types of benefits that should be provided raise some interesting questions.

For example, a home leave allowance won’t be required!

Should this be inverted and replaced with an “office base visitation allowance”?

On the one hand you’ll need to consider whether putting in face time to get things done is really necessary or whether that’s an old way of thinking? On the other, how do you build teams and culture virtually from scratch without face time?

A very different proposition from transitioning a pre-existing team to working virtually when they already know each other well.

Key to all of this is the importance of hearing what’s going on and aligning your ideas for change with on-the-ground experience.

If you need assistance with developing processes to monitor and approve travel, up to date tax and immigration advice, or support in developing new mobility policies, all in the context of COVID-19, KPMG can help.

This article was first published to KPMG Tax Now.


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