Attracting quality talent to Gibraltar has traditionally been a challenge for many local companies, particularly in the online gaming and the finance sectors. The task is going to be even more challenging over the coming year as global employee mobility has been severely affected by COVID19. Despite the fact that Gibraltar has been very lucky so far in withstanding the current crisis, with no coronavirus-related deaths to date, the pandemic has raised a whole new set of concerns for both employers and employees in respect of international relocation assignments, with new emphasis on healthcare insurance, employer’s duty of care, remote working and possible economic slowdown in the post-corona era.
As part of our Relocation Advisory Services, over the last 3 months, we have hosted a series of webinars with panels of experts in various relocation-related subject matters, to assist our clients and contacts around the world currently on relocation assignments. In addition, through our innovative Relocation Clinic and Spouse & Family Relocation Hotline services, we have been able to provide a rapid-response team to assist employers and employees in real time with urgent questions that have risen due to COVID19.
Offices may never see the same crowds again.
From the insights we have gained, we believe global employment mobility will be impacted by COVID19 in the following ways:
1Before COVID19, sending an employee on an international assignment was a trivial matter. In the post-corona era, HR or hiring managers will first ask the question: Could this role be done remotely and how can we make it work remotely?
2 If remote working is not preferred/possible, there is likely to be greater opportunity for home working in the host country. The CEO of Barclays recently announced offices may never see the same crowds again, and he is not alone in this view (Facebook, Google, and other tech companies have recently extended work from home until the end of the year).
3 Many mobility managers have expressed there could be some reluctance for a while to take an assignment and be away from family and home healthcare. Companies may have to shift their talent planning including more remote team collaboration. For example, consider an assignment that was put on hold due to the crisis. If restrictions start lifting in the summer the likelihood with immigration delays would be a start date in the autumn, which could coincide with a much discussed second wave as the typical flu season starts.
4 Duty of care and compliance will gain importance – This crisis has highlighted how important it is to track your mobile workforce, including business travellers. More attention to data and having the right technology to track will be essential, as well as communication tools and being able to get reliable information to employees (thus avoiding employee’s reliance on social media). Moreover, from a liability perspective, the employer may want a proper legal review of assignment documentation to eliminate risk of litigation.
5 Remobilisation strategies as we ease out of lockdowns may require HR to identify local talent in location or those with work rights (i.e. nationality or PR status) in host locations to bypass ongoing travel restrictions in place.
6 Mobility teams will need to work with internal risk to develop sophisticated Business Continuity Plans to be able to trigger in the future, in terms of security in place, evacuations, ensuring families are together, business travel management, etc. Ideally policy support should be developed so that cases are dealt with in a consistent and fair way, as opposed to ad-hoc.
7 With the expected economic downturn – will companies re-evaluate projects and assignments? Will assignments currently on hold still go ahead once restrictions are lifted or will companies rethink investments? What mobility alternatives are available? Cost management will become more important and mobility managers will need to think of new and creative ways to control costs.
Successful employers will be those who place more attention on caring.
8 In some industries, especially involving larger long-term projects such as infrastructure and engineering, mobility operations will likely return to normal as soon as the restrictions are lifted. However, mobility managers and team members will need to focus more on new skills as we move forward. The ‘reluctant assignee’ and their family may require much more empathy than before and the manager may need to increase the use of external relocation specialists for coaching to assist with this empathy and assurances, as well as to be better equipped to provide assignees with more detailed information about healthcare systems, insurance and other aspects of the destination country.
9 Finally, although there may be fewer assignments, the ones which do go ahead may be more business critical and expensive, which will contradict the pressure to reduce costs. Rather than trying to reduce costs and limit exceptions, HR teams will need to be able to ensure managers do not cut corners on protecting the assignee and family, and will provide them with access to ongoing relocation support services, spouse and family support etc.
While we believe that Gibraltar can showcase its great success in withstanding the corona pandemic, in order to attract talented employees to the jurisdiction, successful employers will be those who place more attention on caring and reassurance for their relocating employees both before and throughout the relocation period, providing their assignees with access to both internal and external personal and spouse support.