Every industry faces at some time that golden moment to prove its value. Think back to 2020. Who of us doesn’t now have a greater appreciation for the healthcare industry, grocery stores, the trucking industry and teachers, to name a few, as a result of the value they have demonstrated through COVID-19?
And so it is for us in mobility. The global mobility workplace of the future is likely to look quite different than that of yesterday, impacted by many variables. While we may not be able to anticipate every eventuality, mobility professionals have a golden opportunity to use our knowledge and insight to help our organizations be as prepared as possible.
This is the time for mobility professionals to shine.
What are some of the critical drivers where you can let your voice — and knowledge — be heard as your company prepares for mobility in the future workplace? Here are four areas that come to mind:
Travel: When Will It Return, and How Will It Be Changed?
That is the million-dollar question, and one with no definitive answer at present. We’ve been tracking the latest travel restrictions for months, and it is clear that until global pandemic numbers make a significant improvement, global travel will be impacted. When it does resume, it’s likely that many corporations will look at global mobility through a somewhat different lens. A PwC study in December 2020 of 300 corporations found that less than half (45%) anticipate having the same number of assignees post-pandemic, and a third of them (38%) expect their global assignees will be fewer than before COVID-19.
As travel restrictions continue to ebb and flow, it may be useful to ask all business travelers, not just assignees, to sign travel consent forms. As the mobility voice for your organization, you can help ensure that only essential and authorized business travel is undertaken and that there is an awareness and agreement to actual and potential costs.
Mobility professionals’ opportunity is to be a trusted, knowledgeable source of all things global travel-related for our companies. That’s a tall order, and one that will require being well connected to industry partners who make it their job to stay informed and share their critical knowledge freely. Use your voice, your knowledge and your network to not only influence — but guide — your company’s future travel and assignment strategies.
The Next-World Challenges of Housing and Moving Costs
Moving employees is likely to be more challenging — and more expensive. The mobility team — and your relocating employees – will be navigating a perfect storm of escalating home prices in many locations and scarce housing inventory.
Not only that, but your assignees are likely to have new “asks” that you’ll need to factor into accommodations. For example, we’re seeing individuals increasingly asking for larger temporary or permanent accommodations as they work from home or quarantine in their assignment location.
The need for a “zoom room” and private outside space is increasing and looks to be a longer term trend. With this size of accommodation in limited supply, this will inevitably add a premium to suitable properties. To ensure that your policies support this change in preference and need, consider updating your policy or adding a pre-approved exception to meet the additional costs.
Couple those challenges with rising costs related to moving such as shipping and freight costs. Case in point is the simple cardboard box. Our colleagues at JK Moving anticipate not only price increases through 2021 and beyond, but a bottleneck in supplies as well. Even shipping containers are in high demand.
Now is the time for mobility professionals to be creative and nimble. Look for nontraditional approaches wherever possible that reduce relocation costs. What about renting furniture locally rather than shipping? How can you minimize multiple housing trips? Are you effectively managing expense reporting, payroll and tax services? Develop policies and procedures that help your organization anticipate and stay ahead of these next-world mobility challenges.
Jack Be Nimble…
It seems every business pundit and blogger has suddenly discovered the word pivot, and the concept of being nimble. But, no one needs to school mobility professionals on the idea of pivoting and the value of nimble, agile planning. And that creates another stellar opportunity for mobility HR teams to be ahead of the strategic game.
So how can you help your business quickly pivot? Think about how you’ve pivoted during other times of change, crisis and challenge. What lessons can you apply now to keep your mobility teams working to meet strategic opportunities and needs?
Here’s an example. According to Harvard Business Review, “there’s an unprecedented opportunity for companies to move talent where it’s needed most. Kroger, for example, borrowed furloughed employees for 30 days from a wholesale food distributor, while Bank of America temporarily converted 3,000 existing employees into positions to field calls from consumers and small business customers. Such moves emphasize how talent is used to solve current, pressing business challenges,” notes Worldwide ERC®.
Flexibility, agility, creativity, collaboration, networking, partnerships — use your well-honed mobility skills to offer up new ways to put talent where it is needed most.
Enter the Global COVID Nomad
Travel restrictions and individuals’ fears no doubt have kept many would-be assignees from pursuing or accepting relocation during the pandemic. But that’s not universally the case. In fact, the phenomenon of individuals choosing to work from distant locations is becoming so pervasive that it’s been given a name: Global COVID Nomads.
“The instant worldwide transformation to ubiquitous work-from-home inevitably sparked novel logistical problems and sticky legal challenges. Among the more complex is the singular phenomenon that came to be called “global COVID nomads,” the small percentage — but enormous worldwide number — of employees that COVID-19 transformed into telecommuters who then slipped away to work from new homes in foreign countries,” says Littler in its just-released study on wandering workers.
“Telecommuting offers advantages (no one likes real commuting). But it also poses a number of challenges. Perhaps the most complex is the international “wandering worker” who slips off to telecommute from overseas, dragging the hapless employer along, into a new country entirely. In the COVID-19 pandemic, this phenomenon became widespread, spawning the so-called “global COVID nomad” problem,” the study notes. “These international wandering workers pull their employers into cross-border employment relationships. And cross-border employment relationships inevitably trigger nuanced legal challenges.”
In a period when filling remote talent needs may be more challenging than ever, these wandering workers could be a boon to your strategic mobility needs. But proceed with informed caution. Where can your voice be used most effectively? Equip yourself with expert knowledge and trusted resources to protect your organization from legal and compliance pitfalls surrounding what likely may become part of the next normal of wandering, remote workers.
A Trusted Voice
It only takes a look back to 9/11 to be reminded of the value of a visionary, agile, tech-enabled mobility team.
Every global crisis— whether it is 9/11, or Hurricane Katrina, or COVID— is an opportunity for mobility to stand up and be an invaluable strategic lever. In these most challenging of circumstances, it is mobility teams who’ve stepped up with answers: Where are our employees? Are they safe? Can you help us find housing? Can you help us get a flight out?
Now the question is how can we meet workforce needs and business strategic goals in a global pandemic and post-pandemic world? This is our window to demonstrate mobility’s critical value in times of significant change. At the end of the day, we can never forget that people are at the heart of every relocation. This, my mobility friends, is our time to shine.