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Mobile workforce strategy for COVID-19 recovery

Global talent leader considerations for the next 90 days

The most impactful COVID-19 recovery plans will not just successfully return organizations to business as usual. They will be innovative, challenge the status quo, and push the boundaries on traditional ways of doing things. For global workforce mobility, there are three critical areas to consider as we reboot and enter this recovery phase.

From COVID-19 response to COVID-19 recovery

A shift is underway in the US business community. Conversations about stay-at-home orders loosening, borders opening, and mobility returning are taking place. Organizations that have been in response or crisis management mode are catching their breath and beginning to identify what COVID-19 recovery can and should look like. What does it mean for mobility?

Finding the answer begins with understanding the business impact spectrum. Every organization’s COVID-19 impact is different. Even within organizations, different functions have faced varying degrees of impact.

Once you’ve examined and understand how your overall business has been affected, you can determine more precisely how to enable a sustainable COVID-19 recovery. Making that outcome your reality demands that mobility leaders engage three vital areas:

  • Mobile workforce strategy
  • Strategic spending
  • Operations realignment

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Mobile workforce strategy

When looking into your organization’s mobile workforce strategy, it’s important to analyze how business and employee needs change.

Step 1: Define immediate 
workforce strategy

Step 2: Evaluate alternative ways to fill talent needs

Step 3: Think about long-term mobile workforce strategy

What actions need to be taken for stranded or remote working employees? What are your mission-critical roles, and which employees need to be repatriated? Once that’s determined, mobility is in exceptional position to partner with HR leaders to take a deep look at your pipeline before the pandemic, and determine which moves on the pipeline should resume immediately, which need to be put on hold, and which might be canceled.

Maybe it’s about changing the types of moves, such as using more frequent business travels to replace longer-term assignments. Maybe it’s about having the right technology to keep up with the changing ways we work and enable mobile assignments to start remotely.

If you can anticipate future changes, you can work with business to address those changes and meet those needs in an agile way. If remote work is a key component of the future workforce strategy, mobility can leverage its expertise and cross-functional network to help the organization operationalize remote strategy and navigate compliance.

Actions to take

For mild disruption:

• Connect with business leaders to understand compliance and international tax issues
• Advise on policy and process change plans and immediate actions to support alternative work arrangements
• Develop employee communications and change management plan

For severe disruption:

• Analyze trends in global talent needs and the types of roles enabled through global talent deployment
• Determine what type of workers and how many of them will support the organization’s future
• Develop flexible but cost-effective guidelines to support strategic initiatives

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Strategic spending

COVID-19 has put a spotlight on cost. Organizations need to both make sure the funds they spend are spent strategically and continually find ways to limit or cut costs to support recovery.

Step 1: Understand its financial impact and position

Step 2: Determine future cost strategy

Step 3: Identify the most strategic use of funds

Before you dive into the potential savings that mobility can deliver, you’ve got to understand the total costs at hand and what’s driving them. Is cash flow a priority? How do you communicate the ROI of your program? Has its value significantly changed? How are you using technology to enable visibility into cost? How do you create baseline costing data?

Once you’ve gotten your arms around your overall financial impact, you’re able to model out the various cost-cutting scenarios that accommodate the ever-changing business landscape. You can determine how your future mobility budget will be affected and governed going forward and identify what costs will be prioritized and what needs to be reduced or cut completely.

Identify areas where potential cost increases are warranted, analyze active mobile population to identify opportunities to save, and leverage government stimulus programs like US International Revenue Code Section 139 and other alternative vehicles like equity compensation restructuring. Optimize rewards programs to better align with current cost containment structure, and rethink compensation.

Actions to take

For mild disruption:

• Review current-state process to identify opportunities to streamline operations and increase efficiency
• Look for repetitive, rule-based workflow that can be easily automated
• Identify opportunities to outsource certain components of work

For severe disruption:

• Illuminate total program cost and driving factors
• Highlight high-cost outliers and low-cost anomalies
• Model various cost-cutting scenarios with data and technology
• Align cost-cutting plans with broader talent-driven goals
• Put in place an actionable plan with obtainable goals and benchmarking

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Operations realignment

As your organization gets acclimated to modified work models and business demands, how can leaders rethink their global mobility operations so that new expectations are met? Organizations need to reevaluate their program and operations to see how they can align to the go-forward business and workforce strategy.

Step 1: Stay vigilant on regulatory compliance

Step 2: Review policies to meet new mobile workforce needs

Step 3: Align service delivery to shifting population and priorities

Track mobile employees and mobility tax, immigration, and payroll regulatory changes. Educate the business on updates to immigration requirements, timelines, and processes. Assess your organization’s potential exposure to international tax and payroll regulatory changes, and proactively advise the business on your recommended decisions and actions.

Consider additional flexibility to provide low-cost options for your business and the possible need to incentivize employees to accept mission-critical moves. You may also need to develop new policies to support new move types, such as remote workers or virtual assignments, and agree on protocols for when stranded employees are able to return.

Look internally to see which components of the operation have been most affected by COVID-19. Then adjust your service delivery model as needed to align resources to new priorities, such as changes in the scope and sourcing of work, supply chain, and technology. Evaluate vendor health and create a contingency plan if you need to shift your vendor network.

Actions to take

For mild disruption:

• Review and adjust current-state process to ensure speedy delivery of services for mission-critical moves
• Help business understand different mobility packages and cost implications
• Develop more cost-effective mobility packages, if needed
• Advise on alternative mobility solutions to meet talent needs

For severe disruption:

• Partner with staffing and development to forecast ongoing and future mobility needs and anticipated fluctuation
• Survey stakeholders to determine future support needs
• Rightsize mobility organization to support SME and business-facing roles
• Outsource remaining administration and execution roles

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Rethinking your COVID-19 recovery

As they navigate the challenges of mobile workforce strategy, strategic spending, and operations realignment, resilient leaders should create an agile, iterative, and innovative framework for action that strikes the right balance between business and people needs:

  • Focus on short-term sprints instead of long-term changes
  • Be an adviser and plan your mobility recovery strategy around wider business needs
  • Innovate, challenge the status quo, and push the boundaries on traditional ways of doing things

It’s time to shift your mindset and embrace the role of strategic business partner. Are you ready to start your COVID-19 recovery?

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