Did anyone see the Great Molasses Flood of 1919 coming? Sounds like a few people recognized the slow leak in the tank but no one could have imagined the event that occurred on January 15, 1919 when a giant tank (50'x90') of molasses exploded and sent a tsunami of syrup (25 feet in height and 165 feet wide) cascading down on people. Per the Time article, "Molasses may not seem to be the most dangerous of substances, but when 2.3 million gallons are unleashed at once, it can demolish buildings, tear apart train tracks, rip a fire station from its foundation, and drown or suffocate dogs, horses and people."  

If you work within global mobility and do not know the term VUCA, then the employees being supported by your program may be at more risk than you think. VUCA is an acronym for "volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity," and is a term frequently utilized in the discussion of a company's perspective on the "duty of care" of its employees as they travel around to assignments throughout the world. From an expat's perspective, this is not about compliance but rather personal safety, and there is nothing more core than safety to making sure that the assignment experience is a good one.

One of the core functions and primary objectives for global mobility programs is to limit risk to employees that are working on behalf of the company around the world. Safety and security are always a priority and as global events happen, mobility managers must know where employees are and where danger might be imminent. There must be processes in place for helping employees avoid danger and plans in place for when something unfortunate and unexpected does occur. From political upheaval to natural disasters, knowing who is where and what is next has to happen in an instant. If your business travelers or international assignees found themselves in the face of a tragedy, would you be able to contact them or guide them to safety?

This past October, Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and AIG Travel reported that 83% of female business travelers reported safety concerns or incidents this past year. 80% of female business travelers said safety concerns had impacted their productivity on business trips. Lastly, 84% of women travelers claimed that risk impacted where they would travel for business.

In looking across your mobility program, there may be some areas where you could quickly improve the degree of safety and security. This article, The Five Pillars of Travel Risk Management provides a great starting point to make sure you have a few key elements built into the management of your global travelers:

  1. A business travel health, safety and security policy
  2. Travel safety and security information
  3. Restrictions on travel to higher risk countries
  4. Knowing where your people are
  5. An incident and crisis management plan

There are some tools out there to help monitor global events and educate you (and your employees) on where you might want to be more cautious.  For example, the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs has a color-coded map and shows travel advisories to help you access risk conditions. 

While travel has some inherent risk for all employees, LGBTQ+ employees often face a greater degree of risk than most. This guide is designed to help LGBTQ travelers navigate those layers. Stonewall's "Safe Travels: Global Mobility for LGBT Staff" is a 24-page guide with best practice tips for supporting LGBT staff.

Lastly, there are global companies like International SOS, that provide an array of support risk reducing services for companies and their global employees. They can help assess, design and assist with anything from disaster plans to medical and security services. They have recently released their latest award-winning "Travel Risk Map" for 2019 in conjunction with "Control Risks" which reveals the latest medical and security risk ratings for destinations worldwide.

As an organization, how are you currently managing the personal safety and security of your employees that are traveling globally?