With mobile talent restricted due to COVID-19, global mobility teams are looking at how to support existing expatriates in the situations that they are finding themselves in across the globe. Nearly every host location has instituted travel restrictions or bans, and advised or demanded that people aggressively distance themselves from others to slow the spread of the virus. Whether an expat is in the early phases of the assignment process, actually on assignment and in the middle of life in their host country, or in the process of repatriating, there are so many different situations that people are finding themselves in the midst of and mobility programs are having to consider and address all of these situations.
Although recently published, it feels like the five tips in the article below were offered up prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and the concept of social distancing. Because of the current situation of rapidly escalating cases being identified around the world, mobility programs (with both domestic and international talent mobility) are going to need to address specific and unique employee situations that just have not ever been addressed before. With so many unique things happening, 82% of mobility programs are looking at exceptions related to COVID-19 on a case-by-case basis, while the other 18% are looking at specifically defining for the business what types of exceptions to automatically approve.
Many programs at this point have had to quickly respond and determine how to handle existing expatriates who are in locations around the world on assignment and those that are being planned currently. Most companies are taking a "hold and wait" approach and delaying start dates for new assignments. As of last week, every company we work with had instituted a work-from-home policy, joining the effort to keep employees home and "flatten the curve." Not surprisingly, more than 40% of clients have had employees cancel or delay their relocation or assignment.
As expats find themselves practicing social distancing — not only to protect themselves but to protect their host communities from this outbreak — they also are worried about family and friends they've left behind. Additional economic factors are weighing on most people at this point in time, too. It is easy to get sucked into the stream of stressful news and updates that are available 24/7.
What can companies do to support expats currently?
- Consider a little more support from a local DSP. While destination service partners may not be able to provide face-to-face support to expats who are starting or on assignment, they can educate through virtual service support and offer tips and tricks for navigating the local system to better support "stay-at-home" orders in a given location.
- Make sure that each expat and family has a very clear understanding of their existing healthcare coverage and knows exactly what to do should medical support be needed.
- With families in situations with no school and the expatriate working from home, make sure that they have the tools that they need to be effective working from a home office.
- Offer a virtual connection to combat social distancing. Simply connect with them to make sure they know you are available to support them as needed as a global mobility and HR team.
Have some other ideas? Please share them for others to take advantage and utilize.
It is becoming more commonplace that international experience is a pre-requisite for progression to senior management positions. Expatriate assignments remain one of the most expensive staffing models and yet remain a popular option to meet global talent requirements. Despite the cost, both in terms of finance and effort, many expatriate assignments fail, largely due to lack of adjustment on the part of the expatriate or their family members. Needless to say, the inability to adjust and perceptions of failure can have a negative impact on expatriate workers’ wellbeing.