COVID and Remobilization: How organizations are thinking about restarting the flow of mobile talent
In Part 1 of this series, I talked about the impact COVID-19 was having on global talent mobility so far. It has been quite the journey since the end of 2019. There have been headaches and challenges of gathering data, uncertainty around the real risk and potential impact (remember when we weren’t sure if it would be a global issue?!), and of course, the herculean efforts to repatriate employees before borders closed. It’s fair to say that mobility teams have been operating under pressures never seen before.
But we’ve seen mobility teams step up under this pressure and they are getting more C-level engagement than ever before. With this spotlight comes a real opportunity to drive strategic talent mobility initiatives forward as we start to look toward a light at the end of the COVID tunnel – as faint and blurry as it may appear.
So, what’s next for talent mobility teams, when do we get back to normal and how do we make the most of the opportunity that this situation has created?
Preparing to remobilize
What’s top of mind for most mobility teams these days is ‘when can we start moving people again’? Some industries, such as travel, entertainment, and retail, have been hit hard and will take an extended time to get back to any ‘normal’ sense of mobility. However, there is a growing backlog of moves put on hold across industries, just waiting for a green light to get moving again.
Due to the still considerable amount of uncertainty in many countries as to how reopening will progress, and a potential “second wave” of COVID resurgence, there appear to be two categories of approaches today. Many organizations are planning for an initial wave of critical pending moves for top talent and strategic projects – those will happen as soon as possible. But the data shows that many are taking a more conservative approach and planning for Sept/Oct target move dates.
Teams can expect lots of planning and replanning cycles – and continuous updating of financial forecasts for the second half of the year. Those orgs with the right talent mobility platform will be able to support this nimble approach to planning. At the same time, those relying on manual or outsourced efforts may find this exercise timely and costly. Also, mobility policies will need to be adjusted to accommodate quarantine and health considerations. For example, anyone entering China must currently undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Increased focus on data for health and safety – not just compliance
For the foreseeable future, there will be an increased priority on managing health and safety for employees traveling and relocating abroad (and domestically as well). Employees and mobility teams should expect tracking of location data to become much more of the norm and prepare for conversations and decisions around whether an employer should even have access to location data for personal travel of employees. Before COVID, this would have been a hard “no.” However, to prevent outbreaks and protect other employees, you need to know if people have been to high-risk areas.
As mobility starts to pick back up, you can expect to see a patchwork of open and closed borders. Countries that were open one month may close entirely or partially another. Expect travel from certain hotspots to be banned or requiring quarantine by countries that have greater control of COVID-19. Dynamic planning tools and dashboards will become the norm and necessary to react to a fluid situation.
Expect a wave of investment in technology
While the past few months have been high pressure, teams should be thinking about using the spotlight to get approvals for those long-standing transformation initiatives. To date, many organizations have made tech investments for their mobility programs, while many others got stuck getting approvals over the line. COVID-19 has helped articulate the clear need for technology and access to real-time information in a world with so much uncertainty.
For some, 2020 will be a year of enormous cost reduction pressures – and the investment case for technology will be about step-changing the levels of automation and gathering the data to optimize costs. For others, the focus will be on getting real-time visibility on data for health, safety, and compliance purposes. While the drivers may be different, the result is the same – mobility teams can no longer operate using limited or outdated technology – and now is the time to act.