COVID-19: The Path Back to Normal
It should come as no surprise that COVID-19 is a game-changing outbreak that will undoubtedly alter the way companies and their employees manage their business and mobility programs. No one knows precisely how the world will emerge once the dust settles, so business leaders will need to develop practical solutions for what will become the new normal.
When the pandemic took many countries by storm, containing the virus took precedence over everything. Mobility managers scrambled to understand where their employees were in their mobility journey—be it in the pipeline or on assignment in a foreign country—to ensure their safety and well-being while maintaining focus on their company’s strategic objectives.
Looking forward, reestablishing routines and practices that have been disrupted by COVID-19 will require thoughtful planning. We highly recommend mobility managers try to carve out time now to design resilient programs incorporating critical learnings from this current crisis. To that end, we spoke with Dawn Mugavero, Senior Manager of Talent Mobility at Toyota Motor North America, about what actions can be put into practice immediately and what she has learned during these challenging times.
Understand the situation on the ground for your key locations as well as your moves/assignments in process
Although COVID-19 is affecting communities differently throughout the world, it is a safe assumption that most places where mobility is routine are under some form of restriction. These restrictions can vary widely by country, state, province, or city. While a broad-brush approach such as putting a pause on all activity may have worked during the early days of the pandemic, the recovery will likely require more precision in the execution. It is essential to understand the impacts to specific locations as well as how employees in the middle of moves/assignments are faring.
- Is there anyone that ended up stuck in an unplanned location as travel and immigration guidelines shifted?
- Have families that only planned on being separated for a short time been separated for an extended period?
- Who is not in an ideal situation due to health or safety risks, and how do we prioritize these individuals or families? What steps need to be taken to improve their circumstances?
Join Dawn Mugavero, Senior Manager of Talent Mobility at Toyota Motor North America, and the rest of our panel for this weeks's Cartus Global Mobility Insights Webinar!
Thursday, May 14, 2020 @ 10:30 am EST
For a different perspective, we also spoke with a mobility leader from a leading fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) company, who shared the following:
“We have a large global expat population, including many expats in China. When COVID-19 hit, we immediately consulted with our local businesses for advice on the welfare and safety of our expats. We advised expats to remain in the host location to manage self-isolation in familiar surroundings as well as avoid unnecessary international travel. We wanted them to remain co-located with their workgroups/teams, but only if local experts and HR/Security departments deemed it safe. In cases where assignees preferred to travel back to their home location, they leveraged their home leave to do so except in limited cases where unique circumstances warranted additional company support.”
When we asked about their plans for recovery, they shared that:
“We’re looking ahead to a post-COVID normality, and while service delivery along normal lines isn’t possible, we very deliberately continued to populate our relocation pipeline with planned moves to ‘flatten the authorization curve.’ Our relocation volume is significant, and we know that halting new moves will create a bottleneck and could cause service delivery issues once we’re all back in business.”
Understand the needs and set proper expectations with the business lines you are supporting
To the extent that it is possible, it is an excellent time to begin having discussions with your business owners and leaders to understand the impact that COVID-19 has had on them from an overall business perspective as well as a mobility perspective.
- Which moves are business-critical to the projects and businesses?
- Have they been interrupted?
- How have alternatives to relocation been working for that line of business?
While the recovery timeline remains uncertain, assume that not all areas will recover at the same time. It is essential to make sure that the business owners are aware of what the recovery looks like from a mobility perspective, so they don’t expect things to move forward faster than the situation on the ground allows. If possible, identify what services need to be available with minimal disruption before you allow moves to continue into and out of a particular area. It is also critical to understand which moves are essential to the business, so planning around those specific relocations and assignments can take place. People may also be anxious to initiate relocations that were not able to move forward due to COVID-19, and they will want to begin the process as soon as they safely can. Communicating now can help ensure a smoother process for everyone and ensure that plans can be adjusted to reflect the situation on the ground.
Identify best practices and gaps experienced during the early phases of the pandemic
Most organizations have current pandemic and business continuity plans in place, but for many, this is the first time they have been widely used. Likely, some things worked well in the plan, while other steps could have been smoother. Start to keep a list of both of those items, as it is a near certainty that all of these plans will be reviewed carefully after the situation passes, and mobility managers are uniquely positioned to help influence those plans based on their experience managing a population of global and domestic mobility.
Track your incremental costs and exceptions due to COVID-19
Mobility Managers likely have approved some exceptions due to COVID-19. Whether it was unplanned emergency travel from a host country, approving costs for extending temporary housing or storage in transit, or offering a stipend or enhancement to allowance payments, it is important to be able to track this impact. For U.S.-based companies, you may be able to receive some tax relief for these expenses. There is a possibility that this could exist in other locations as well. Be sure to connect with your Cartus account team to develop the appropriate tracking for these costs, and connect with your tax advisor to determine if your organization qualifies for tax relief. If so, be sure to share that with your leadership as well, as most organizations are looking for ways to save during this unprecedented pandemic event.
Covid-19 has required companies to engage mobility personnel into broader conversations that position talent mobility as a collaborative and strategic partner to the business. Cartus teams will continue to provide minute-by-minute guidance and support to mobility teams to get through the next chapter of the pandemic. We are with you every step of the way!
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