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Caring for assignees in a changing world

Feb 11, 2017
Lisa Johnson, Global Practice Leader at Crown World Mobility, tells global business that it’s time to update duty of care policies in a fast-changing world

In any given year there is uncertainty in the world but recently it feels ever more present. From natural disasters to political instability and terrorism, the world is unpredictable and as such, these events need to be acknowledged and reflected in every company’s duty of care strategy for international assignees.  

It is the job of employers to ensure assignees’ wellbeing and safety is managed – as well as any family members that might be travelling with them. However, despite significant world events such as the recent hurricane that swept through the US and last year’s terror attacks in Paris, Brussels and Nice, a survey carried out by Crown World Mobility found that over half of participating companies had not updated their duty of care strategies accordingly.  

A lot of companies are still relying on a long-standing approach when it comes to managing their international assignees. For example, special briefings tend to only be given to those people moving to traditionally high risk locations such as Iraq and Russia. Now however, high risk locations can be anywhere in the world and therefore adequate training, communication and resources need to be provided. 

Two other factors which are having a major effect on traditional mobility methods are technology and the ‘do it yourself approach’ whereby employees are organising their own relocation. We live in a digital age where we can send an email, book a flight or reserve a hotel room with the click of a few buttons. As such, the DIY approach is becoming more popular – especially amongst millennials who are used to this style of working. I suspect over the next few years we are likely to see rapid changes in this area. 

With these points in mind, I recommend the following five tips for companies looking to update their duty of care strategies:  

1. Assemble a stakeholder group: 

Pull together a cross-functional team and set up regular meetings to discuss key points that have affected, or are likely to affect, assignees and consequently the company’s duty of care strategy. This will ensure the correct people are aware of the current policies and are involved in all decision making. The team should include representatives from HR, global mobility, business leaders and corporate travel representatives.  

2. Communication is key: 

Assignees are given a lot of information when they relocate so, as a long-term approach, the employer should send regular e-mails and texts to remind them what services are available. In addition, companies should make sure they have communication protocols in place in the event of a crisis. For example, text alerts and e-mails containing emergency details. 

3. Tracking can improve safety:

Dependent on the country the assignee is being sent to, some companies have implemented travel tracking into their strategies. Being able to locate the individual 24/7 is advised if the person is relocating to an area where kidnapping is a significant threat. 

4. Update policies to allow for flexibility: 

The DIY approach isn't going away. Therefore, companies should consider how they can make their policies more flexible to allow employees to book their own trips, or parts of their trip, without jeopardising safety. For example, part of the policy might be to allow employees to book their own business travel, but require using the company's designated travel providers.  

5. Provide a thorough briefing:

Crown World Mobility’s survey found that almost a quarter of companies provide assignees with security briefings that are designed for the general population and are not specific to the assignment location. In the interest of safety, companies should tailor each briefing and not adopt a one size fits all approach. In addition, no matter where in the world an assigned is being sent, all companies should provide an induction. As well as the basic information you would expect to receive, it’s also important to include local details such as where the local hospitals and the embassy are, but more importantly assignees and their families need to have information at their fingertips of who to contact and what to do in a real emergency. In the moment, these are the details that will be most important.  

Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson is Global Practice Leader, Consulting Services, at Crown World Mobility, a global company that helps corporations manage global talent. She has more than 18 years of experience in the industry and has been with Crown since 2012.

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