GUEST POST BY SUSAN MCGRATHCHAMP, MIHAJILA GAVIN AND ANTHONY FEE, RESEARCHERS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY AND UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY SYDNEY
Crisis prepared, or crisis prone?
Many organisations got through the hugely confronting and chaotic early phase of the pandemic in 2020. Those most prepared for the crisis were able to successfully and confidently ‘switch gear’ quickly to tackle many challenges. They could locate their employees, and had the systems and processes in place to do so. They understood their employee’s situations and they effectively managed their return (where that was possible).
COVID-19 will likely mean that organisations are far more crisis-aware than pre-pandemic. There is now a critical opportunity to share wider learnings from the pandemic and take stock of the future challenges and opportunities for global mobility professionals.
Managing in a crisis: mobility’s role
There is an emerging sense that the mobility function within organisations is being perceived with higher value than in the past. Corporate leaders have newfound awareness of the mobility function as key to navigating through the crisis.
Global mobility professionals quickly became the backbone of their business’s response to handling complex and urgent mobile workforce issues.
Previous research by UTS and University of Sydney considered how organisations ensure the safety and security of their international staff during crisis events, which again appears critical in the COVID-19 context and for the future. It identified 4 key roles of global mobility professionals:
- Service Provider
- Welfare Officer
- Strategic Partner
- Change Agent
In the ‘service provider’ role, the past 18 months has seen mobility professionals provide critical information needed during employee-return. There is now heightened awareness of the need for comprehensive employee location data, and systems for identifying and managing staff whereabouts, and to in-build these capacities.
During 2020, the crisis catapulted global mobility practitioners into the vital wellbeing, or ‘welfare officer’, role. Maintaining communication with affected employees, ensuring stakeholders in their organisations were informed, plus providing support for returnees and their families took considerable time and effort. Looking forward, attention to employees’ psychological and physical health will remain key.
COVID-19 has also elevated the importance of the mobility function in the eyes of CEOs and the C-suite. A ‘strategic partner’ role has previously existed in some but not all organisations. Shaping future work arrangements and developing effective policies for this is one example of a potential ongoing strategic role.
As ‘change agents’, driving organisational awareness of safety, security and new modes of working will be key.
How will global mobility change in the future?
With this in mind, it is useful to think about the types of tasks global mobility practitioners may be responsible for in the future.
Not only is the work of these professionals expanding, but the challenges being navigated in the ongoing turbulence of the pandemic is creating new complexities around managing remote work, navigating complex government rules on tax and immigration, while prioritising the need for key talent.
The workforces being managed by mobility professionals are now potentially much larger, with remote work seemingly here to stay. This is creating new questions about employee engagement, wellbeing, technology, privacy and many other issues that need further attention.
Researchers at the University of Sydney and UTS are now doing a study of the effects of COVID-19 on global mobility.
Your input, through a short conversation, as global mobility practitioners, thought leaders and expatriates is vital to help us understand these issues about the future of global mobility. We invite you to directly book a brief 45-minute conversation to contribute to this study at the following link: https://calendly.com/mihajla-gavin
We’re eager to speak with you.