Deploying personnel overseas carries substantial risk, across a number of areas.

If the worst were to happen, and a crisis or disaster were to affect your international workers, how would your organisation respond?

Employers operating globally-mobile workforces must be prepared.

The safety and well-being of your personnel are paramount. The speed and impact of your actions will come under considerable stakeholder scrutiny in the aftermath. Reputations are at stake.

This necessitates a robust crisis and disaster response procedure that specifically underpins your global mobility programme.

Crisis planning has to go beyond communications. There are specific risks and issues presented by international working which should be address when managing a crisis.

Mobility in times of crisis

Natural disasters, terrorist incidents, disease, civil unrest and violence; the list continues.

A crisis response plan should take account for possible scenarios and clarify what is required, both of employees and you as the employer to help minimise delay, maximise effectiveness and provide some cost control in the event of a crisis.

When devising your plan, there are a number of factors specifically affecting global mobility to take into consideration:

Evacuation

The security and safety of your employees is of primary importance. For the worst case scenario, you need to plan evacuation procedures.

You need to be armed with facts. Who is currently present in the affected area? Do you have an up to date record of all employees in the region? This includes all types of workers – assignees, local staff, permanent relocations.

A key area of risk here are business travellers. It is common for business travellers on short stay visits to omit to inform the relevant internal functions of their trip, usually through genuine omission. As an area of risk however employers should take proactive steps to reduce the potential risk.

Also to determine in advance is who will be covered by any evacuation? Assignees, dependants, local employees, business travellers, those on permanent relocation? Complications can arise in relation to spouses or partners met by employees while on assignment – are they covered by your policy?

While ‘yes’ may seem the obvious answer, you will have to be prepared for any related immigration compliance issues that this may cause, such as ascertaining the immigration status of partners or spouses, and their eligibility for the necessary emergency visas or permits.

You will need to determine the nature of the evacuation, whether this will be to repatriate or to move to a nearby safe location? From an immigration compliance perspective, this will again dictate the nature of support required to secure emergency visas and entry clearance for those affected.

Location

As well as the nature of the crisis, your response to a crisis should be heavily influenced by the country/ies involved.

Factors such as the environment, infrastructure, political climate. For example, emerging economies may operate poor emergency response services requiring more from employer support and assurance to safeguard the safety and security of personnel.

The location will also influence decisions around evacuation and/repatriation of personnel. Are there nearby safe locations? Can emergency visas be secured for all affected?

Liaison with local employees as well as the local embassy and diplomatic contacts will provide helpful insight. They will have protocol which you will need to be aware of and ensure any employees on the ground comply accordingly.

This is of course a shifting landscape, and mobility functions must be positioned to stay informed and adapt processes and approaches accordingly.

Where organisations are deploying to and from large numbers of countries, the challenge becomes greater through sheer volume of legal and logistical requirements.

Taking a global approach, as opposed to region by region or country by country, to compliance provides greater scope for efficiencies and consistencies.

Expertise

Assembling the right team in the time of a crisis is critical. During a crisis affecting international workers, ensure you have ready access to immigration expertise to enable you to quickly move your personnel to safety. This will require liaison with relevant authorities and embassies. KNowledge of your global mobility programme, where to access required information relating to employees etyc.

How to Take Control in an Overseas Crisis

Employees will rely on their employer in the event of an emergency. They will rely on your local knowledge, your network of contacts, your infrastructure. Here are a few ways to to ensure your mobility programme can support in times of crisis:

  • Pre-assignment training – prepare assignees for scenarios and incidents while abroad. Clarify what is required and expected of the individual, and likewise of the organisation.
  • Policies, processes, procedures – be prepared, keep them up to date, stress test them.
  • Knowledge is power – and it enables effective decision-making – particularly in times of crisis when time is short. Mobility process automation and systems integration support effective risk management through data capture and sharing. You want data to hand in times of crisis.
  • Consistency – however you approach global mobility – centralised, decentralised – there will be a need across all regional branches for consistency in understanding and application of your crisis response protocol, to avoid confusion, oversights or mistakes.

Crisis management is a huge area of risk for organisations. For those responsible for an international workforce, the task is immense.

As part of your crisis planning, ensuring you have given sufficient consideration to mobility and compliance issues will help to ensure a swift and effective response to a crisis.