Sunday, June 16, 2024

Global Mobility, the largest industry you might not know much about, with some of the biggest risks your teams may not be aware of

Many people do not have a particularly strong understanding of what the Global Mobility industry is, let alone the size of the segment nor the complexities of the programs. Global mobility is a multi-billion-dollar industry, with some projections estimating it’s worth will be at over USD 70 Billion by the year 2030.

It is an industry home to a dizzying array of services and suppliers, from movers of household goods, visa and immigration providers, tax consultancies, destination service providers, airlines, relocation management companies, and all manner of permutations and combinations thereof.

At it’s simplest, it is the business travel industry, at it’sarguably most complex it is the global relocation segment, encompassing all the basics of business travel and layering on all the additional challenges of real estate needs, cultural training, and family resettlements. It is an intricate universe that many spend their entire careers in, across many layers of the supply chains involved, going deeper, and deeper down a range of rabbit holes.

It is the land of SME’s which carries a language and culture all its own, and likely the most arcane of these beyond the global tax sector is the world of immigration and visa providers. At the best of times, immigration is by its very nature hyper-specific to individual markets, with policies shifting and changing to meet each country’s economic and socio-cultural needs, tempered with the political winds of the times.

Add to that what the world has experienced over what is now nearing two years of a global pandemic, and unsurprisingly the complexities have increased dramatically, as have the risks. Quickly changing border policies and protocols have left people trapped in locations across the globe, and corporate services teams struggling to keep up.

In some respects, this has actually been good for the global mobility industry as a whole.

The added pressures have exposed weaknesses in supply chains, with the net result of making them still stronger. Corporate teams have become more agile and built supply chains that were able to keep pace with them. Structures and systems changing to become more flexible by necessity.

It is a sweeping generalization to say that the larger global corporations rely most heavily on the larger integrated providers, notably the RMC’s and the Big4. However, it is also truer than not, with smaller firms tending towards like sized providers, or managing in-house programs directly with their various suppliers.

Over the past few years, we have seen a rise more of what I would describe as de-centralized, or direct solutions as corporations sought out new solutions, and it’s likely this trend will continue as technology continues to advance through the industry.

There’s an old adage that suggests, “you can change your spouse, where you live, and where you work, but you shouldn’t change them all at once” or something to that effect.

That same sentiment is largely true in the world of global mobility, as it relates to compliance and risk management.

Repeatedly over the past few years, and sincecovid, we’ve taken on new immigration clients where their internal teams have morphed across the same window as their change in immigration providers. From a business continuity, compliance, and risk management perspective, this is perhaps the worst of all scenarios.

Related but also little recognized in many companies is the gap that often exists within corporate teams between their HR and Global Mobility groups. As Immigration providers, we see this disconnect frequently where the two teams are silo’ d, not working in lockstep, and often unaware that the changes they are making with an employee, be that a raise, a change in job description, or location are creating notable risks for the company, and potentially the individual by making changes to the working conditions of someone on work permit without notification.

Penalties and ramifications vary from one country to the next, and certainly within each circumstance, but at their worst can see companies blacklisted from using Temporary Foreign Worker programs, and here in Canada that list is made public adding insult to injury.

That said, there is a solution, and it is relatively simple, and from a risk-reward prospective, generally quite cost effective. Have your immigration providers complete an annual audit of all your files, or better still hire an outside firm to take on the same task as a further check and balance.

This will accomplish three things:

  1. The audit will expose any potential upcoming risks that can be more effectively and managed timelier.
  2. If any of your files are out of compliance, the appropriate notifications to the authorities can be made pro-actively which is usually looked upon favorably, and often without penalty.
  3. As errors are identified, this will provide a “lessons learned” for team members involved, and a chance to amend your processes and programs to ensure they are more robust in future and help you stay in compliance.

An additional tip for those in M&A mode:

  1. If you are looking at an acquisition, go through the same exercise as part of your due diligence process. Uncover any potential risks, and factor these into your decision-making process, or seek corrections prior.

Lastly, consider having your GM, and Talent functions all under the same HR roof with a close alliance to tax and corporate governance. That synergy will place you well ahead of many of your competitors.

Ken Nickel-Lane
Founder and MD, Nickel-Lane Immigration Ltd.

Recognized as a top 100 global mobility industry leader, Ken has been a leader of several organizations providing global talent and mobility solutions to the world’s largest corporations across a range of sectors. He is the founder and MD of Nickel-Lane Immigration Ltd, in Canada, and a founding member and Director of the Partners Immigration group providing inbound immigration support into over 50 countries.


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