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Based on your experience with other organizations, what do you see as the key program challenges this client might face in the next 12 to 36 month timeframe?
The continuing global pandemic is one that few companies ever expected or planned for and, as such, many were caught off guard and will be facing unique challenges for the foreseeable future. These challenges include:
- Increased reluctance to relocate by employees and their families due to fear of the unknown.
- Closed borders and other immigration challenges have created a backlog of visa applications and bottle-necked the movement of workers globally.
- Health and Safety concerns have directly impacted employees that must travel for work.
- Companies in various industries are unwilling to take on the new costs associated with new hires and relocation expenses due the uncertainty that has stemmed from lockdowns and mandatory closures in many countries and provinces around the world. The resumption of “normal” business activity has become the foremost issue for the plurality of organizations.
- The shift to remote office operations has driven new tax challenges for companies that previously utilize business commuter policies for employees that regularly crossed province/country borders.
- Many organizations’ Intern programs have been suspended, resulting in worker shortages and leading to a rise in the use of lease break assistance and associated costs.
What impacts do you think the current Covid-19 pandemic will have on the global mobility market and how are you addressing these impacts?
As previously mentioned, many companies are actively dealing with the shared challenges born from COVID. The following is a summary of the challenges and solutions some of our clients and GMS are facing together:
Relocation Reluctance: Increased reluctance to relocate by employees and their families due to fear of the unknown.
GMS’ pre-decisions services allow our team to work with your candidates/employees prior to the decision to relocation has been made. This allows us to educate the employee on their new destination, the steps taken by our network to relocate them safely, and uncover any concerns of challenges unique to that employee and their family.
Additionally, GMS offers a comprehensive suite of virtual services which allow your employees to perform many common relocation actions from the comfort of their home. These include virtual area tours, real-time/custom video presentations by on-the-ground destination consultants, virtual home tours and neighborhood walks, virtual open houses and staging of their origin property, video-based surveys of their household goods, and more.
Where in-person services cannot be avoided, the GMS Network adheres to enhances health and safety guidelines, practices social distancing, sanitizing procedures and other measures.
Immigration Challenges: Closed borders and other immigration challenges have created a backlog of visa applications and bottle-necked the movement of workers globally.
While the closure of borders and throttling of the visa process is outside of the control of our clients, the GMS Visa/Immigration Network provides consistent, real-time updates on the immigration landscape regarding the ongoing challenges and changes facing international travelers. Our technology allows for ongoing status tracking, alerts, and other pertinent information related to your employees applications.
Additionally, GMS has assisted many of our clients with emergency home return trips from areas that have been heavily impacted by the pandemic. The GMS network has also explored and utilized alternative filing methods via an online process, where allowed by government authorities.
Health and Safety Challenges for Travelers: Health and safety concerns have directly impacted employees that must travel, specifically as they relate to air travel.
GMS has been working with our clients to update their final move and business travel policies to allow for a more flexible approach to travel. This includes provisions allowing for travel by car where air travel would previously have been preferred. These modifications include enhanced coverage of hotel expenses, meal coverage, and other land-based travel expenses.
Cost Containment: Companies in various industries are unwilling to take on the new costs associated with new hires and relocation expenses due the uncertainty that has stemmed from lockdowns and mandatory closures in many countries and provinces around the world.
GMS offers courtesy policy consulting to all of our clients, allowing us to assist our clients in revisiting their relocation policies and identifying areas for improvement. Additionally, GMS multiple-bid approach to key services instills competition within our supplier base, resulting in lower direct costs for our clients.
Further, the expanded use of virtual destination services has had an unintended side-effect of cost reduction where travel costs are mitigated in the support of area tours. Depending on the origin and destination, the cost of a live video tour performed by a certified destination consultant can produce significant savings over air fare, meals, hotel nights, and time.
Tax Challenges: The shift to remote office operations has driven new tax challenges for companies that previously utilized business commuter policies for employees that regularly crossed province/country borders.
GMS Alliance Network contains global tax professionals that are on hand to help our clients through these changes in taxable income and other related challenges. Additionally, our expense management process assists in tracking expenses by their specific tax consequence to allow for quick and accurate reporting.
Intern Programs: Many organizations’ Intern Programs have been suspended, resulting in talent shortages and leading to a rise in the use of lease break assistance with corporate housing providers and the associated costs.
GMS has assisted our clients with our Lease Break Services, negotiating lower fees on behalf of our clients. Additionally, many clients’ Intern Programs have been restructured to allow for virtual work, with delayed in-person start dates utilized, effectively increasing the length of the internship while mitigating the mobility costs.
How has the delivery of real estate services changed as result of COVID-19?
GMS’ vast network of real estate agents offer virtual services to ensure proper social distancing and other requirement to protect buyers and sellers.
- Home buyers can take virtual neighborhood walks which allows them to explore the neighborhood and community so they can see parks, schools, and shopping centers. Buyers have access to interactive video showings where a real estate agent will take them on a virtual journey through a home, noting specific features to enhance desirability and peak the interest of buyers. V-mail is a video of the home sent to interested buyers so they may recall when they first visited the home. They can also view live virtual buyer events such as hosting a virtual game night so it will bring life to the home.
- Home sellers have the option of virtual open houses to allow them to share their home across different platforms. Our agents show them dynamic digital listing brochures and promote digital ads on social media. We also offer 3D staging which allows homes to be staged virtually.
- E-closings are also offered allowing documents to be electronically signed and parties can meet via video conference.
How has GMS been able to adapt to the challenges in household goods transportation caused by COVID-19?
- GMS coordinates the entire process as the Relocation Coaches and Global Assignment Managers are able to ensure compliance with ever-changing standards
- Our transportation network provides online, video, and virtual estimating tools. They practice social distancing per CDC guidelines. They wash their hands and sanitize frequently.
- Always use fresh packing supplies of packing materials to reduce the risk of contamination. This includes rolls of tape, packing papers, shipping and storage boxes.
- GMS also suggests against co-mingling of international shipments
What do you suggest for employees currently on assignment internationally?
We suggest extending temporary housing to allow for extra time to determine an appropriate repatriation plan to their country of origin. We also suggest extending the time to allow them to be on assignment longer. When necessary, consider providing additional benefits such as tenancy management, home maintenance, and grocery delivery.
How are companies starting new international assignments?
It is still possible to start new assignments. Can onboard virtually and start their assignment while working from home until borders reopen and they can expatriate safely. GMS will work with our Visa/Immigration and Global tax partners to work through any visa and taxation issues.
How are you able to continue the delivery of destination services?
GMS has been able to make a smooth transition to a virtual delivery model. Virtual services include settling in services, immigration assessments, visa country spotlights, cultural and language training.
How is GMS handling entry ban restrictions?
As borders for a majority of countries continue to be closed or restricted it is important to stay up to date of all changes. GMS works with Visa/Immigration experts to provide the repatriation and remobilization strategies that will be compliant with global tax and law.
How has the visa and immigration process continued?
Although most consulates are closed for visa processing many countries have a temporary allowance of online applications. While certain countries are permitting essential workers to work in their country.
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