It’s the old story: the business wants someone to go on assignment as soon as possible, and the global mobility team find themselves, once again, educating them that things aren’t as simple as buying a flight and sending the person on their way. We all know the technicalities that need to be dealt with before assignments can go ahead, as well as how critical (and time-consuming) it is to get the compliance piece right. Assignment management software (AMS) can be a key enabler for global mobility teams to rise to the challenges posed by the ever-increasing compliance demands.
Where are your assignees? It’s an obvious question and yet one that even now not all companies can answer – and something many found out the hard way at the outset of the pandemic in spring 2020. AMS also allows companies to keep on top of the demographics of their assignment population, enabling you not only to know where your assignees are, but also (crucially for DE&I purposes) who they are.
Fundamentally, it is only once you know who and where your assignees are and what information you have on them (and perhaps more importantly, what information you don’t) that you can start considering how you measure up with regards to compliance. From enabling reminders based on key dates (visas/work permits/social security agreements that need renewing) to generating alerts when certain conditions are met, there is a lot that solid tracking can help promote.
Many companies will have informal processes and practices already in place to try and ensure consistency of policy application, but often such processes are not (or cannot be) enforced across the organisation. AMS allows companies to formalise these processes and bring rigour and added efficiency to how the global mobility function works, regardless of where the user is based. From a compliance perspective, relying on structured workflow means that process steps relying on prompt action and target dates being met, like immigration practices, are complied with in a timely fashion.
Workflow design can also bake data privacy into everyday work processes by securing personal data, restricting who has access to it, safeguarding how it is shared, and ensuring users follow the agreed process when dealing with it. Workflow can also involve exception management, allowing mobility teams to identify potential non-compliance issues before they escalate into real trouble.
Harnessing the power of technology has relieved GM teams from scrambling to compile their reports from multiple spreadsheets, and instead relying on professional reporting tools. Indeed, with greater pressure to make data count, the general trend with AMS has shifted from simply reporting on the raw data to using more sophisticated analytics, allowing greater slicing across demographics, policies, costs, time periods etc, and making it easier to report on your KPIs.
Of course, while easier access to data and analytics can be viewed as a positive from a business perspective, it also needs to be considered in the context of data privacy. This means reviewing who has access (and to what information) and the mediums used for communicating the data. Good data analytics design also ensures that personal data is not unnecessarily exposed.
Greater adoption of technology across various aspects of global mobility has led to a proliferation of systems for various functions that can be hosted either in-house or by external providers. A wide network of APIs between different systems tends to make life easier for everyone. In addition to gaining efficiencies from eliminating duplicated effort and reducing user errors, there are compliance benefits as well.
From a data privacy perspective, interfaces offer a more secure medium for data transfer than e-mail. They can eliminate unnecessary access to data being transferred, or indeed any access when it is not required. Interfaces can also be used to improve communication with both internal and external stakeholders, and they can work in conjunction with workflow to improve and streamline key compliance processes; for example, around immigration applications or tax filings.
Another benefit of AMS is how it can involve assignees in the process and allow greater transparency of their assignment. Intuitive assignee portals empower assignees to update their own information; view, share and download assignment documents; get information on company policies and the global mobility function; and make assignment-related requests to the business. Companies can also make other content available to assignees, such as country guides and briefs on immigration, tax and labour law in the host country, with a view to improving awareness of the compliance requirements. Not only do assignee portals improve the overall employee and assignee experience, they also ensure that sensitive information is shared in a secure environment.
Tax is a significant component of the cost of an assignment, and yet some companies are still happy to use rough estimates when it comes to predicting potential tax liabilities. Assignment management software gives users the ability to calculate more accurate hypothetical taxes and tailor them to an assignee’s personal circumstances. AMS can also be used to initiate, communicate, and manage the logistics of tax reconciliations and filings with your external tax services providers to ensure timely actions in line with the relevant legislation.
There is no doubt that stricter compliance requirements will continue being a headache for global mobility professionals. However, with sufficient planning and greater use of technology, they need not be feared. Indeed, it could be argued that, if handled correctly, these challenges could prove to be the impetus for companies to embrace new and better ways of working – as well as showcasing the importance of the GM function within organisations.
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