Birmingham Network Huddle Update – our first visit

Expat Academy Birmingham Network Huddle Update - our first visit So, we had a busy agenda in place, a full attendee list, and headed to Birmingham before the snow but the question was…… how was our first Huddle in Birmingham going to go?

Following on from the busy Symposium and Club 100 Network Huddles in January we were looking forward to addressing more of the hot topics on everyone’s minds.

Andy Kelly and Ben Tarry from BDO dived straight in and addressed one of the current hot topics – Short Term Business Visitors (STBVs). They discussed the UK tax and social security exposure for STBVs and how organisations should look to best address this. They highlighted the huge correlation between immigration and payroll failures as the two often go hand in hand. Without the right immigration documentation, the employee cannot obtain a social security number and without the social security number payroll cannot make the necessary payments. They then provided a round the world look at other countries that are taking a similar stance on STBVs.

On a different note Trevor Ford from Crown World Mobility looked into his crystal ball to see what Global Mobility would look like in 2022! He shared thoughts on how organisations will need to respond and adapt to the needs of Generation Z. He was joined by Andy King from Improbable Worlds – a tech organisation that are already using some of the latest technology in their day to day business. Andy talked about the introduction of a ‘Virtual Assignment’ and how it will no longer be necessary for the assignee to physically be in the host location for an extended period of time. Perhaps only physically visiting the host location for a short period at the start and end of the assignment. Max Newbigging highlighted how it takes much longer for companies like Old Mutual to embrace the technological change and Jean-Claire Flanagan from ERM discussed how they would look at technology to help reduce assignment costs and increase compliance but that they were still fundamentally a ‘spreadsheet and post-it note’ GM function!

After a quick coffee break it was time to get the first ‘Huddles’ underway with the first theme of questions looking at Policy. There was great discussion on how organisations are looking to drive down cost, where the assignment costs should be charged and the need for stricter selection criteria. Some organisations had a central budget for assignment related expenses but the salary had to still be picked up by the business. For others, only the cost of business-critical assignees are paid for by the GM budget. All other costs are picked up by the business. There was agreement that a central budget did help to drive consistency.

Another hot topic from our Symposium Network Huddle resurfaced – encouraging diversity within the GM policies, but this time including additional support for those with disabilities within assignment policies. A number of organisations agreed that they didn’t do enough and whilst they would offer the necessary support on a case by case basis there should be some wording within their policies for people to read so that they did not naturally deselect themselves for an assignment.

Just before we broke for lunch we discussed the topic of having one global immigration policy across an organisation. Whilst it was agreed a document covering all jurisdictions would be rather lengthy there was some generic wording that could be applied offering an agreed level of support subject to local laws.

Expat Academy Birmingham Network Huddle Update - our first visit A fantastic lunchtime spread provided by BDO allowed everyone to recharge their energy levels before sitting down to listen to Debbie Kolundzja from Premier Oil who shared her Global Mobility journey from the last 12 months. It highlighted how fantastic the GM world is and how many people are willing to share knowledge and experience with those just starting out either in their career or building a GM function from scratch.

The afternoon Huddle session looked at operational issues with the first question leading on well from Debbie’s update. It was agreed that when starting out with a GM function the first task is to identify, using the HR system currently in place, the population to be supported. Once identified it was important to categorise them into potential assignments, one-way relocations etc. With these building blocks in place the policy documentation and processes could be built.

Then we got stuck into the age-old debate – In house vs Outsourcing. A meaty topic after lunch and whilst there were pros and cons on both sides, it was agreed that without process and a consistent policy in place it was almost certainly a non-starter. It was highlighted that these moves to outsource and bring back in house can often be cyclical as organisations centralise / decentralise so it wasn’t going to be an issue that was going to go away anytime soon!

Simon Mason and Beverly King from Graebel got some of the room on their feet in a practical demonstration of the Tug of War Global Mobility feel between the business and the assignee! It was a great way to illustrate how flexibility within a policy doesn’t necessarily mean inefficiencies and how the right balance can keep both sides happy.

Coffee and tea cups refilled, Tim Wells from Equus provided some insights into how technology can deliver enhanced value to the business allowing the Global Mobility function to provide more strategic support to the business. Tim took us through the technology journey from the first IBM and Apple computers, through to iMacs, laptops and PDAs (when PDA meant Personal Digital Assistant!) and up to the present day where so much information is instantly at our fingers tips.

Finally, Ben Sheldrick from Magrath Sheldrick LLP took us into networking drinks with a clear view of Brexit and what it means from an immigration perspective for businesses. Ben talked about what had happened during Phase 1 and what could be expected in Phase 2 and 3 as we head closer to the Brexit date of 29th March 2019.

A massive thanks to all those that attended and made it such an enjoyable day of updates, knowledge sharing and best practice discussions. Looking forward to next time……….

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