A fantastic live event took place in Aberdeen this week, kindly hosted by PwC, with a wide mix of organisations attending. It was my first time in Aberdeen and I was so struck by the warmth and wonderful hospitality of everyone we met.
After the introductions (who knew we had a sheep farmer, a Scottish touch rugby international, a karate black belt and a Scottish football trialist in our midst!) Gemma Buxton and Cara Hutton from PwC provided some great insights in the changing business traveller landscape.
With business travel becoming more closely linked to Global Mobility, more companies are introducing policies and processes that reflect their business strategy, risk profile and geographical spread. Typically, European headquartered companies will be more focused on managing risk upfront, due to the Posted Workers Directive and the potential of heavy fines. Whereas US companies are more focused on post-travel analysis. Managing the process and analysing the data can help organisations get a much better understanding of their global travel patterns which can help:
- Negotiate better pricing with travel providers
- Reduce unnecessary travel
- Identify business travel groups who could access preferential immigration options – e.g. Frontier Work Permits
Many companies have done little to manage the risks of business travel and should as a minimum review old travel data to get an understanding of travel patterns and potential risk countries. Focusing on the high-risk locations is clearly a good starting point and engaging with key stakeholders upfront is crucial to get their buy-in.
During the huddle sessions we discussed a range of topics including Remote Working. Whilst many have introduced a framework to manage this population only one company has a formal policy and some do not allow remote working at all. This was supported by survey data from AIRINC, shared by Michael Joyce, in their 2022 Mobility Outlook Survey, which found that 32% of organisations do not allow international remote working, and 45% allow it on a case-by-case basis.
Other key takeaways from the survey included:
- Currently only 22% of companies are purposefully using Global Mobility as a way to attract and retain talent, moving to 45% in the future; versus 16% don’t purposefully use it, moving to 3% in the future.
- When asked what would allow you to administer your programme more effectively, 70% cited using new or enhanced technology as the enabler. Although based on the companies in the room very few have to date moved to a full tech solution
- When questioned what does GM get asked for most from the business, AIRINC found that 69% wanted cost predictability and 57% wanted increased speed to initiate an assignment. Which got the following response “It takes the business 6 months to decide who they want to send and then expect us to move them in a week!” Touché!
- Looking at DE&I there is clearly work to do in this space with only 39% of GM programmess reviewing language for inclusive tone and less than half introducing more flexibility for the employee and family.
- Likewise with sustainability, over half are not taking any specific steps, although a quarter area building sustainability into the RFP process when selecting vendors, and approximately a quarter are changing policy provisions, e.g. switching to a furniture allowance in lieu of shipment.
- The number of policies companies have is slowly increasing, rising from 4.4 in 2018 to 6.5 in 2022, although there were few companies attending who were currently looking to introduce new policies. From the survey one-way transfer, business traveller and remote working policies were on the up.
Ben Oghene from PwC led the last session of the day where we discussed the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) aspects of managing a global workforce, with a focus on how organisations can use technology and data:
- Environmental – A small number of companies are using data to identify cost saving opportunities and reduce carbon emissions by challenging the need for business travel in certain situations
- Social – again using data, companies can get a better understand of their Global Mobility programmes and gauge how, for example, females who have been on assignment are in progressing their careers post assignment.
- Governance – using data to diagnose governance, so for example, identify those countries with a higher risk profile, based on fines received historically.
From the discussion it is clear that Environmental and Social are not generally on the radar for Global Mobility, whereas for Governance there is a lot of data readily available, with many countries’ tax authorities publishing data on fines they are imposing. This linked back to the discussion we had earlier on managing travel and mobility risk and certainly gave everyone food for thought on how technology and data can be used.