Scope change relating to a role can be defined as “when there is a significant alteration in the nature or level of the work that an employee is expected to perform”
The World Is Different
I read an incredible survey from our friends at ECA last month regarding the biggest challenges facing the GM function in 2023. Whilst International remote working being the number one challenge was no surprise, and shouldn’t be to anyone who has spent more than a week in a GM role of late, the eye opener for me came when it was compared to the same survey results from 2019.
Oh 2019… remember those days before anyone even knew what a coronavirus was? When going for a long walk was something you did on a weekend to spend quality time with your family, rather than dragging the children out from their semi-comatose/ climbing the walls fury to just “get some fresh air” (because that was all we could do). Four years on and the world seems to be getting back to normal bit by bit (give or take a few major world events still going on). Restaurants are open, bars are full on a Thursday again, people are returning to offices and I’m back to being a glorified taxi driver for the gazillion birthday parties, sleepovers, football matches and ‘can I go into the city’ requests that are flying my way. On that point, does anyone else with children think they’re trying to make up for lost time? Or have we just gone soft and forgotten that valuable parental art of saying no? Anyway, I digress…
Yes, things are getting back to normal, but things are not the same! I’d argue that the world of 2023 feels very different to that which we left behind in 2019. Hybrid working is fast becoming the norm, with any new employer insisting you spend 100% of your time in an office likely to have issues recruiting high talent. Global economic challenges were also always going to impact us even before any recent world events. Coming out of a locked down economy before fully opening up again (like being thrown into an ice bath before making your way into a sauna) was always likely to cause a shock to the system. Problems continue to impact most parts of life such as supply chain challenges, semi-conductor shortages, workforce distribution issues, etc.. the list goes on and on. The world of 2019 IS VERY different to the one of 2023.
And so, we come to the GM function. Our GM world is different as a microcosm of the wider global challenges the world faces, but has the scope of the GM function truly changed? I’ve heard from numerous members that they feel the scope of their role has shifted significantly post pandemic. This could partially be corroborated by the ECA survey results, with International remote working an obvious area of increased work and worry. The impacts of the Global cost of living crisis will drive in more targeted questions regarding spendable, COLA, FX rate and allowance calculations. The ‘keep them whole’ mantra in most policies will see that this noise won’t subside. More is asked of the function for sure, whilst also potentially servicing an increased number of International hires and Permanent Relocations as a result of the ‘great resignation’.
I want to pose a question however which some will undoubtedly disagree with the leading premise of.
Has the scope of Global Mobility really changed? Stay with me!
A change of scope, a change of focus or a natural evolution of the role??
I have an immense privilege of speaking to between 6-10 GM Programme Leaders per week and this provides Expat Academy with an amazing opportunity to hear from the frontline as to what is happening in the world of GM. Fascinatingly in my discussions, so many of our GM programmes are continuing to service the same work they have been since before the pandemic or any boom in cross border remote workers.
Permanent relocations, assignments, tax authorisation lists, comp review, allowance and spendable calculations, policy reviews, immigration support, tech implementation, RFP’s, etc… are all continuing as part of a GM functions role within an organisation. The roles we undertake for the companies we support seem to still be consistent with the expectations pre pandemic except for one area… remote work.
So let’s take a look at cross border remote work, adopting a view that it is something new into GM, thus leading to scope change.
The key considerations of any remote work policy would centre on Personal and Corporate tax liability, and Immigration requirements. Are these genuinely new elements within the GM world? I can recall early into my tenure in Global Mobility the dreaded acronym ‘PE risk’ being discussed at numerous huddles, conferences, and round tables. The considerations of a remote work policy are the same considerations of any PE risk that came across our desks pre pandemic. Maybe, and I’m being purposefully controversial here, the only difference is we can’t just say ‘no’ anymore.
Is it possible that it’s not that the scope of GM has changed significantly, resulting in a need to re-train, learn new skills and/or change the ways we work, but that our focus has shifted from more traditional areas of work to the paths we have walked down a lot less? Or is it plausible that what we are experiencing in the GM Industry at present is simply the evolution of a Global Mobility function working within an increasingly globalised world? It may even be that the adoption of cross border remote work as a viable option to employees leads you to the conclusion that the scope of GM has truly changed.
Join the conversation on the changing dynamics of GM Programmes
Whether you agree or disagree with this blog’s premise and the argument that the fundamental scope of Global Mobility has not changed as drastically as some may think, we want to carry this conversation on and support the GM Community in navigating the challenges they are facing. We’ll be discussing this topic during our huddle session on Global Workforce Transformation at our Global Workforce Colloquium on 17th April. If you’re a member you can book your place here, for Non-Members please reach out to Tony Miller – Tony@expat-academy.com.