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Creating A Highly Mobile Workplace

Numerous research has shown that a mobile workforce brings about many benefits to the organisation. A mobile workforce, as defined by IBM, is a group of employees that is not bound by a central physical location. Instead, employees are connected by various types of mobile technology, including computers, smartphones, and tablets.

A mobile workforce is intricately linked to an organisation’s mobility and talent management strategies. After all, the purpose of a mobile workforce is to widen the talent pool, while helping employees be as productive outside of the office as when they are in it. A mobile workforce also allows organisations to move talents internally across offices or locations, without having to rehire or retrain a new hire.

There are plenty of benefits that organisations can reap with a strong mobile workforce in place: reduced real estate costs, expansion of talent pool as well as increase in workplace diversity. However, a mobile workforce comes with its disadvantages too. Relocating employees internally can be a logistical nightmare, particularly if organisations do not have a robust mobility policy in place. Here are some potential mobility issues that organisations may face and how to fix them.

Immigration and tax compliance

Immigration requirements and tax laws are constantly evolving. A recent example is the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw most countries closing off international and even inter-country borders, resulting in a drastic impact on employees’ mobility options. Each country has their own immigration requirements, in which some may be stricter depending on the employees’ nationality. For example, Singapore will be increasing the qualifying salary for employment pass applicants to S$5,000 from S$4,500 in September 2022. Organisations also need to be mindful of local tax regulations when sending their employees on international assignments or relocations.

To address this, HR or mobility professionals need to be aware of the tax reporting and/or withholding obligations in the respective country where the employee is based in. If the HR team lacks dedicated resources or expertise, consider engaging external tax consultants or mobility experts to ensure compliance with local immgration requirements and tax obligations

Capitalising on employee mobility data

Data-led decision-making has always been a reliable method for business leaders, even within the HR space. Employee mobility data can unlock insights into the existing workforce’s structure, such as turnover rates, promotions, hiring and lateral transfer. For example, low promotion rates may suggest that the organisation does not have a robust performance management framework or career development plan for employees. In general, employee mobility data can boost an organisation’s productivity levels. The question is – do organisations know how to analyse these employee mobility indicators?

With the myriad of internal platforms, data may be stored in multiple servers instead of a centralised platform. Data consolidation may be a herculean effort – which hinders any insightful analyses. Instead, organisations can capitalise on a human resource  management system (HRMS) to centralise critical employee data. This makes it easier, quicker and accurate analysis of mobility data to facilitate key decision making.

Quality vs cost

Whether it is setting up a new office entity or creating a new position, some organisations immediately turn to external hiring. But what if there is already an existing employee who is a good fit for the role? Similarly, would it be practical to hire a local employee, who may be familiar with local market sentiments and landscape as opposed to relocating an existing employee?

Organisations need to be able to balance quality vs human capital cost when it comes to relocating an employee. With the multiple aspects involved in relocation, HR needs to have a strong understanding of the steps involved in managing and facilitating relocation. Cost factors such as accommodation, salary matching, tax obligations and flights need to be weighed before coming to a decision. HR needs to be mindful of the money trap – focusing on short-term cost savings only to incur hefty costs such as employee dissatisfaction or worse, resignation in the long run

To reap the benefits of a globally mobile workforce, HR business leaders need to have robust mobility programmes that support and prepare employees to take international assignments. This could include bridging cultural awareness, having a buddy system, and a detailed onboarding programme. Now, more than ever, it is critical to focus on creating an agile and effective workforce and a globally-mobile workforce means that organisations have the flexibility to place the right people in the right location at the right time.


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