The impact of Brexit on Global Mobility programmes

Nearly 4 months on, is the fog beginning to clear?

Brexit means Brexit, apparently, but it’s not a lot to go on. We now know that the UK will trigger Article 50 before the end of March 2017, with the process of negotiating the decoupling following over the next 2 years. But that really is about it, beyond that it’s speculation. In a globalised world, where trade and labour exchanges happen every hour of every day, what can we expect the impact of Brexit on Global Mobility programmes will be? What will it mean for potential assignees contemplating relocation, within Europe or further afield?

Movement of employees between countries has always been possible with the right sponsorship and work visa approvals. It’s unlikely that the process of negotiating exit will change things dramatically. This gives mobility professionals time to adjust their strategy and amend their processes.

However, it seems highly likely there will be restrictions on freedom of movement within the EU. This will certainly make the Global Mobility manager’s job more complex. It may also have impact upon an employee’s (and their family’s) willingness to consider relocation. Recent pressure on EU borders is leading to more general tensions and fear of foreigners across Europe. Whether this is a short-term phenomenon or not, it will likely play on the minds of would-be assignees considering an overseas move for their family. On top of this we’ve already seen the pound fall against the Euro and other currencies, creating uncertainty over pay levels for assignees.

Understand and smooth the process for employees

It’s important for those managing Global Mobility programmes to communicate regularly with those affected or considering a move. But according to Mercer “only 18% of organisations are communicating potential Brexit impact to employees” (Planning for Brexit: Talent Implications). Understandably, given we’re only 4 months on from the vote, only 2% of organisations have made any change to their mobility programmes as a result of the Brexit vote.

Successful global mobility programmes don’t just manage the physical relocation. They manage the assignee’s end-to-end journey, from the pre-assignment preparation right through to the post assignment experience. Anything making the journey more complex or less rewarding will make it harder for companies to find suitable employees willing to relocate.

The organisational imperative to attract and retain the best talent means companies will always look to develop their own people. The need for an effective Global Mobility programme will not go away, and organisations must adapt to meet new challenges. But  in order to do this they need to fully understand the assignee experience.

If the events of the last few months have taught us anything it is to expect the unexpected. Yesterday’s certainties are already tomorrow’s unknowns, and the impact of Brexit on Global Mobility is uncertain. There’s never been a more important time to research and monitor the complete assignment journey. If you fully understand their experience, what’s changed and where the tensions lie, then you can act confidently to improve your programme.

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