How Technology Is Helping Global Mobility Professionals

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer November 12, 2019
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​Technology is smoothing the way for global mobility and immigration professionals who want to make the employee experience better and strengthen compliance.

"Technology is incredibly important for allowing companies to understand what is happening with their workforce around the world, leveraging that data to provide a better process, and be more compliant," said Roman Zelichenko, co-founder and CEO of LaborLess, an immigration technology solution provider in New York City. "You need technology in order to track mobile workers, gather data, and base strategic business decisions on that data," he added.

Vivian Yuen, talent mobility immigration manager at Electronic Arts, presented at the Society for Human Resource Management Global Mobility & Immigration Symposium in Washington, D.C., on how her company Electronic Arts gathered together the various vendors her team uses—immigration, relocation and tax services providers—to collaborate on improving the mobility experience for employees. The goal of the project was to reduce the many employee touchpoints with different vendors throughout the mobility process, and to brainstorm ways to try to improve the quality of the handoffs between providers. "The ideal situation is the employee being supported at the center of an integrated network of providers in a more seamless experience," she said.

Another goal was to be able to share data between vendors, and have mobility technology integrated with core HR systems so when employees log in to a system, basic information is already auto-filled. "How many consent forms does a worker sign before traveling?" she asked. "We wondered whether there could be a universal consent form where the employee signs off at the beginning of the process, and services are kicked off right away."

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Managing Employee Relocation]

The Importance of Data Integration

Employers need a single source of truth where every piece of information is reliable and up-to-date, said Brendan Coggan, vice president of global immigration at Pearl Immigration, an immigration technology services firm based in San Francisco.

A system that is not integrated is like a game of "telephone, where things can get lost in translation or fall through the cracks," he said.

Organizations can install application program interfaces (APIs) between the major HR technology systems and their mobility technology to minimize touchpoints and streamline communication. "If that's not possible, at the very least you can have reports run from your HRIS and sent on a recurring basis to your mobility providers," Coggan said.

Business Traveler Resources

Every company with a corporate travel program should make business traveler resources easily available on their intranet, the presenters said.

"If you have a robust business travel program or folks booking their own travel abroad on short notice, it's important to educate people," Coggan said. "Education is the key component to setting expectations and it's easy to do with the rollout of simple resources."

These can include country profiles, what business visitors should and shouldn't do in each country, how to use trusted traveler options like Global Entry, and self-assessments to help determine whether traveling employees need work authorization abroad.  

"This creates a good-faith effort to have employees comply with laws worldwide but also [sets] expectations around how global mobility assignments work," he said.

The vendor routinely updates the information.

Yuen said that EA uses a decision tree within a self-assessment for employees to help determine whether their travel will trip any compliance obligations and when work authorization is required.

Coggan said that these self-assessments have to be easy to fill out quickly. "If it's too clunky or too comprehensive you will see a drop off in users."

Education Gap

Zelichenko was astounded by the lack of hands that went up from the audience when asked if they were using an electronic I-9 system, one of the most basic paperless software systems HR can use to create efficiencies and promote consistency.

"Mobility and immigration practitioners seem to be underutilizing available technology," he said. "It seems that there is still an education gap between practitioners and what solutions are available to them. Most people in the room are conducting their I-9s on paper. That shouldn't be, going into 2020. The question being asked today should be which vendor are you using, not whether you are using technology to conduct the I-9 process."

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