As the world shrinks and borders disappear – with international businesses and multinationals mushrooming around the globe – mobility has become a norm for any business. This point was affirmed at Workforce Mobility Interactive 2019, Singapore.

Produced by Human Resources' Priya Veeriah, Workforce Mobility Interactive is an annual conference devoted to solving the challenges faced by global mobility and HR professionals across Asia.

[Check out photos from the conference]

To kick off the event, we reviewed the geopolitical drivers that are driving global change and affecting workforce mobility, in a session led by Jod Gill, Director - Personal Tax, Global Mobility Services, Tax Development & Solutions, KPMG.

"The ongoing global war for talent means that younger skilled workers are less interested in traditional single-location career paths. In this environment, global mobility will become increasingly critical to the identification of such talent and matching these skills to the work, wherever this may be," he said.

To this end, a flexible and cost effective suite of policies will be required to ensure that emerging, developing and advanced talent can be deployed quickly to meet organisational needs.

Additionally, to retain mobile employees better, he proposed "a more thoughtful approach", that involves considering how the skills learned in an initial deployment will be applied to the subsequent deployment but with both locations confirmed and discussed with the respective talent in advance.

"Such an approach helps to drive engagement and connectivity - resulting in higher retention levels and better performance," Gill shared.

Post his session, Human Resources caught up with Jod Gill with some of the key questions that the delegates were most curious to know more about:

Q Mobility is a small segment of employee population, so why focus on automation in this area? Please share the business case for robotics and automation.

Mobile employees are increasingly becoming a larger segment of the employee population and also take a disproportionate amount of HR time. This growth is set to increase significantly over coming years and will be driven by extended business travelers. Compliance for such individuals is becoming increasingly complex as domestic tax, payroll, social security and immigration rules change far more rapidly than before.

The business case for automation is driven by the need for organisations to protect their reputation and discharge their duty of care to such mobile employees. Many organisations are seeking to leverage the significant robotic and automation investments that vendors are making in this field to free up HR to focus on other priorities.

Q With remote workers, what are the key considerations for a HR team to manage compliance risks to the organisation?

Rapid advancements in communications technology and transport links mean that remote workers are becoming much more common. Many organisations are not aware of the true extent of remote working as such arrangements are often approved/agreed without consultation from HR, tax or immigration.

This is typically compounded by the lack of a governance framework to identify and then mitigate the resulting income tax, social security, immigration, employment law, transfer pricing, reward and permanent establish risks that typically arise from such arrangements.

Based on KPMG’s significant experience with such populations we would recommend identifying impacted populations, conducting risk assessments and then educating the business whilst developing an effective governance model to mitigate such risks going forward.

Q Between physical travel and remote working, what in your view is the best option for the smaller companies?

Unfortunately, there is no 'best option' as typically the availability of talent and business/client needs will dictate the right approach and generally this may mean a combination of both physical travel and remote working.

Smaller companies may not always have the capability or capacity to consider the risks created by such arrangements so we would always recommend a pragmatic and practical approach.

Employers should communicate the risks associated with such working arrangements and consider ways in which existing information within the organisation can be repurposed to ensure compliance. For example KPMG has worked with many travel management companies and International SOS to help mitigate compliance risks using existing expense or travel data.

Q Accommodation is honestly a huge issue for us in terms of the cost, especially in sending our local talent overseas. What's your experience?

Accommodation (and education) costs can be a significant part of any overseas deployment. The 2018 KPMG Global Assignment Policies and Practices Survey shows that only 76% of organisations typically provide host country housing as a core benefit and that this trend is decreasing as more organisations prefer to provide a cash allowance instead.

The survey also shows that an increasing number of organisations are withholding a hypothetical home housing deduction to help defray costs, particularly where employees are renting their home to tenants whilst overseas.

An emerging trend at more junior levels is for organisations to share costs with other local employers in order to defray costs. There is no one-size-fits-all approach and, in such cases, we have supported organisations to benchmark their approach against sector peers to determine outlying policy approaches to be reviewed.


Other speakers at the conference included:

  • Ellyn Karetnick, Vice-President, Global Head of Talent Development and Mobility, BGRS
  • Rita Chye, Global Mobility Leader
  • Eric Wong, Chief Human Resources Officer, Intel-Wise Group
  • Lim Siew Fern, Head of Human Resources, ENGIE Services
  • Lim Teck Yong, Head of People team, Shopee
Throughout the day, delegates were also engaged in five roundtable discussion topics, each led by a table moderator across both sides of the room:

Getting your return on relocation

  • Lucy Tan, Chief Human Resources Officer, Natsteel Holdings
  • Sharon Pock, Head of Human Resources APAC, Hotelbeds
Leadership talent pipeline
  • Eunice Kong, Regional Human Resources Director SEA & ANZ, Evonik SEA
  • Eleana Choy, Chief Human Resources Officer, Thome Ship Management
Evolution of expatriate packages
  • James Chua, Co-Founder, MetroResidences
  • Kylie Barry, Head of Talent Acquisition, APAC, Natwest Markets APAC
Risk management
  • Carolynn Ang, Head of Human Resources APAC, CenturyLink
  • Jane Cha, Vice President Human Resources, CGG Services Singapore
Technology empowered mobility
  • Roberto Vale, Vice President of Global Account Management, SIRVA Worldwide Relocation & Moving
  • Ellyn Karetnick, Vice-President, Global Head of Talent Development and Mobility, BGRS
Thank you to the sponsors and partners of Workforce Mobility Interactive 2019, Singapore:

Gold sponsor: BGRS

Silver sponsors:

  • Great World Serviced Apartments
  • ManpowerGroup Singapore
  • MetroResidences
  • Oakwood Asia
  • Sirva
Exhibitors:
  • Frasers Hospitality
  • ITX
  • Sterling
  • The Ascott Limited