Learning & Development Asia 2024
The employer's guide to global workforce mobility: In conversation with Shazy Tan

The employer's guide to global workforce mobility: In conversation with Shazy Tan

Best practices to navigate current immigration policies in securing job candidates who require sponsorship, as well as in managing corporate compliance programmes.

Human Resources Online's (HRO) Talent Mobility 2023, held at The Westin Singapore on 13 April (Thursday), saw more than 100 HR and workforce mobility professionals coming together to brainstorm and discuss top-of-mind global trends and themes shaping the mobility space today.

Throughout the day, attendees were engaged in fireside chats, panel discussions, and keynote sessions, as well as five interactive roundtable discussions covering the following topics:

  • Skills at the heart of talent strategy: Moving to a skill-based talent mobility approach
  • Hybrid work: How to capitalise on this relocation disruptor through your mobility strategy
  • Sync or lose: Strengthening corporate-supplier partnerships to deliver successful relocation programmes
  • Duty of care: Ensuring the health and safety of globally mobile employees
  • Getting ahead: Building a solid global talent acquisition strategy

Among the highlights of the event was a fireside chat with Shazy Tan, GMS, Senior Manager, Global Mobility, Visa on the topic of ‘immigration compliance’, where HRO's Aditi Sharma Kalra quizzed her about current immigration policies and best practices in managing job candidates who require sponsorship, and advice on how to stay compliant with immigration regulations.

The session focused on mobility’s role as an enabler rather than a blocker, whereby Tan, who comes with more than 12 years of experience in the space, affirmed the need for working with national authorities, who want to ensure a framework is in place for quality talent to come through. The conversation at a national level in Singapore, she says, has always been around, “how can we help you?” This gives mobility professionals a voice and a say in shaping future policies.

Excerpts of the fireside chat are shared below.

*Note: All views expressed by Shazy Tan are from personal experience, and do not represent the views & practices of Visa or other organisations.

How priorities in the mobility/immigration space have evolved

The biggest challenge emerging has been remote working. In the past, employees would travel for a job. In the new world of work, however, employees are asking: can you bring the job to me? But this then brings the issue of compliance – we are not just thinking about mobility, but we are now thinking outside of mobility. The entire talent mobility team now has to think: how do we attract this huge pool of resources we have available, who might not want to move for the role, now that they have gotten used to working from home or the comfort of their own space? 

That, Tan adds, is where mobility and immigration teams come into play, to have these discussions with the relevant stakeholders – be it the business leaders or the HR and talent acquisition teams – to navigate this "rough terrain." Leaders have to re-look how to manage and balance out remote working, vs. keeping the company going and the employees safe.

Among considerations involved here, there has also been a shift in people returning to the office on certain days, with many likely approaching this from the angle of collaboration and rapport-building. With these changes, mobility teams have to step up and think ahead of time, and help policy-makers in the company come up with practical solutions.

Developments to keep a lookout for in the region

The conversation then went on to explore the key trends that mobility professionals have to keep a lookout for in the region today. Firstly, Tan notes that all stakeholders need to be involved in various conversations, not just mobility teams. There may be the issue of mobility teams saying, "we want to sit at the table", but not all organisations allow that opportunity. However, she adds, it’s up to mobility professionals to say "hey, I have a lot of value to bring to the table".

For instance, she explains: "When it comes to the way people are moving now, a lot of them are approaching it with sustainability and D&I in mind. And we do have metrics to look at constantly, whether it's quarterly or yearly. 

"So, take a look at these and have those conversations with your stakeholders – for example, if talent acquisition [team] tells you they have a great resource and perfect match for a role, are you looking to move this person because they are the best candidate, or is it because they want to develop [themselves]?

“For example, certain companies value internal mobility. So they want their current employees to move across borders, for their own personal development. but at the same time, the governments in APAC have already put in a lot of protectionism measures to question companies if they're really hiring the best fit for that particular role.”

On the legal front, the good news is, she adds, governments are evolving and listening to the concerns on the ground – understanding that it is tough hiring the right people, and coming up with ways to address such challenges. 

And on the business front, when business units are looking at ways to implement flexibility and cost reduction on certain mobility decisions, that's where mobility comes in as an enabler. "These are conversations that mobility [teams] have to be at the forefront of, and you are there because you want to help the workforce as a whole, and not just support certain functions."

To summarise, Tan affirms the need for conversations and periodic reviews of policies and strategies.

Best practices 

Next, the conversation shifted to best practices for employers that could work in an environment where different measures have been erected across the region.

To this, Tan took a Singapore-specific approach in her response, citing the upcoming points-based Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS). To recap, as shared by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) back in 2022, COMPASS will allow employers to be able to select "high-quality foreign professionals while improving workforce diversity and building a strong Singaporean Core."

This new system will apply to new Employment Pass applications from 1 September 2023, and one year after for EP renewals (1 September 2024).

With this in mind, Tan urges employers and mobility teams to think about how they want to approach their strategies in line with this framework, before it takes effect, as this will be a top-of-mind matter for employers this year (for new applications) as well as next year (for renewals). Elaborating, she notes that there is currently no tool in place by MOM that facilitates a risk assessment or a point system to check if your applicant meets the criteria, although this is on the cards for launch later this year.

Thus, employers should consider coming up with their own assessment based on the requirements and the company's own metrics. What helps with approaching this in-house, is, it allows you to have a look and identifiy the employees that might be at risk of being impacted by this new system.

"We do have to take a hit because, for example, if someone doesn't meet the salary criteria, we then have an opportunity – whatever the time period for your annual salary review is – to think about maybe bumping up [their salary] this time around, and possibly the next time around before the pass renewal. This gives rewards and talent management teams the opportunity to find out who is at risk, who to look deeper into, and how to help them retain their current positions.

"If, for example, this employee still can't meet the minimum points of 40 despite a salary bump, maybe mobility teams can then step in and advice on the possibility of moving them to another country, or to place them on a different type of pass/visa."

Another one to think about is: with Singapore's new ONE Pass in place, leaders can look at whether they want to "support" this pass seeing that if they move their foreign employees to this pass from an EP, they will not be counted into the EP quota or ratio. With that, the ratio can then be kept for employees "who really need it". That said, the cost of ONE Pass should also be taken into consideration. 

"So what do you want to do as a company? And that comes back to the basics – the culture of the way you hire, and it involves everybody – so it's a good conversation [to have]."

Top lessons and tips for mobility professionals

Through her years of experience in the field, Tan has no doubt been part of plenty of discussions and faced her own set of learnings along the way, which have not just served her well, but have made her the mobility expert she is today. She shares them:

#1: Listen. "Don't listen to reply. Listen to find out what the crux of the conversation is. There are a lot of things to manage, and mobility professionals are here to be strategic partners. we're not here to be just operationally standard. What we know as technical knowledge, we translate it into things that can help you do your job better."

#2: Mobility professionals have to be very proactive in moving talent, whatever the situation or scenario.

#3: Know how to well-manage your budgets.

And when it comes to approaching remote working especially in overseas locations, she points out the need to be familiar with immigration and tax compliance (both personal and corporate), and that, internally, as a company, there needs to be a policy stating the threshold – and/or if you want or don’t want to allow it.

"You don’t want to just think for the company; you want to think for the people as well," she stresses.

Adding to that, it is important that mobility professionals look at flexibility as an all-encompassing factor: taking into consideration hybrid arrangements, work-from-home, and other matters that contribute to remote working. 

And with this new world of work, will mobility professionals still have a job? The answer from Tan is a resounding yes. "Mobility will still have a job! To put the puzzles together and present the best solution for the business. Your competency is not just technical, it’s about putting the pieces together [from different stakeholders]. Even if there happens to be a hiring freeze, there is still ongoing support being given to employees."

Human Resources Online would like to thank all speakers, panellists, roundtable hosts, and moderators for being valuable contributors to this event.

We would also like to extend our gratitude to our sponsors & partners for making this conference possible:





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Photo / HRO

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