The 5 Biggest Myths in Global Mobility

​As global mobility programs evolve and expand, they will often still use the old playbook even in the face of changing regulations and HR best practices. For professionals, it is important to review your assumptions about international assignments, and any approaches that could be based on outdated methods.

Go to the profile of Tim Burgess
Feb 23, 2017
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As global mobility programs evolve and expand, they will often still use the old playbook even in the face of changing regulations and HR best practices. For professionals, it is important to review your assumptions about international assignments, and any approaches that could be based on outdated methods.

We have put together a list of the five biggest myths in global mobility, along with the current trends that offer more accurate reflections of this dynamic HR field. Fortunately, there are modern solutions for international employment that forego dated assignment strategies, in favor of third party outsourcing and employee support partners on site.

Myth 1: Deployment is the hard part.

Truth: Compliance is actually the number one challenge for international assignments.

The logistics and expense of deploying an employee abroad may appear to be the number one global mobility challenge, since physical relocation entails multiple steps across borders. Moving personal belongings, family arrangements and housing are all important, of course. But those are easily handled, either contracted out individually DIY, or by one-stop outsourcing firms that specialize in moving employees on assignment.

The reality is that due to a changing regulatory landscape in employment, complying with host country immigration, payroll and labor laws is the biggest obstacle to a successful assignment. Overlooking compliance can result in assignment delays, penalties for violations or even prohibiting business activity. For that reason, astute global mobility pros are turning to employment solutions based in the host country, such as a GEO.

Myth 2: Global mobility is about assigning employees from the home country.

Truth: Increasingly it is also about employing local workers internationally.

Traditional global mobility strategies relied on transferring employees from the home office or from other assignment locations. Often, those assignments were long term, with high cost and employee personal sacrifice. Now, more companies are hiring local residents in the host country for some positions (customer support, technical or sales positions), due to lower cost and rapid deployment.

These roles can either be filled by independent contractors, or even better, employees managed by a local employer of record. This saves a company the need to incorporate and set up a branch office, and relies on a third party to handle the employment of residents.

This method can also be used for building remote teams of skilled workers across multiple countries, accessing a global pool of talent. Due to the fact that some country’s educational systems favor certain skills (such as IT in India), there may be a vast resource of workers already in place in the foreign destination.

Myth 3: You don’t need to plan. You’ll send the employee there and then sort everything out later.

Truth: Strategic planning and ROI metrics are emerging as a core practice in global mobility.

Last minute or unplanned assignments abroad are less common than in the past, due to the high expense of sending employees for a long term posting. Urgent business needs are more easily handled by a short business trip, while a suitable candidate is found.

Taking an ad hoc or reactive approach to global mobility is both more expensive and carries risk of non-compliance in the destination country. Failure to set up a local entity for employment and payroll or non-compliance with work permit rules can carry negative consequences for both the employee and employer.

More companies are placing an emphasis on incorporating international assignments into long term strategies with standard operating procedures, for greater efficiency and cost savings. In more sophisticated programs, there are specific ROI metrics being used to measure assignment value and evaluate the global mobility program.

Myth 4: As long as you’re paying tax in the home country, you’re okay in the host country.

Truth: Host country tax compliance requires a local payroll and withholding.

Tax compliance is not as simple as just using the home country payroll. Although it is possible to preserve benefits, pensions and tax withholding at home, the host country will impose its own requirements as well.

Assignees will often need to be on a local payroll with at least some version of split or shadow payroll between the home and host country. This is one key area where a GEO employer of record can take the burden off of HR to comply with local laws.

Myth 5: You can use a business visa to work in another country.

Truth: For most employee activity over 30-60 days, a work permit is recommended.

Business visas are fine for short trips to explore foreign opportunities or establish relationships. But for ongoing employee activity, many countries are cracking down on the overuse of business visas for ‘stealth’ assignments. Immigration departments are monitoring the entry and exit records of foreign employees to make sure that work permit rules are not being avoided by use of multiple business visas and frequent entries to the country.

This practice does not just result in deportation, as there are potential civil and criminal penalties in some countries. However, it is a situation easily avoided by relying on a GEO employer of record to simply employ all assignees locally and legally.

A Solution for the New Realities in Global Mobility

All of these modern era compliance, employment and assignment issues can be easily and simply addressed with the use of GEO employer of record in the host country. The traditional DIY approach of setting up branch offices and running payroll locally, is being replaced by this fluid and efficient method of employing both residents and expats in any destination country.

The GEO becomes the de facto employer in the host country, with access to local resources and partners than ensures compliance and quick deployment of staff. As you consider how the biggest myths in global mobility are being replaced with a new reality of strict immigration rules, tax compliance and remote team members, the GEO solution is clearly the trend for the future.

Shield GEO makes international employment simple. Our customers use Shield GEO to employ and payroll hundreds of workers in over fifty countries. Find out more.

Go to the profile of Tim Burgess

Tim Burgess

Director, Shield GEO Services Ltd

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