How will Brexit impact the service supply lines?

It isn't just global mobility programmes which will be interrupted and forced to adapt from Brexit, but also the vendor and supplier network.

Go to the profile of Courtney Ellis-Jones
Jul 01, 2016
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With a pledge from current UK leadership that the democratic vote for Britain exiting the UK must be honoured, it would appear we are still moving full steam ahead for Britain invoking Article 50 this October. Despite a call from Brussels to begin this process earlier, it seems unlikely the UK will begin their exit before new leadership is in place. This fact has left many global mobility programmes and multinational ambitions in limbo. Is it still the right choice to move British talent into the European Union? Can we still access the labour pool of Europeans to bring into Britain? What will this mean for opening up new routes for talent? Is there a possibility the UK will relax restrictions for non-EU nationals following the exit from the EU? The questions continue to pile on while the answers remain on the floors of parliament and with the EU council. The shape and scope of Brexit is yet undefined.

This is a tricky position to be in. How can teams working in global mobility begin to reassure the business and their employees that they have a plan when the plans aren't there yet? Uncertainty is a risk the British population took when they choose to vote for Brexit, but it is not one that businesses like to be under. With the threat on the global talent pool for Europe and the United Kingdom, the landscape for employees looks distorted. British nationals living and working within Europe are concerned about their status and multinationals have already begun to respond to the threat of keeping their staff in England by announcing intent to relocate entire teams and offices to other nations such as Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands. The strain on internal global mobility is going to become very apparent in the next two years as teams adapt to the challenge of high volumes of moves and compliance issues across Europe.

With administration due to rise in tax, immigration, pension and social security as a result of Brexit in both the UK and the EU, global mobility teams will almost certainly be under more pressure with the same size of staff. Often, these teams can be small either due to cross-training into global mobility or, depending on industry, a result of cost optimisation efforts with streamlined processes and reliance on outsourcing, centres of excellence or global shared service centres. The chief way mobility teams will be able to address the new challenges to their programmes will be through robust relationships with their service supply partners, through whom the volume of work is sure to rise.

What does this mean, however, for agreed scope and costs as defined by current contracts? How will this change the service level agreements (SLAs) already in place? While most contracts will have amendments in place for unexpected growth, this will still impact the bottom line of global mobility programmes and could put at risk the relationship between suppliers and mobility. If costs scale, requests for re-scoping and, potentially, RFP's could be put into place.

Cost is not the only thing mobility programmes will be worrying about, however; it will also be on the experience of their employees. In the event globally mobile employees are actively forced to relocate as a result of their nationality, there will be a different issue of support required. The uncertainty felt by families living and working in both the EU and UK whom may be impacted by this is having more than just an impact on mobility: it is affecting performance, as well. With talent insecure on their futures, can we expect to see self-initiated moves to different companies in their home nations? Will more individuals be raising their hands for permanent transfers elsewhere and, if this is the case, what support will be given to them when PTs tend to have leaner packages offered to them?

What role, therefore, should relocation management, destination services, technology, tax and immigration providers be taking as mobility programmes look to address the coming issues with their wider businesses? How can the service supply network offer support today that can be realised in October and the months after it? Do you expect your workload to scale?

Some ideas include:

  • Help your corporate clients identify their Europeans and Brits. The compliance around non-EU nationals is tracked, monitored and measured, but owing to the freedom of movement, there is a potential that EU nationals are not as well known and documented for the business. It will behoove businesses to get on top of this now - identifying all the people who may be impacted by Brexit.
  • After identification, help define the talent proposition. With the requirements for Tier 2 visas in the UK as they are and the known European rules, can businesses begin to plan and plot where to move their top talent and where to relocate staff for development? Helping your partners understand what you can do to facilitate moves, calm family worries and the speed in which you can do it will be essential for global mobility teams looking to give a robust plan with timelines to their organisation.
  • Create checklists for your service. Help ensure your partners know exactly what they need to be looking for and considerations that might be lost in an emotive time of upheaval and change. Creating process and governance around the "need-to-happen" items will take strain and burden from internal teams in advance, giving them time to consider resource and deployment.
  • News bulletins and updates as they happen, explaining the positions you will be taking to help employees and businesses achieve the requirements. Keeping internal teams up to date on how the changes regarding Brexit will affect your business and therefore your service will be critical for establishing your expertise and ease of adapting to the challenges.
  • Updated costs reflecting any scope or pipeline changes. These conversations can be difficult to have and are better to have well in advance to ensure there are no surprises.

How are you preparing to assist your corporate clients with Brexit as it happens? Join the conversation in the comments and let us know your thoughts, tips and ideas!

Go to the profile of Courtney Ellis-Jones

Courtney Ellis-Jones

Courtney began her career in global mobility nearly a decade ago. She originally began her career working in the in-house HR function, but transitioned to a role with a destination services provider inside the business development remit. Courtney has focused since on high level transformation of mobility programmes, including policy reform, process improvements and academic research. Her career has led her to touch all sides of the global mobility function from working as a supplier to delivering in-house mobility services. She has worked across industries and regions, having lived in the United States, France, Hungary, Estonia and the United Kingdom and has been with FEM since October 2015.

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