Managing through uncertainty: What is happening?

A journey through COVID-19

April 1, 2020

 

 

 

Jill M. Hemphill

Jill M. Hemphill

Tax Partner, Global Reward Services, KPMG LLP

+1 212-954-1942

Robert Smith

Robert Smith

Senior Manager, Tax, Global Mobility Services, KPMG US

+1 408-367-2787

Achim Mossmann

Achim Mossmann

Principal, Tax, KPMG LLP (US)

+1 212-954-6812

Katherine Avery

Katherine Avery

Principal, Global Mobility Services, KPMG US

+1 408-367-2237

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What is happening?

The effects of COVID-19 have unfolded rapidly upending many of our daily and business routines within a matter of days or even hours. This overturning of process and protocol immediately leads to a sense of confusion throwing organizations into overdrive on how to begin responding.

Moving through this phase, it’s important to consider the following key areas of emphasis within your organization. First, recognize that not all issues can be solved at this point; this is a phase of issue gather vs. issue solving. Focus on identifying the areas of concern across your workforce and various partners and stakeholders, including the business you work with, internal functions like Talent Acquisition, Travel and your vendor ecosystem.

Only through problem definition can we begin to make progress.

At this time, HR and mobility departments are critical and may be the first line of defense for noise within the system from both internal and external factors, including direct questions from employees regarding their safety and security as well as questions from the business regarding the continuation and employee safety. This is understandably a challenging time for mobility departments and professionals. Outside of the organization, you may also have vendors who have already mobilized or started to mobilize who are asking for key points of data or information or who begin pushing information to you and your employees. All of this can culminate in a feeling of frustration and panic as you’re bombarded with and have questions of your own that are not answered yet.

 

Moving forward: Define the problem

This constant barrage of questions and the lack of immediate answers can easily overwhelm even the most seasoned HR or mobility professional but the key is to not begin immediately solutioning, but begin by listening and asking questions.

As a mobility or HR professional, many will look to you as a resource for key areas around people and safety, travel and mobility, tax and compliance, immigration and legal, technology and even vendor management during this time. This is a time for you to listen, to reflect on the questions be solved.

While the requests and questions may be numerous, focus on compiling the questions creating defined problems and identifying questions based on their similarities and their severity. Keep in mind that the goal at this stage isn’t to solve the problems, it’s to know what the problems are.

In addition to fielding questions, this is the time to initiate pandemic response plans, if available within the organization, and to push out organizational information to employees related to business wide response planning, remote working, and other items helping to make them feel safe and secure.

Business Continuity Checklist

People

  • Communicate company-wide response plan to globally mobile employees. Make them feel safe.
  • Ensure that communication channels are open for employees and family as situations affect a broader population
  • Continue to perform daily duties related to answering of questions or completing tasks
  • Communicate virtual work and communication platforms approved by company as early as possible
  • Receive and listen to employee feedback and respond to immediate, pressing needs for information

Mobility

  • Reach out to business and vendors for questions specifically related to business and travel bans
  • Open communication to the business and elicit feedback and respond to immediate needs for information
  • Continue standard operations as upcoming moves will be affected
  • Begin discussions with HR, Finance and other stakeholder groups about business continuity and critical talent
  • Form or participate in cross-functional crisis response teams and begin activating employee safety protocols

Tax and compliance

  • Continue current tax and compliance action items if able. In the short-term, safety and security are more important
  • Open line of communication with tax and compliance partners
  • Ask tax and compliance partners for information and request ongoing feedback/updates on key locations
  • Ask to speak to knowledge resources and/or identify knowledge resources as early as possible
  • Request copies of tax and location data, if necessary to compare against internal data points

Immigration

  • Continue current immigration action items as necessary. In the short-term, safety and security are more important
  • Open line of communication with immigration provider(s) and request ongoing feedback/updates
  • Request immigration information concentrating on immediate at-risk locations and populations
  • Identify knowledge resources and your ongoing communication channel
  • Reach out to Travel or immigration provider on travel ban data or travel restrictions

Technology

  • Ensure all technology programs are up and running and can be accessed remotely
  • Institute new technology offerings if necessary to accommodate remote working
  • Begin running reports on locations for all mobile employees
  • Work with HR, Finance, and other stakeholders to ensure correct system access
  • Communicate to mobile employees how information will continue to be shared with them

Vendors

  • Open communication line with vendors and vendor contacts in key locations
  • Ask questions of vendors to begin identifying knowledge resources
  • Ensure vendor data is pushed to you
  • If data is vendor managed, ask vendors to begin consolidating data to provide to mobility department
  • Use vendors to help identify course of action for at-risk locations and immediate hot spots