How Remote Work Helps SMEs Reach Global Expansion

Developing an international footprint is no longer a task reserved for large companies with sizable financial lungs. While it certainly helps to have stable revenue streams and available cash flow for growth, global mobility is now in the reach of small companies with international growth aspirations.

The latest developments in remote work and digital technology on a global scale are acting as a growth enabler for companies with small headcounts but big international aspirations. Yet, few SMEs (small and medium enterprises) have a fully-fledged global mobility program with dedicated resources.

How can SMEs go about acquiring the necessary global HR expertise and a thorough understanding of the legal requirements inherent to global mobility without breaking the bank? What ways can they meet employee expectations on an individual level with minimal management? What is the right level of support on the ground to capitalize on the globalized practice of remote work?

Here’s how remote work helps SMEs reach global expansion–and it starts with a good global mobility policy.

1.  Draft a Nimble Global Mobility Policy

Since many professionals and companies have become accustomed to remote work, SMEs can now capitalize on a global remote workforce as a viable alternative to traditional employee assignments abroad. Companies must keep compliance in check when looking to hire anyone, anywhere, based on the specific market’s labor laws and changing regulations around remote work. Although hiring local talent remotely in the location of interest may bypass immigration issues, there are still tax liabilities as well as compliant payroll and benefits to consider. Any SME’s effective growth strategy should include a compliant, strong global mobility policy that encompasses:

  • Standardizing and structuring compensation approaches;
  • Providing adequate on-site support to employees (compliant contracts, payroll, and benefits);
  • Establishing a tax policy clarifying the assignee’s role and responsibilities relating to expatriate tax, personal tax, and company compliance.

2. Reap the Savings of Flexible Working

Today, with remote work, SMEs can capitalize on skilled talent working in cost-effective locations. Additionally, they can reintroduce flexible working as a talent retention perk. For instance, perhaps assignees returning to their home country on either business or home leave can extend their reunification periods with their families while working remotely to deliver on their commitments in the host country.

3. Keep Employee Experience Front and Center

Remote work has raised the stakes on how companies traditionally conceptualized employee wellbeing. For the past two decades, the common approach to managing mobility revolved around segmenting assignments by either duration or purpose. Today, employee expectations have evolved at an unprecedented fast pace around work-life balance and mental health, making solid and hands-on employee support a centerpiece of global mobility management.

This adds to the complexity for SME leaders accustomed to segmentation. Segmentation may fall short in connecting with the aspirations of employees. However, community, purpose, and job satisfaction will play a more prominent role going forward. Giving employees a voice and echoing their preferences and concerns is an important element of meeting employees’ aspirations.

A global mobility policy should integrate remote work elements to include a wide array of options for employees to choose from, from the classic expat-lite or local-plus policies to the emerging virtual assignments.

4. Look for Valuable Partnerships

For SMEs  looking to operationalize its global workforce aspirations, the seemingly infinite global talent pool may seem daunting. Building up a global mobility management team with remote work elements can be both time intensive and resource consuming. SMEs that further delay their international growth plans could miss their opportunity. This is especially true considering the increasingly competitive landscape and that remote work has leveled the playing field. To mitigate administrative complexities, SMEs can access the burgeoning Employer of Record. They can tap into this industry to find strategic partnerships that can help streamline and materialize their international footprint aspirations.

The Future of Work Is Global: 3 Tips for Hiring a Global Team

As they look for solutions to the talent crunch, U.S. employers increasingly are turning to international labor pools to fill critical workforce needs — even as political uncertainty surrounding immigration continues to grow.

A report released last year by immigration services firm Envoy said that most U.S. organizations were still actively sourcing foreign talent. The survey found that about 70 percent of employers indicated that having a global workforce was very or extremely important to their talent strategy.

However, the Trump administration has imposed tighter restrictions on individual visa applications, including the popular H-1B program that allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. So what is a globally focused organization to do in this challenging environment?

We asked corporate immigration lawyer Neena Dutta for her insights into how employers can more effectively secure visas for international recruits.

Understand the Candidate’s Goals and Background

Dutta, who is a seasoned immigration practitioner with a focus on corporate immigration, represents a variety of employers who wish to sponsor individuals or teams of employees. She says that given the complexity of the visa process, there is no one-size-fits-all process for employers looking to recruit foreign workers, but there are few guidelines that can make success more likely.

Dutta says the first step when sponsoring a worker is usually to determine what that individual’s end goal is — most importantly, whether they’re looking to stay in the U.S. on a short-term or long-term basis. The next question to ask, she says, is “what nationalities do you have?”

“That might seem like a strange question for some employers to ask, but it can make a huge difference,” she says. For people from countries such as Australia, Canada and Chile, there may be special treaties or regulations that can make a significant impact in the visa application process.

It’s also important to fully understand a candidate’s education credentials. Dutta says that in the eyes of the immigration system, a candidate wrapping up a college degree is not the same as a candidate with a degree.

For example, a candidate who is applying for a visa and is on track to complete a master’s degree in their home country in six months will not be treated the same through the application process as a candidate who has already secured the degree. It’s an even more important distinction, she says, given U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ lottery-based system that holds visa slots for 20,000 candidates with master’s degrees or higher and a larger applicant pool with a bachelor’s degree.

“The slightest change in facts can make or break it,” she says.

Find an Expert to Lean On

Dutta says one of the biggest mistakes HR professionals make when recruiting foreign workers is failing to include their immigration counsel in the process once they decide to make an offer.

Sometimes HR may decide to move forward with an international candidate because it feels the candidate is a good talent fit and long-term investment for the company, even if it isn’t sure if the candidate can work after 12 months, Dutta says. While HR is restricted from asking certain questions, an immigration attorney tends to have more leeway, she says.

For example, she says, a candidate could inform an organization’s immigration counsel about a change in their marital status or dual citizenship that could alter the facts surrounding their work eligibility — information that HR would not be able to turn up on its own.

Dutta says discussing difficult issues surrounding foreign workers with outside immigration experts can save HR considerable trouble over the long run, even if it’s just a few minutes on a conference call. “It doesn’t have to take hours and hours to do it,” she says. “Sometimes people just give me a quick call. It’s always better to run it by somebody else.”

An outside expert can also help an organization navigate internships for foreign students, a common problem area. “Even when the person’s volunteering or doing free work, you have to be really careful that they’re not violating their visa,” she says.

Get a Long-Term Plan

The Trump administration has proposed or enacted a number of new restrictions on high-skilled foreign workers, changes that are expected to increase the number of denials for H-1B petitions.

Among the biggest proposed changes for employers is in pre-registration requirements for H-1B visas, an electronic process that can be burdensome for smaller companies, she says, but there are a number of policy changes that will likely require adjustments by employers.

Dutta suggests studying up on the regulatory changes and developing a process to help ensure your organization doesn’t miss important deadlines — such as the April 1 date each year when the USCIS begins accepting H-1B applications. The slots are usually filled just a week later.

“Long-term planning has become essential,” Dutta says. “It’s really difficult to sponsor someone last minute. You have to look to the future — one year, five years, what’s the plan? — which is difficult in today’s work environment where people move around so much.”

How Global Mobility Can Advance Diversity and Inclusion

In the quest for success, diversity and inclusion are playing an increasingly important role. Customers are looking for companies that value diversity, and that will have an impact on recruiting strategies. According to McKinsey & Company’s 2017 Diversity Matters II report, there is a positive correlation between a more ethnically and gender-diverse leadership team and an increase in profits. An earlier Gallup study found that gender-diverse companies generate more revenue.

However, it’s not clear that this message is getting through.

Dismal Numbers

A report by Observer found that in Silicon Valley, women and minorities are severely underrepresented. Of the 22 Silicon Valley tech companies that disclosed their diversity profiles, only one (23andMe) has a workforce in which women outnumber men (50.2% compared to 49.8%). At the other end of the spectrum, electrochromic windows manufacturer View is only 17% female. Regarding ethnic diversity, Lyft takes the lead: Underrepresented minorities (excluding Asians) make up 14% of its workforce.

Decision-Making Bias

What accounts for these numbers? Gartner just published a new version of its report “Three Reasons Why D&I Are Critical in Your Product Management Road Map.” The report found that human bias is hindering companies from reaping the benefits of D&I. However, since CEOs are fully aware of the research on D&I — and companies are facing more pressure and scrutiny to be inclusive — Gartner recommends that HCM software vendors stress D&I enablement in their product offerings.

The Role of Global Mobility

Global mobility is one possible solution to the lack of D&I. “Companies can build diverse teams with the power of global mobility,” says Peggy Smith, CEO and president of Worldwide ERC, a nonprofit that promotes global mobility. “D&I creates engaged work cultures, and drives the kind of innovation that makes companies more competitive.”

However, while mobility can and should be an enabler of diversity, it’s still lacking in its own right: Less than 20 percent of mobile employees are women, according to research from the RES Forum. Global mobility is on the rise, but many companies simply don’t know how to unleash its power.

But suppose you could learn the best practices and get the best tools to maximize the benefits of a diverse workforce across various cultures and geographies? Of course, whatever you do will need to be aligned with the organization’s business goals if it’s going to be effective. In addition, there are legal and compliance aspects that must also be considered. But imagine being able to tap into the best talent for your company — not just the best talent in your immediate area. The ability to access creativity and innovation, wherever it resides, is a game changer.

If you want to learn how to use global mobility to take your company to the next level, register for “How to Build Diverse Teams With the Power of Global Mobility,” a webinar presented by Worldwide ERC and sponsored by Topia. The webinar will be held on July 10, 2018, at 2 p.m. EDT.

TalentCulture CEO and Founder Meghan M. Biro, and Peggy Smith, CEO and president of Worldwide ERC, will present practical knowledge to help your company create a diverse and inclusive workforce and gain a competitive edge.

Register now.

This post is sponsored by Topia.

What You Need to Know About Global Mobility

When an employee at your organization moves to a new location, what has to happen behind the scenes? What paperwork has to be approved before they move? How does your organization help the employee find the right place to live? How do they book a moving truck? And what happens when you have hundreds or thousands of employees making those moves?

These are all questions that Brynne Kennedy is interested in. She’s the CEO and Founder of Topia, a company that helps employers make relocations smoother. I asked Brynne how she got interested in global mobility and how her company is changing the game.

Why is global mobility such a pain point for companies? And why is it important to get it right?

Global mobility is a key element in a company’s talent strategy — attracting candidates, retaining staff and developing diverse leaders.

But companies make global mobility hard. They have operational inefficiencies to getting an employee’s mobility approved — for example, not having software to easily project the costs and impact of a move. Then they make it hard to physically move a human to a new location — by setting up a situation where an employee has to call many different people to get the information they need for their personal move.

Companies can make global mobility much easier for everyone — HR teams, finance teams, payroll teams, tax teams, business unit leaders and mobile employees — by connecting their global mobility ecosystem and processes in intuitive software with strong employee support.

How did you get interested in mobility?

Prior to founding Topia, I was an investment banker and worked throughout the world on a series of international assignments. I saw that companies were moving greater numbers of staff for many different reasons and durations. I also saw that the nature of work was changing with the rise of AI and automation, and that large numbers of staff might need opportunities to move into new roles and locations in the future. In researching the HR tech and global mobility markets in business school, I saw that there was an opportunity to build a true talent mobility suite for the future.

How are you changing the way companies think about global mobility?

We think about global mobility as the great enabler of an agile organization. Our software suite makes this a reality by unleashing global workforce and cost planning, engaging employees during moves, and managing ongoing mobility infrastructure and processes. We are changing the game with this software and allowing companies to make agility a reality for the first time.

What steps go into an employee move?

The first step in moving an employee is for a company to run scenarios about the move — how much will it cost, what policy should be used and in some cases, which location should that employee move to. Then, everything has to be approved by the relevant budget holders.

Once approved, the second step is to support the employee with their personal needs for their move.
Then, after an employee moves, the company manages a series of processes, including storing documents, generating payroll instructions, tracking immigration statuses and analyzing data on location and success rates.

You talk about technology as the great differentiator as far as global mobility. Can you elaborate on that?

At many companies, global mobility has historically been a transactional and logistical function. As such, the industry has been dominated by logistics companies — generally former shipping or real estate companies — that managed the transactional aspects of relocations.

Today the workforce is rapidly changing due to new demographics of employees, increasingly interdependent global business and technology advances that are redefining the jobs and locations in companies. Companies are now using global mobility to create business agility, employee attraction and retention, and build adaptable and diverse workforces in the face of constant change. A comprehensive mobility software suite is critical to unifying the data, processes and partners to make agility a reality. And that’s what Topia does — enable work everywhere — through our software.

Can you talk about how we can leverage data to improve the global mobility experience for employees?

Global mobility teams have historically had very limited access to data about mobile employees. It has been difficult to understand how much is being spent, where employees are at given points in time and the compliance risks that may occur through tax or immigration regulations. No one has leveraged data to forecast the impact of a mobility experience on, for example, leadership potential or diversity, or to calculate the ROI of a mobility experience, or to suggest a neighborhood in line with employee preferences and office proximity. At Topia, we leverage data to make personalized recommendations to employees and to ensure organizations are set up to provide the best possible experience.

Do you see a connection between global mobility and improving diversity?

Absolutely! There is a close correlation between the experiences that an employee has in other offices and their leadership potential. Just 20% of mobility assignments are filled by women — suggesting that there is unconscious bias in selection — which means that companies are not building a diverse leadership pipeline through mobility. If companies want more diverse leadership, they must consider how to get mobility opportunities to more women.

Are there any demographics that absolutely tend to not thrive on expatriate assignments? How can we reduce the risk of losing talent by moving them?

I think the question is not who doesn’t thrive, but how do different employees best thrive. Success in mobility is about matching employees with the right roles, personal lifestyle locations and mobility durations. We are seeing a significant increase in “non-traditional” mobility now — short-term assignments, long-distance commuting and frequent business travel. Often these policies can enable career growth and retention, but also balance family needs. Another way to reduce the risk of losing talent is to ensure that employees can find the right place to live and work, and the data sets and recommendation engine in Topia Go do exactly this.

This post is sponsored by Topia.

Three Keys to Getting Global Mobility Right

The future of work is all about movement: moving operations to the digital sphere, moving certain functions to automated systems so we can spend more time on other tasks, and moving people from location to location. Organizations are expanding from one local hub to a far broader global footprint — credit mergers, collaborations, strategic initiatives and growth. The Harvard Business Review found that 72% of executives said their need for globally mobile employees will increase in next two to three years.

Fortunately many employees see domestic and overseas assignments as a great chance to increase skills, broaden horizons and grow careers. But from a management standpoint, it’s not so simple. Assigning workers across the world is daunting enough from a logistical standpoint. But if the personal side of global mobility goes unaddressed, it can have fallout in terms of employee engagement and retention.

When done right, global mobility is a true plus for your organization. You’ll need to leverage three key factors — empathy, personalization, and the technology to make those choices happen.


Let’s start with empathy. Among HR pros you might call this a soft skill, but being able to anticipate and understand the myriad needs of every employee will make global mobility management infinitely easier for all parties. Empathy should be part of the workplace culture, but it’s often overlooked. Don’t overlook it when managing global mobility. There may be increasing points of friction for some employees if they perceive a lack of sensitivity and thought behind the reassignment.

And one person’s worries aren’t another’s. While surveys and algorithms can help, empathizing is not about expediency. It needs to happen in the early planning phases and reflect a commitment to anticipating the needs and concerns of each employee. One way to help shape those possibilities – create scenarios: an executive and a family; a new hire; a differently abled person; a woman relocating to a highly traditional city with conservative social customs; or any number of other possibilities. It’s a form of due diligence that pays off in smooth transitions and far less downtime. Another useful practice: build in a survey phase that solicits honest feedback from your employees — before any reassigning is done. The data you’ll get from it is vital to shaping workable, empathetic solutions.


Offer a realistic, relevant range of choices. Back when I was a recruiter, I was constantly reminded that there’s always going to be a gap between how employers and employees see a job. HR by necessity has to think of employees as entities to be managed, but they are people — who think of jobs as conditions to be navigated, considered, and negotiated, even if they’re only with you on a gig assignment. When an organization makes the effort to provide every employee with choices as to how they want their relocation and new assignment to happen, it shows the employer values that person. Italics intentional. It can also cut down on the friction over what is versus what isn’t possible.

Consider millennials, who are generally enthusiastic about the prospect of a global reassignment, and will comprise most of all international assignments by 2020, according to a recent PriceWaterHouseCoopers’ study. They prefer resources at their fingertips and expect fast and responsive communication to questions. Given the choice, they want to be able to access services and support on demand — probably from a mobile phone. They want to be able to set up portals according to their own needs, and customize their own user profile. And notice: they assume they will have an agile, customizable portal, no matter where they wind up.

Other choices may involve types of medical care, schools, financial planning, security, spousal employment, language training, cultural programs, neighborhoods, pay options, transportation, coworkers, teams, kinds of work — Is your organization in a position to handle and facilitate all of that?


I’m going to take the liberty to answer my own question. You’re more than welcome to disagree, and if you do, congratulations on having your own highly sophisticated, in-house Global Mobility management technology. But most likely, unless you’re Google, you’d benefit from partnering with a firm, that specializes in the tech you need to most effectively provide those choices.

Global mobility management (GMM) tech is a fast-growing industry, projected to swell to between $11B and $15B in the next five years. Top GMM companies can collaborate on building 360º support to meet all your employees’ needs. solutions that answer those concerns. Likely, they have already run the gamut of scenarios, building a cost-effective platform that combines empathy and efficiency.

The bottom line is that no employee is the same. Whether you’re dealing with a dozen or a thousand people, reassignment can trigger a reaction from “No way” to “that’s great!” Every organization has its own side of the story: we need to staff up or shift people fast – with the least amount of risk, expenditure, or downtime. Start from the heart, use your head, and then leverage the tech platform of a frontrunner in Global Mobility management — and your people will thank you.

This post is sponsored by Topia.