Crisis Management for Expats
Expatriate programs can be a fantastic asset to any international business, but what happens if something goes wrong? Organizations around the world are becoming more focused on a growing need to protect their international assignees from all types of danger whilst on assignment.
Whether danger takes the form of a personal situation, illness, or a terror attack, organizations and expats need to be prepared for any eventuality and know exactly what action to take in the event of a crisis.
There are a multitude of ways to assemble a crisis management program and many companies make use of specialist external service providers to create these plans. In last year’s KPMG Global Assignment Policies and Practices survey, it was revealed that 48% of organizations with over 500 assignees make use of these external service providers. Some companies have global emergency plans that apply to all assignees regardless of location, whereas others have country specific plans; these are especially useful if you have assignees in hazardous areas, such as certain Middle Eastern or African areas.
Personal repatriations for single people or individual families can be a simpler process than public emergencies, which constitute a far wider set of circumstances – they could include natural disasters, terrorist attacks, political or economic upheaval. In these cases expatriates across the company, region or even entire country might be affected. Over the past few years, civil disturbances in various African countries have led to the repatriation of almost all of the expats in those areas.
Often emergency repatriations need to take place in a matter of hours. Natural disasters and terror attacks can strike without warning, and civil unrest can turn into civil war in minutes. As a result, it’s important that HR departments are prepared to tackle unpredictability. Clear policies regarding evacuations and even hostage situations should be put in place, and agreed to by an assignee before their assignment even begins. A single phone number should also be issued for emergency use to trigger a crisis management plan.
In the event of an emergency, these plans cannot be initiated without up to date knowledge of the expatriate’s location, medical records, next of kin contacts etc. Your expatriates’ database must be maintained. If they leave the country, or even the city where they are based, you must be informed. Similarly, you must make sure that all of their personal records are up-to-date including any travel documents, birth certificates and immunization records. If your expatriates are in dangerous zones, advising them to keep emergency supplies at hand, and even a bag packed ready to leave at any moment is also advisable.
Often there are warning signs for a public emergency and by ensuring that all expatriate regions are observed for these signs can place your HR department at a huge advantage. Whether these units are internal or external to the company makes no difference, as long as all expatriates and HR personnel are trained to know company policies and procedures in the case of emergency. This preparation and anticipation, is needed to ensure that any expatriate and emergency is handled as safely and efficiently as possible.