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December - 2011 - issue > In My Opinion
Jet-Fueled Technology Managing Workforces in a Global Business Environment
Umesh Vaidyamath
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Two decades ago, on July 4, 1990, I traveled on a plane from Mumbai to Kansas City, Kansas, in the heart of the U.S. Midwest, to take my first job in information technology. Many of you will remember the early nineties as the heydays of technology. We thought everything was possible – we worked long hours and we dreamed in code.

In many ways, we can now say that we delivered upon the promises of those dreams. Today, technology, written by programmers of decades past and enhanced by programmers today, fuels the global economy. Nearly everything we do is somehow connected to the infrastructures established two decades ago and built upon since then. And today’s programmers and IT professionals, continue to expand upon those original dreams.

But the growth spurts of the 1990s did more than just spread the potency of technology into every business sector. They also changed the face of how and where people work. When the first Indian programmers, in 1965, traveled from Mumbai, Delhi and Calcutta to New York, California and, yes, even Kansas, it was a major event in their lives and the lives of their families. To some extent, it was the same kind of experience for the immigrant professionals in the 1990s. Most of us were still used to staying in the area where we grew up, in maintaining residency in our native lands. The ones that left were cowboys. We were explorers in new lands. Well, more specifically, one land. In those days, the U.S. beckoned; here was where all opportunities lay.

The changing face of business

Today, we live in a completely different world. Business opportunities are everywhere. They are in the U.S., although less than they were two decades ago. They are in Canada and the U.K. They are in Russia, Sweden and Germany. And they are in the two newest major centers of global economy: China and India. Anyone who has ever had a stopover at the Bengaluru International Airport knows first-hand how the world has changed. Nearly half of the travelers to that airport aren’t Indian; they are from the U.S. and Europe.

It’s not that the center of business has changed, it has disappeared. Today, we are truly living in a global world and business leaders and professionals know through experience that business can happen anywhere. It can happen in New York and San Jose. It can happen in Vancouver and Toronto. And it can happen in Shanghai and New Delhi. Savvy professionals have tapped into the changing face of today’s business environment and have embraced the reality of jet-fueled technology.

With these changes in the mobility of workforces comes an entire new set of technological problems. Each person, each employee, must be managed and tracked. National immigration regulations must be followed to the tee. Compliance must be managed and ensured for the entirety of that employee’s stay in a foreign land.

The fever fear, technology is here

The process of managing a global workforce’s immigration may seem intimidating. Each nation’s regulations are different, and each involves layers of paperwork, eligibility and compliance requirements, all of which must be submitted, tracked and managed throughout the employee’s entire time in transit and residency.

What visas do you need to travel to Singapore or Sri Lanka? To San Francisco? How do you maintain an employee’s compliance requirements while he is conducting business in Tokyo, Tehran or Toledo? The challenges faced by immigration and human resource professionals engaged in global mobility today are complex and multi-faceted. However, the solution is the same as it was in the 1990s, which is technology.

Immigration management and compliance software solutions make sure that key immigration files and documents can be shared between all stakeholders – between HR and legal departments, employees and their families, external law firm, consulting groups and governmental agencies throughout the world. These solutions give managers a way to manage and track all aspects of an immigration case in a single system, giving them complete control of data and enabling true transparency across the entire stakeholder environment.

There are six core components to a successful global mobility management campaign: immigration forms management, internal team management, compliance mechanisms, employee communication, global partner management and reporting systems.

Immigration Forms Management: There are hundreds, if not thousands of immigration forms for each country. Each of these forms has its own requirements, but many share the same key information – the employee’s name, address, company and reason for travel, to name a few. It is essential that you have access to these forms, can ensure efficient data entry and have a system in place to archive, store and search these forms. Because immigration is constantly in flux, these forms need to be updated on a daily basis. The forms are re-used and hence need to be accessible by multiple stakeholders within a single repository.

Internal Team Management: To successfully manage the multiple aspects of mobility, you must maintain a robust system of transparency. Different people will need to access the same set of information from different locations at various points in time. A technology solution that enables the sharing of data (and the limiting of particular sets of that data) from any location is paramount to success in the management of a global workforce.

Compliance Mechanisms: Immigration doesn’t end at the point of entry; that’s only where it starts. Companies must ensure comprehensive compliance management, with systems in place that provide reminders and incorporate novel methods to ensure compliance to the many disparate requirements of different nations’ regulations.

Employee Communications: Redundancy is the enemy of efficiency. An effective employee (and prospective employee) communication system empowers employees to access, update and maintain portions of the compliance process. Give employees the power to enter in their own bio data and check on the status of their cases, to ensure consistency and accuracy of information and a holistic understanding of case status and process.

Global Partner Management: You can’t be everywhere all the time. That’s what global partners and consultants are for. A technology solution that enables communication, transparency and a collaborative environment between you and your global partners creates a more effective and efficient work environment. Tap into the skills and expertise of everyone involved in the global mobility process. Reporting Systems: If you don’t know what you’re doing is right or wrong, you have no way of measuring success or improving your work processes. Technology solutions must give you a way to measure your actions through robust reporting systems. These reporting systems also give you the means to provide essential information to domestic agencies that, at times, may require detailed audits of your mobility campaigns and strategies.

Let technology deliver agility

As the lines between nations fade and workforces live in transit, we must find a way to use technology to resolve and simplify the complex issues that arise. Global business and workforce mobility are now the norm. Tap into technology to change your business processes and create an empowered and agile workforce in the jet-fueled world of 21st century global business.

The author is CEO, INSZoom.com, Inc

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