22 September 2020

Reduction in globally mobile workforce, and increase in recruiting local nationals means employers need to adapt how they look after employees

With international travel restricted, many businesses are turning to recruiting local nationals to fill vacancies – where hiring a globally mobile workforce may have previously been the norm. Managing an international workforce can be challenging and Covid-19 has added another layer of complexity. So, businesses need to ensure that their recruitment and retention strategy is fit for purpose and wellbeing benefits not only offer good support, but are also compliant with local laws, regulations and visa requirements too.

Changes in travel impacting global mobility

Returning to how things were before doesn’t look set to happen any time soon, with business travel historically rebounding from crises at a slower pace than leisure travel.1 Some countries, such as the US,2 have also restricted visas in a bid to boost their economy and protect national jobs by encouraging organisations to hire locally - rather than relying on contracting or sub-contracting foreign workers during the pandemic. With travel restrictions changing daily, managing a globally mobile workforce can be tricky. Organisations are looking to hire local nationals as there are still plenty of business opportunities to explore, even during a pandemic. But organisations need to ensure they support this new type of workforce effectively, offering competitive employment and wellbeing packages, if they are to maximise such opportunities.

From surviving to thriving

Whilst the pandemic has been devastating for some industries, it has led to opportunities for growth in others. With no inoculation yet available for Covid-19, it’s understandable how the pharmaceutical industry is experiencing a boost – with Canada alone budgeting CAD 192 million (£109 million) to develop and mass-produce vaccines.3 Home entertainment has also seen a surge in sales, as people looked to pass time during lockdown. Netflix, TikTok and Houseparty were all such services and apps to see a significant surge in popularity during the Covid-19 outbreak. An increase in demand for such industries has led to a recruitment drive and companies are looking locally to fill vacancies.

Managing local nationals

Having a one-size-fits-all approach to managing an international workforce doesn’t work and the same can be said when supporting wellbeing. Locals may automatically be entitled to healthcare, for example, whereas non-citizens may not be. Equally, some locals may want additional healthcare benefits, that may usually be reserved for attracting foreign hires. So businesses need to ensure they understand what benchmark to work to, review existing health and wellbeing packages, check if they are fit for purpose and revitalise them if not.

Benefits must comply with local laws and regulations and this significantly varies country to country. Some countries require compulsory insurance (to allow a visa to be issued, for example) and others stipulate local insurance partnerships (for a number of reasons, including ensuring that local economies benefit from collaborations and to alleviate challenges regarding local language and regulations). Organisations that are considering increasing local national recruitment also need to understand what access to healthcare there is currently – and whether wellbeing benefits need to be enhanced to remain competitive.

Globally, there is an increased expectation for health insurance to not only aid physical health, but offer preventative solutions and mental health support too. There is greater awareness that mental and physical health is inextricably linked and businesses are increasingly aware of the benefits of treating health holistically. For businesses looking to recruit local nationals, they need to ensure healthcare packages include a good balance, and are competitive enough to attract and retain talent – whilst aligning with local expectations.

Sarah Dennis, Head of International at Towergate Health & Protection, says: “The recruitment of local nationals has moved up the agenda for a number of organisations, as business travel continues to be affected by Covid-19 – making managing globally mobile workforces more difficult as restrictions change daily, country to country. It’s an opportunity for businesses to get local national recruitment right, by supporting employees from the offset with competitive employment packages that incorporate support for health and wellbeing. Speaking with international specialists that understand local requirements is valuable, as they can advise on what health and wellbeing solutions are well regarded and also compulsory, and this helps businesses to attract and retain talent in an economically challenging environment.”


1. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/risk/our-insights/covid-19-implications-for-business 
2. https://www.business-standard.com/article/international/hire-american-trump-signs-executive-order-to-restrict-h1b-visa-use-120080400097_1.html 
3. https://www.fm-magazine.com/news/2020/apr/business-sectors-boosted-by-coronavirus-concerns.html