How To Handle Your Assignees Should the Apocalypse Break Out

Many think public relations work is all fluff and fake smiles as one tries to get as much media mileage as possible for corporations seeking attention, but there’s another side to it that doesn’t want to call attention to itself. It’s called crisis communications management. It’s when they think of every very ugly scenario so corporations and their employees will know how to react when all hell breaks loose.

It’s the time when global mobility specialists need to train themselves how to react properly and how they can teach their clients to do the same. In a sense, one has to borrow from a PR person’s playbook and realize that, in an emergency, they can be relied upon to think straight, only because they were prepared ahead of time. It actually helps to think of every possible ugly scenario the way a PR person or crisis communications person might think so proper actions are taken when — God forbid — an apocalypse suddenly breaks out. It’s almost tantamount to having children of your own. You also don’t want your clients in harm’s way. If they come from a different country, the more they’ll need assurance from a calm global mobility manager.

There are crises — and there are crises. Some of them can cost a week’s loss of sleep, and others can force you tear out your emergency plans in frustration just to come up with a manageable one. We are talking of major developments that will require major readjustments in your program and a redesigning of the global map of projects and assignments in your boardroom. Think Brexit fallout and the possibility of the suspension of immigrant hires by the current U.S. administration.

Yet those are still the crises with consequences that can be contained with no immediate damage to property, limb, and life. And believe it or not, things can get worse. Two hurricanes — Harvey and Irma — literally pummeled U.S states causing relocation of residents, home displacements, shutdown of industries, and millions of dollars in damages and recovery funds. And if that news is not enough to send you alarm bells, the increasing war of words between the Trump administration and the North Korean government just might. The situation has gone beyond grandstanding to advance to something more catastrophic for the planet or at least that’s how the news is perceived. Perception, as they say, is reality. So cool heads need to intervene.

Of course, it’s not so easy to ignore the news– the so-called elephant in the room when your client is from another country wondering if they made a good decision to move to the States when there are just as many calamities where they came from. But it doesn’t help if everyone simply ignores it without a backup plan. Many global mobility specialists do need to prepare a crisis management plan and hope all the bad news out there is all hot air and they would just go away as it does affect worker productivity.

Ask your client if they have an evacuation plan in place for all your assignees in all their current places of employment. As advised by the Society for Human Resource Management, evacuation must explore alternatives of securing them and their families and flying them out of their current location to either the home office of your corporation or back to their countries of origin. The assignee must know that there is such a fail-safe plan even during the best times, when such an apocalyptic scenario seems unlikely.

Second, the safety of your assignee and his family must be paramount. The resources of your corporation must support this endeavor, whether it’s security personnel whisking them out of their homes to bring them to your embassy in that country, or a safe house or hotel where they can pass the night while they are being moved from one location to another. You also need to ask for steady assistance from your most trusted colleagues in your network, including but not limited to embassies, security agencies your company hired, local businessmen who know the situation, and property development companies like California Corporate Housing which are flexible enough to take in guests at a moment’s notice.

Third, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health recommends — especially during terrorist attacks that will force assignee repatriation — that your assignees go through protocols that will help them to confront and overcome stressful situations. It’s one thing to place them in a safe house or endorse them to a friendly embassy; it’s another to make sure they keep calm and maintain their professionalism, and continue to work as a team with their colleagues. These are protocols that are part of your evacuation plan, and again no matter how unlikely the possibility of their happening, you should orient your assignees about them. A workshop or two might even be useful.

Finally, maintain communication at all times. Technology can be a boon that will work in your favor during this stressful situation. As a global mobility manager, you must also make sure you are on your A-game, inspiring confidence and exhibiting leadership until you have brought your assignees back to safe haven — and back to being sane again.