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As Covid-19 travel restrictions continue to impact businesses, many are turning to recruiting local nationals to fill vacancies where hiring a globally mobile workforce may have previously been the norm. The pandemic has added another layer of complexity to managing an international workforce, and HR professionals need to ensure that their recruitment and retention strategy is fit for purpose to remain competitive and attract the best talent.

Maximising opportunities
Whilst the pandemic has been devastating for some industries, it has led to opportunities for growth in others – leading to a recruitment drive to fill vacancies locally. Canada, for example, is budgeting CAD 192 million (£109 million) to develop and mass-produce vaccines, as there no inoculation yet available for Covid-19, resulting in the pharmaceutical industry experiencing a boost. The home entertainment industry – such as Netflix, TikTok and Houseparty – has also seen a surge in sales, as people looked to pass time during lockdown. But with travel and visa restrictions fluctuating during the pandemic, many organisations are looking locally to recruit instead.

Changes in travel impacting global mobility
With travel restrictions changing regularly, managing a globally mobile workforce can be even trickier than usual. Some countries, such as the US, have restricted visas in a bid to boost their economy and protect national jobs by encouraging organisations to hire locally – as opposed to relying on contracting or sub-contracting foreign workers during the pandemic.

Other countries have strict quarantine rules on arrival, which can make foreign placements less appealing to a global workforce as it limits opportunities for personal and family travel. In Australia, for example, it is mandatory to quarantine for 14 days on arrival – with transport and accommodation automatically organised to ensure full compliance is met. For a globally mobile workforce, international assignments may have lost part of their appeal because of Covid-19 travel restrictions – as the benefit of having family and friends visit, or the ability to return home for vacations, becomes more difficult.

The pandemic-driven changes to travel mean that many businesses are now looking to hire locally. And with business opportunities still available to explore, even during a pandemic, organisations need to ensure they are offering competitive employment and wellbeing packages, if they want to maximise opportunities and be attractive to local nationals.

Attracting and retaining local nationals
Having a competitive employment package is crucial to attracting local talent, but it also needs to be compliant with local laws, regulations and visa requirements – which can significantly vary 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). Seeking guidance from international specialists that understand local requirements is valuable, as they can advise on employee benefits that are both compulsory and well regarded.

Some locals may want additional benefits that may usually be reserved for attracting foreign hires. Globally there is an increased expectation for health insurance, for example, to not only aid physical health, but offer preventative solutions and provide support for mental wellbeing too. As some locals may automatically be entitled to healthcare, they can be attracted to additional services that aren’t readily available to them – making it a powerful recruitment tool. Preventative services, such as health screenings or apps that help to manage mental wellbeing, can be of interest to local nationals. 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.

Businesses are increasingly aware that mental and physical health are inextricably linked, and the benefits of treating health holistically. Having employees that are supported with their mental and physical wellbeing can result in a happier and more productive workforce, helping businesses to compete in an economically challenging environment. It can create greater opportunities for individuals to improve their physical health, with support of smoking-cessation programmes and nutritional advice, for example, and help nip any health concerns in the bud. Not only does this enable employees to keep their health on track, but businesses can benefit from a reduction in time off for health concerns too.

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. 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.

Sarah Dennis, Head of International, Towergate Health & Protection

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