Sending employees abroad can be risky. After all, in SMEs, they are your greatest asset. But unlike tangible assets, such as property, process, information or even reputation, with employees, there are many considerations that complicate the mitigation of risk. When sending employees abroad, particularly to a high-risk location, there are two overarching and interconnected elements that travel risk policies should consider.
1. Consider the environment you’re sending them to
- What are the risks that are common to this particular environment; crime, terrorism, natural disasters, civil unrest, conflict or even societal or cultural issues?
- What is the likelihood of an incident occurring, and in this location, what impact would it have?
- Are there operational challenges associated with working here?
- Is there anything out of the ordinary at present that might heighten the risk of working here, be it an election, a period of adverse weather or even global events that might impact the local environment?
2. Are certain employees more liable to threats or risks?
- What are the risks associated with this industry?
- What is the traveller profile; are there factors specific to them that place them in a different risk category for this location, be it gender, race, religion, LGBT status or mobility issues?
- What control measures are already in place for them?
- What is likely to be the local community’s perception of your staff, the company or the industry they work in? And what is the local media or government perception?
Six ways business owners can mitigate risks when sending employees abroad:
1. Develop staff awareness
Ensure your staff know who to call for help in an emergency, whether it is your internal risk team or your international assistance provider, particularly for countries where the emergency services cannot be relied on. Signing staff up to an information and alerting service enables them to stay abreast of developments in a timely manner.
Inform staff of precautions they can take to ensure they are not exposed to risk; this can be done in a pre-trip brief. For staff on longer deployments, destination awareness training should be considered. For higher risk locations, it is worth considering enrolling staff in Hostile Environment Awareness Training.
2. Monitor and pre-empt risk
Many companies sign up to real-time tracking devices so they can immediately establish whether their employees are in the vicinity of an incident.
Risk managers should also proactively monitor international, local and social media for developments where their staff are located for a deterioration in the security environment, though it is often easier to sign up to a security assistance platform with an intelligence offering which can identify escalation triggers.
3. Secure your work locations
Businesses should ensure their security teams have an awareness of where their employees are likely to be working and understand the surrounding risk environment. Assess the precedent for risks like political violence or crime in the area surrounding your business operations and consider having site security audits, emergency plans or evacuation plans written for facilities in higher risk areas.
4. Engage in journey management planning
Arrange an accredited local driver for a meet-and-greet and overland moves for employees; in some locations, the use of public transport and travel after dark should be restricted. Familiarising yourself with the operating constraints specific to the location of your staff is an important part of planning; considerations include weather, road conditions, contingency routes, travel restrictions, curfews, and fuel shortages.
5. Consider your accommodation options
Understand the risk context of where employees are going and advise staff to select accommodation options in safer areas, preferably in facilities that have been audited or meet an established security, and health and safety standard. Consider not only the surrounding environment or perimeter of the location staff will be staying, but also the physical and procedural security measures protecting it.
6. Ensure communications are at a high level
Make sure your staff has tried and tested communications devices, pre-programmed with relevant emergency contacts. Have contingencies in place for areas more prone to internet and telecommunications outages, bearing in mind that satellite phones are not legal everywhere.
Warden systems allow security teams to forward messages from embassies, information on incidents and security updates rapidly over instant messaging platforms, and can be the best way to disseminate information with staff overseas.
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