Episode 78: “Moving people with purpose: Short term business travellers governance” series – Implementing effective structures and processes

Release date: August 22, 2016
Guest: Edmond Kwan
Running time: 8:01 minutes

In this episode of the “Moving people with purpose: Short term business travellers governance” podcast series, Edmond Kwan discusses the importance of the structures and processes that organizations should considering implementing for managing their business traveller population.

Through interviews with prominent PwC tax subject matter professionals, Tax Tracks is an audio podcast series that is designed to bring succinct commentary on tax technical, policy and administrative issues that provides busy tax professionals information they require.


“Moving people with purpose: Short term business travellers governance” series – Implementing effective structures and processes

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Brandi: Hi, this is Brandi Scales of PwC Canada, and this is our final podcast in our “Moving people with purpose” series where we discuss some of the top challenges employers face when managing their short term business travellers.

With us today is Edmond Kwan, a Senior Manager in our PwC Global Mobility Services practice in Toronto. Edmond will be discussing the structures and processes that organizations might want to consider implementing for managing their business traveller population.

Welcome, Edmond.

Edmond: Thanks, Brandi. It’s great to be here!

Brandi: Edmond, as you know, the number of short-term business travellers is ever increasing, and companies are struggling to keep up with managing their short-term business travellers and the associated risks. What are your initial thoughts on this?

Edmond: Yes, that is a reality facing many companies today. Human Resource departments and global mobility teams are facing challenges with those internationally mobile employees that don’t fall under a formal international assignment. Most organizations see managing compliance effectively, managing costs, and aligning mobility and talent as the top three priorities for their mobility programs. Companies need to develop a formal structure and sophisticated processes to manage this population.

Brandi: On that note, Edmond, how can organizations develop a structure to manage their short-term business travellers?

Edmond: That’s a great question, Brandi! That structure development should include input from all stakeholders with respect to business travellers, which would include HR and mobility, tax and finance, the business units, and legal. With that said, getting buy-in from senior management will allow the structure related to business travellers to develop beyond just an operational focus and into a strategic one.  One of the key aspects of a global mobility program is finding a way to identify international business travellers. We often refer to them as stealth travellers for this main reason - they are very difficult to manage and track!

Brandi: Interesting, and why are they so difficult to track?

Edmond: Many organizations currently don’t have a strong understanding of how many short-term business travellers are being deployed, nor do they have the policies or procedures in place to help them identify who is travelling, to where, and how often.  There is no doubt this is a daunting task for many companies and therefore, these types of travellers are often overlooked.

Brandi: Could you provide examples of common processes put in place to manage short-term business travellers?

Edmond: Sure. Many companies adopt an identification system, to help the business and the employees to identify which departments should be involved in managing the risks and facilitating the cross-border travel. Whether that is a pop-up questionnaire in booking travel, or an assessment form for the business to complete before sending someone cross-border, identifying business travellers is the first step in developing a structure for the program. Using daily location check-in reports can provide data on the exposure the organization faces regarding their business travellers, and identify short-falls in the current process for identifying those travellers.  

Role definition is key to creating the structure organizations require in managing their business travellers. So, for example, a process map would be helpful in identifying roles and responsibilities to carry out an effective business traveller program and determine how each department can play a role. Questionnaires and assessment forms help HR and mobility teams ensure they have considered all elements associated with a short-term business traveller.

Brandi: But, why is it so important to have a sophisticated process in place when dealing with short-term business travellers?

Edmond: Well, organizations need a consistent approach that clearly defines the process for the business and the employees. Identifying and defining roles in the process will bring a standard approach to the program. Increasing the standardization of a process creates efficiency while reducing the risks associated with that particular event. It will assist the business units and managers of those businesses with what is required after the need for cross-border business travel is determined, and then help them understand their risk exposure. I would say effective compliance is still the number one concern related to short-term business travellers, so having a sophisticated process may allow the organization to take advantage of cooperative compliance legislation currently being implemented in a number of countries.

Brandi: That’s really interesting. Edmond, how can technology tools be used to help manage the business traveller population?

Edmond: Technology is vital in identifying and tracking business travellers, as well as improving business traveller support, managing costs and increasing corporate compliance for large organizations with a diverse set of travellers. So, with the push towards a more strategic focus in developing the structure around short-term business travellers, technology tools will be a ‘must’ to maintain the operational structure while freeing the mobility team to focus their efforts on talent strategy.

Brandi: Edmond, one question we get a lot is ‘what do companies need to think about when considering cross-border business travel structure’?

Edmond: I would say companies need to choose and document efficient business travel policies and processes to meet their tax, immigration, and business needs. An upfront analysis should be done by HR, tax, and legal departments to manage the tax and immigration-related risks. This process begins by asking questions like…

  • How many individuals are currently travelling cross-border, and what is the frequency of this travel?
  • What documents are required to facilitate the business travel for this employee?
  • What is the tax impact for this employee travelling? and...
  • Which department is going to own and manage the related risks of this employee travelling?

Brandi: These are great questions, and hopefully, these will launch some meaningful discussions between global mobility teams and the lines of business. What would you say is the key take away for human resource and global mobility teams listening to this podcast today?

Edmond: If they are not already involved with their company’s strategy on managing international business travellers, then they really should get involved. At a minimum, gaining an understanding of the current state of cross-border travel structures in place will be required. This can be facilitated by reviewing existing travel documentation and internal processes, as well as obtaining as much data on international business travellers as possible. This will provide an opportunity for all stakeholders to weigh in on potential exposures, should they exist, and how the structure and process can be enhanced.

If there are not policies or documentation in place, then perhaps the question to ask is “why not?”

Brandi: Thank you for joining us today, Edmond, and providing insights on the importance of developing processes and organizational structure around short-term business travellers.  

Edmond: Thanks, Brandi. It’s been a pleasure!

Brandi: For any questions, Edmond’s contact details are available on our PwC podcast website www.pwc.com/ca/taxtracks

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Edmond Kwan

Senior Manager, Global Mobility Services

Tel: +1 416 814 5847

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