July 14, 2020

Beyond Employee Experience: Time to Rethink Partner Support, Too?

Employees – and their family members – are increasingly looking to business leaders for guidance on safely returning to work, assignments, and travel. How does your partner support program hold up?

The pandemic forces all business sectors to rethink their employee experience and how to resume safe operations and travel. Now is a great time to evaluate the spouse or partner relocation support programs you may have in place as well.

Conducting an honest assessment of the process of safely evacuating and repatriating employees and their families during the crisis can provide good insights into where the policy might now need a refresh.


Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind:

  1. Evaluate whether there will be an increase in the number of employees opting to take a short-term assignment (STA) unaccompanied. Support plans will need to be flexible enough to offer home visits and/or spouse or partner travel to the destination location, including a well-documented plan should the health crisis or border crossing restrictions change during the course of the assignment.
  2. Ensure full integration of your ongoing assessment of the current immigration, health and travel restrictions for employees into your spouse or partner programs too, including details around all testing and documentation requirements to quarantine protocols. Setting expectations early around the appropriate processes and the amount of time needed to meet them will help all parties make better informed decisions.
  3. Set realistic goals and approaches for success in the new location for those who do opt to go on the journey. Before even making the decision to move, the following questions have always been relevant, and are even more so now:
    • What, if any, opportunities are available for the spouse or partner to obtain legal work in the new location – and what are the financial implications if employment is not possible, or their relevant industry sector is not fully or safely up and running again in the new location?
    • What are the professional requirements of the accompanying partner’s current occupation? If certifications or licenses are needed, are they transferrable? If so, what are the processes – and costs - for re-licensing or certifying? Are the relevant approval agencies fully staffed and operational, or are there online alternatives?
    • If employment isn’t possible, are there any virtual career training or volunteer opportunities that can help the individuals foster skills and build their resumes in other ways?
  4. Explore opportunities to provide benefits that go beyond the job search, resume review or other types of career support. Lifestyle assistance in areas like language and cross-cultural training for global assignments can go a long way in helping accompanying family members adjust. Pairing assignees and partners alike with other employees and their family members - or host country nationals on global assignments - who can help them navigate work and daily life fosters stronger personal and professional connections. Virtual sessions to practice newly learned language skills with native speakers can help boost confidence and build relationships, too.
  5. Consider delivering even greater levels of counseling and emotional support channels for families dealing with the anxieties of moving and the uncertainties of the pandemic when taking their families on the move. Dedicated company intranets or private online groups are great resources for connecting individuals with others who have had similar experiences, concerns, questions, and answers. It can also give employers meaningful insights into the mobility program overall.

Family life is an important factor for everyone and can play a large part in workplace performance, engagement, and success. Now that our work and travel circumstances have changed so dramatically, it’s a great time to revisit the best types of support available for employees and accompanying partners alike. But you don’t have to go it alone – contact us for advice and consultation on a program that best fits your business needs and company culture.


Liz Portalla

Liz Portalla

For over 30 years, Liz has focused on developing, implementing and measuring the effectiveness of global mobility programs by leveraging her experience in relocation, international transfers and assignments, global compensation and immigration. In addition to managing in-house mobility programs for AIG and Merrill Lynch, Liz has held frontline positions such as home sale counselor, director of client services, vice president of client services and vice president of client management and business development.

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