Virginia, US

Our clients all have their own unique personalities – not just the people that make up those company clients – but the companies themselves. There is a company culture that pervades all that a company does, and it bleeds into mobility and immigration strategies. As a result, the way we work with our different clients must vary and what is “best practice” for one company will not necessarily work for another. There are standards to be sure, but the vast array of personalities we find amongst our clients is one of the reasons that standardization of communication styles, amongst other areas, may prove difficult if not sometimes impossible.

There are a few key areas where companies differ from each other in the realm of immigration where it behoves us as immigration professionals to know where our clients fit.

Speed versus Customer Experience

There are some companies that work in highly competitive industries where the speed at which they can deploy resources across borders trumps all other interests.  It impacts their bottom line and there may be contractual obligations with end-customers that require speed. Decisions are made quickly and resources identified. In these companies, the individual employees and their experience with the assignment process is not nearly as important as just getting them there.  While all companies desire faster immigration processing times, for these companies, it is everything. Efficiencies are sought at every stage of the process. We develop aggressive escalation protocols for non-responsiveness, work with single-points-of-contact in document gathering, and often have very little contact with the employee involved.

In other companies, the customer experience – the way we work with the individual employee including everything from clarity of explanations to high-touch calls to proactive updates  -- is the most important thing we can accomplish.  If the company has a happy assignee, the company is happy. They want their employees treated with great care and consideration and for the move to go as smoothly as possible. Again, this is not to say that companies who focus on speed do not want their employees to have a good experience, but the way companies prioritize this varies greatly.

There are, of course, those companies that fall somewhere in the middle.

Risk-Averse versus Risk-Takers

We all know people in our lives who take great risks with their personal safety or financial well-being.  They feel that without taking risks, they may lose out on an experience.  Then, there are those we know who are cautious in everything they do – would never be caught speeding, regularly put money aside each month, are fully insured.  Companies are the same.

As lawyers, we at Fragomen tend to fall into the risk-averse camp.  We do everything we can to help our clients avoid non-compliance, rejections of applications and damage to reputation.  However, sometimes we need to do more to understand when our clients are willing to take some risks. We can sometimes become so convinced, for example, that an application is likely to be rejected that we advise against filing it.  And some of our clients would agree with this approach – if it will be denied, don’t file it.  Then, however, we have other clients who would prefer to take the risk and test boundaries. I am personally amazed at how often we have been successful with “risky” applications.  When our clients understand the risks but still want to take them, we have to be ready to put the best arguments forward for supporting their decisions.

Style versus Substance

More and more frequently, many of our clients want our email communications to be as short as possible with headlines and visuals to draw the reader to the attention of key pieces of information and action items. There are other companies, however, who give us great levels of additional information that must be included in our communications. This can result in rather lengthy memos being included. Our natural tendency, again as lawyers, is to put more information in rather than less. Being concise is not our collective strong suit although much effort is going on to help us to improve.

For those companies that still prefer substance over style, however, this move to shorten our communications to include more headlines rather than longer explanations, is not necessarily a welcome move. They want their employees to be fully informed of both the process and the reasons for strategic choices.  It becomes about finding the right balance to suit the company’s desires.  It is not always a black and white choice – short versus long – but is an art form that we will all need to work on to perfect.

There are more areas where our clients’ personalities differ and other ways we have to adjust the way we work in both style and substance. Sometimes, we all just need a reminder that these differences do exist since it can become easy to assume that one size should fit all.

The mantra remains that we must know our clients.