Donald Trump’s first weeks in office have been marked by a series of controversial executive orders, including: the construction of a wall to rival China’s medieval defense system, the continuation of a contentious pipeline project, and an immediate travel ban on residents from a list of “countries of concern.” The order also bans the admittance of refugees from Syria indefinitely.
A federal judge ruled that foreign nationals who were stranded in US airports would not be deported, but any further immigration from the following countries is banned for at least the next 90 days:
“Countries of Concern”
Along with sparking controversy abroad, this executive order has been denounced by tech leaders around the US, especially those with employees who have been affected by the ban.
According to NBC news, many prominent tech leaders have taken steps to manage the negative effects of this order:
In an internal memo to employees, Apple CEO Tim Cook said,
“There are employees at Apple who are directly affected by yesterday’s immigration order. Our HR, Legal and Security teams are in contact with them, and Apple will do everything we can to support them.”
Cook finished this memo by quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“We may have all come on different ships, but we are in the same boat now.”
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook was one of the first to speak out, saying:
“We need to keep this country safe, but we should do that by focusing on people who actually pose a threat.”
Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that over 200 employees working abroad will be affected and is quoted as saying,
“We’re concerned about the impact of this order and any proposals that could impose restrictions on Googlers and their families.”
One of Google’s heads of product management, Sanaz Ahari, is an example of one such impacted employee. Ahari is 37 weeks pregnant, and her parents were banned from visiting to attend the birth of their grandson. If Ahari had been traveling outside the country at the time of this ban, her green card may not have been enough to allow her back into the country to be with her American husband and 1 ½ year old American daughter.
Tech and Foreign Talent
Tech companies are some of the heaviest users of H-1B visas, which are given to skilled foreign workers to live and work in the United States. As companies of all kinds do business in an increasingly global context, this ban will have an impact on many employee and business relationships for companies in the US. Even if none of your on-site or remote/contract employees are restricted from travel, some of your employees or business partners/clients may have loved ones or business interests that are affected.
If you have employees or business interests/relationships that are or could be affected by this executive order, there are some steps that you should take to avoid potential fallout.
Companies with employees, business interests or business relationships that could be affected by the ban, should make public statements in the vein of the tech companies quoted earlier in this article.
The goal of this statement is damage control, letting all potentially compromised parties know that you want to continue with “business as usual,” despite this development. This statement should, hopefully, prompt any affected business partner, client, investor or other business interest to approach you with their concerns. For those who don’t approach you, this statement will demonstrate your sympathy when your company is able to touch base with them.
The next step in damage control is reaching out to your staff so that all affected employees can get the support they need. In an internal memo to all employees, extend your support to any and all employees who are affected by the ban and invite them to come forward. This memo should communicate that your company is ready to support affected employees and wants to know of any challenges that the ban is presenting to employees or company interests.
If you are experiencing the worst-case scenario of this travel ban, and are down key employees who were traveling on business or vacation, you need to get in-touch and remain in-touch with them. They are going through a great deal of stress and uncertainty, and retaining them will depend on how well you can help them through this crisis.
Make a plan of action with stranded employees that covers: their travel plans/possibilities, their living arrangements, their legal/general needs and they’re remaining up to-date with their work. For at least the next 90 days, these employees will be working remotely, and having work to focus on will help introduce stability into their unstable situation. They have a lot on their plate, but focusing on getting back to work, will show them that they are still a valued, functional member of the team.
Getting Back to Work
Once you make a plan with affected and stranded employees, your goal is to get them back to work as soon as possible. That being said, you should assure affected/stranded employees that you understand their situation and understand that “getting back to work” may be easier said than done.
Stranded employees will need to coordinate with team members on a time difference, for starters, and may have limited access to the internet or resources that they are used to working with. Then there are the periods when stranded employees will be unable to do work. The next 90 days may require them to make several moves from hotels, to the homes of relatives or even to other foreign countries, so anticipating and working around these periods will be key.
However, as long as you accommodate the needs of affected employees, they can continue to be productive members of the team for the duration of the travel ban. They may not get as much work done as they could have, but some output is better than none at all, especially when considering the potential legal/housing/travel costs presented by this development.
Maintaining positive relationships with affected employees, contractors, clients, customers, partners and investors depends on your company’s actions in the coming days and weeks. Many of these relationships may have been strained by the travel ban, and you need to assess and address the damage. However, by demonstrating your commitment to affected employees and business partners, you can still work around the complications created by this executive order.