Operating (or not) in Russia
Global Crises: Ukraine & COVID-19

Featured Network Directors

Rita Vanhauwenhuyse

Marissa Schriefer

Sr. Network Director

Rita Vanhauwenhuyse

Gosia Fennell

Sr. Network Director

Eleven days after their first call on the subject, EN members reconvened to discuss the dramatic situation in Ukraine and Russia. This virtual conversation included more than 15 members representing diverse industries. Executive Networks extends its sincere thanks to all who participated.

Operating (or not) in Russia

Some member companies have ceased operations in Russia. Others continue to operate, most notably those on the call with larger employee populations in the country. “We are trying to work through all of this,” said a member. “It’s a very difficult topic. We have more than 3,500 employees in Russia.”

• Business continues, interrupted: Five members, all with 3,000+ employees in Russia, said they were continuing to operate in country. Their local business leaders remain under immense pressure, dealing with a plethora of employee, supply and logistics challenges.. One of the five has deliberately reduced production output. Another, with businesses in food production, said, “We are keeping employees working everywhere that we can because we do not want to exasperate any food shortages.”

• Winding down Russian operations: Two others on the call have already ceased operations in Russia, in accordance with home country sanctions. “We’ve stopped doing business entirely in Russia,” one explained. “What type of severance packages are others looking at for Russia? Where is this headed?” Others echoed the member’s questions, but no one had an answer.

Refugee Employees

For those on the call, full time employee numbers are much lower in Ukraine than in Russia, but for Ukrainian employees, working is even more daunting. Only a limited number of them safely re-established in Poland, Romania or elsewhere are physically able to work, if host governments would allow it.

• Actively pursuing permits (and looking at other options): ”We are looking at all options,” a member said. “Depending on where our people ended up, we are trying to get them work permits so that they can work where they are. But, we cannot guarantee our Russian and Ukrainian employees jobs. Severance packages are on the table for all.”

• Advance pay: One of the quickest ways for HR leaders to help affected employees is to get them access to cash. Members on the call are uniformly advancing pay to employees in Ukraine and Russia, but access to banking services and cash remains a challenge, especially for employees who have fled their home countries amid the conflict..

Insurance Challenges

Lawyers from member companies are combing through insurance contracts, with members expecting that their companies will pay life and disability policy claims even if insurers balk.

• Will self-insure if forced: ”Self-insurance is our fallback option,” a member explained. “It looks like our policy will cover refugees, but we have been trying to see what the coverage looks like for members staying in Ukraine versus those who have fled.”

Repurposing COVID Communication Tools

One member, with a particularly large employee population in both Ukraine and Russia, shared that her company’s leaders have returned to video journaling, a practice that first emerged in her company during the 2020 lockdowns.

“Our regional directors are doing video journals and showing their vulnerabilities,” she explained. “There have been 3 of them so far, about 10 to 12 minutes each. I find them to be a powerful way of communicating with the organization. My team have seen them, and it makes us very emotional.”

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