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Geopolitical risk - People


At its core, an organisation is about people; employees, customers, third party stakeholders and the communities in which businesses operate. More broadly, the political and economic landscapes are people-driven, and human geography including areas such as population and man-made climate change, are also people driven.

People risk hexagons
Geopolitics and people risk

Managing people risk

Risks to your people, and risks caused by people to your business, exist in every geography you operate in.

  • Are you confident that you have an understanding of the far-reaching impacts of geopolitical events, such as a pandemic, on your people and business?
  • Will climate or social changes put your workforce at risk?

Types of geopolitical people risk

People risk is one of the lenses through which geopolitical risk should be analysed. At Willis Towers Watson, we view people risk as two sides of one coin, risk to people, and risks caused by your people.

Managing risks to your employees

Risk to people includes health and safety risks, exposures to natural disaster, terrorism, political violence and crime (including kidnap for ransom and extortion). This represents an organisation’s duty of care to its employees (and customers) to identify, prevent, protect and respond to these risks. The other side of the coin is risk to the organisation from people factors. This covers a range of issues, from malicious insiders selling company passwords, to broader concerns of how to attract, engage, and retain the required talent.

The former, first side of the coin underpins concepts such as duty of care. The geopolitical and security drivers of the threat landscape inhabited by people are manifold and varied. They range from income disparity, forced migration as a result of environmental stresses and/or conflict to resource competition, trade wars, nationalism, civil disorder and war. These drivers manifest themselves in an equally varied set of risks to people such as natural disaster, political violence, kidnap, extortion, assault, disease and accidents.

Willis Towers Watson has a team of specialist insurance brokers in the field of kidnap and ransom, political evacuation armed assailant, personal accident insurance and crisis management. We provide comprehensive risk solutions to identify, mitigate and manage geopolitical events in volatile overseas markets. We have experience in handling incidents and claims affecting our clients in highly sensitive and complex situations.

Managing risks caused by employees

The second side of the coin, managing risks caused by employees. Organisations need to:

  • Understand how the macro environment of people; things such as migration, impacts current and planned operations and respond accordingly
  • Ensure they can attract, engage and retain the right talent in different cultures and geographies
  • Optimise the total cost of reward, given an organisation’s position in the triangle of politics, economics and geography.
  • Design and implement high performance environments to ensure that people “do the right thing” which safeguard reputation and fiscal stability
  • Develop, assess and maintain effective safety culture and risk culture to protect employees, reputation
  • Implement an ESG (environmental, social and governance) approach that is right for their circumstances
  • Build resilience to external shocks (i.e. pandemic) through effective people programmes
  • Prepare for the future of work

Effective risk management and mitigation cannot be viewed in isolation from the human capital elements. Organisations should take a holistic view of geopolitical risk and opportunity and understand how people factors are fundamental to both the drivers of risk and the risks themselves. By leveraging our extensive human capital experience, we align the management of risk with the management of human capital. Our experts work closely with clients to ensure that organisations understand and respond to the full spectrum of people risk factors, and the opportunities that can be generated by thinking about people risk differently.

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