Global mobility and the disconnect with diversity and inclusion

Deloitte has recently published a report that recommends greater collaboration between Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) and Global Mobility (GM) areas in organizations. To clarify: In general, D&I is charged with ensuring organizational policies and practices enable different populations within a business to succeed. The different populations can include racial, gender, ethnic, and generational, and cognitively diverse groups. GM is responsible for identifying, transferring, and supporting talent (expats) to meet workforce needs internationally. The report states, “Diversity & inclusion and global mobility are natural partners for unleashing people’s potential globally, yet they are often disconnected.”

Traditionally, GM has been an operational function (“people mover”), but is increasingly seen in more strategic terms, e.g. new market entry, innovation, access to new customer segments, merger and acquisition.

A Deloitte survey of global mobility leaders and professionals found:

  • About 1 in 5 reported having a strong understanding of and alignment with enterprise D&I strategy and priorities
  • Only 1 in 10 reported participating in D&I discussions and planning
  • Less than 15 percent of companies said they track and report D&I data for global mobility

Other data identifies obstacles to participation in international opportunities by employees with “non-traditional” profiles:

  • Only 1 in 5 international assignees are women; only modest gains have been made over the last decade
  • Fifty-three percent of LGBT employees have not come out at work; 23 percent fear they will not be offered opportunities like GMif they do come out
  • Sixty-one percent of employers are unaware of LGBT social and legal conditions in countries of operation
  • While 88 percent of leaders report being concerned about finding suitable candidates for international assignments, only 6 percent actively encourage mobility among minorities
  • Millennials – in the majority – expect international experience to be part of their careers, and most are willing to work abroad
  • Family is the number one reason given by both men and women for refusing international assignments, and family issues play a significant role in assignment success or failure. One concern is that GM policies have not kept up with changing definitions of the family

Why Greater D&I and GM Collaboration is Important

Several reasons stand out as significant:

  • Leader Pipeline: In a challenging global business environment, international experience is important in career advancement. A lack of inclusion in GM narrows the leader pipeline for the organization.
  • Talent Brand: A perceived lack of GM opportunities for diverse employees can negatively impact the organization’s ability to attract ‘non-traditional’ employees.
  • Talent Impact: A lack of GM inclusiveness means an organization may not be deploying its best and brightest employees to key markets to tackle key challenges and innovate.
  • Market Profile: Sameness among international assignees can signal to local offices, customers, and communities that the business is not committed to reflecting the diversity of local markets.

What Next?

  • Understand the current relationship – if any – between D&I and GM in your organization
  • Create a vision and some initial goals for greater D&I and GM collaboration
  • Review current global mobility practices to ensure inclusive design

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About the Author

Terence Brake

Terence Brake is an author in the global learning & development field and has over 20 years experience helping executives to work better across cultures.

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