Trends to Watch

Inclusion & Diversity: How Global Mobility Can Help Move the Needle

This article originally appeared in the June 2018 edition of Mobility Magazine.

Most of today’s international companies recognize the proven benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace, and a significant majority of them have strategic goals and performance measures in place to broaden their pool of talent. A new survey from KPMG International shows that global mobility teams can help their companies realize these goals in important ways.

But with specific employee relocation decisions largely in the hands of the business, many global mobility teams struggle to see how they can make a difference. Encouragingly, the survey shows that some global mobility teams are embracing their role in advancing inclusion and diversity—helping their companies bring people’s differences together in the workplace, fully utilize all of their talent, and foster an innovative, productive business environment.

The Business Case for Inclusion and Diversity

The business case for boosting inclusion and diversity is clear. By providing equal opportunity, promoting acceptance and understanding, and highlighting the value that all employees bring, companies can tap a bigger pool of resources and improve their brand, reputation, and global market competitiveness.

However, the majority of global mobility professionals surveyed do not have specific inclusion and diversity objectives as part of their department’s strategy. The most common reason for this lack of goals, cited by 59 percent of respondents, is that international assignment candidates are chosen by the business unit, not global mobility. The idea that global mobility’s job in facilitating assignments is purely operational is another common reason (31 percent).

Global mobility departments' inclusion and diversity strategies

With the view that global mobility is merely providing service to the business, many mobility professionals say inclusion and diversity goals are not only unnecessary but also counterproductive and unattainable. Further, almost a third of respondents (31 percent) see no need for these goals because they view the movement of people to new countries and cultures as inclusive and diverse by its very nature.

Related: The Transformation of Mobility

The minority of respondents who do have inclusion and diversity goals (41 percent) tell a different story. The strong business case for inclusion and diversity across all areas of the business is the most common reason for setting global mobility inclusion and diversity goals (70 percent), well ahead of other factors such as responding to internal feedback (12 percent) and marketplace pressure (5 percent).

Goals Versus Real-World Challenges

Most global mobility teams face distinct challenges in meeting these goals. One of the biggest hurdles is the scarcity of mobility-related data on most demographics, apart from gender. The data gap makes it difficult for global mobility teams to identify patterns, problem areas, and solutions related to, for example, religion, ethnicity, and disability status.

The survey results themselves highlight how data can reveal areas in which changes in priority could advance inclusion and diversity. When asked which areas of diversity and inclusion are priorities for their global mobility programs and policies, gender/gender identity was named by more than three-quarters of respondents, followed by socio-economic background (41 percent) and age and ethnicity (each 37 percent). Only 24 percent said priority is given to sexual orientation.

But responses to another question suggest sexual orientation warrants higher priority. At 39 percent, sexual minorities were the most common demographic reported as turning down assignments or making other adverse mobility decisions. Gender/gender identity and socio-economic background were the next-most commonly cited, both at 31 percent. While understanding the reasons behind all of these responses is important, they also indicate that the priority allocated to different demographics needs a closer look.

Achieving inclusion and diversity goals can also be blocked by a lack of diversity among the pool of candidates. If all the potential candidates for an assignment share similar demographic traits, as occurs with traditionally male-dominated work in construction and mining, casting a wider demographic net may be impossible.

Read the rest of this article in the June 2018 edition of Mobility Magazine.

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