Mobility & Inclusiveness in a Protectionist World

Employees in every part of the world are being inundated with news stories featuring politicians and pundits discussing possible legislative changes that could impact immigration policies. This forces organizations to manage the message as well as manage reality. Immigration changes take time to implement, but the gap between proposals and change leaves organizations with a mobile workforce feeling concerned, distressed, isolated, and abandoned.

The slow global economic recovery from the most significant downturn in half a century—the Great Recession—has been characterized by unexpected political outcomes. In response, businesses have taken a closer look at their mobility strategies, resulting in the reduction of traditional long-term moves and an increase in the volume of employees who regularly cross borders as part of their employment. The implications of this trend include the feeling among employee groups that they are marginalized and discriminated against, and the loss of skilled talent.

In a time of increasing protectionism across the immigration legislative landscape, companies are seeking to strike a balance between leading with their values of inclusion and human equity, and managing how they practically navigate the realities of getting business done efficiently in the current climate.

Businesses across the U.S. are being faced with the most aggressive use of requests for evidence in more than two decades, coupled with the uncertainty of what will happen to their workforce after Brexit. It is important for human resources and talent executives to keep a clear focus on their talent agenda and the inclusiveness of their recruitment, talent development, and mobility programs. While globalization has been key in driving advances in diversity, inclusion, social cohesion, and progress the world over, we should not be complacent nor ignore the need for employees to feel part of the big picture.

Does ‘globalization’ get a bad rap?

Globalization has been blamed for job losses, disaffected citizenry, and social and economic alienation, but it is not by itself the problem. The offshoring of production, automation, rapidly advancing technology, and the increasing gap in the distribution of wealth are all complex and intrinsic elements of globalization that are contributing to economic and social disruption, and to the shifting of economic dominance away from traditionally strong Western economies.

The impact of this social and economic upheaval is increasingly manifesting itself through public expressions of nationalist and protectionist sentiment. For clear evidence, look to the rhetoric and subsequent results of the U.S. elections, the Brexit referendum in the U.K., and the resurgence of far-right parties across the West. However, if viewed in isolation, these Western events give a somewhat skewed perspective of the impact of globalization.

The free flow of people, ideas, and trade has had arguably a more positive effect, as evidenced by the 600 million people in China who have been lifted out of poverty and the booming tech resource economy in India that has added millions of new consumers to the market for Western-branded goods. In fact, there are compelling examples of the net positive impact of globalization around the world.

Companies have a duty of care to help their employees traverse the disruption that is taking place, societally and politically, so that they remain committed in their roles, particularly when that involves travel, mobility, and the intercultural exchanges necessary to drive growth within the business. So how do they do this?

There are a few steps that companies should consider to better plan for an uncertain future and to have their employees, at home and in the field, feel engaged and included in that future.

Keep your global talent engaged

As political uncertainty grows, it is critical to keep your global workforce engaged and committed to the organization’s business strategy. By continuing to reinforce the firm’s stated principles and core values of respect, equity, inclusion, tolerance, and fairness on a continual basis, you can set the tone throughout the organization and beyond. To understand the level of engagement among this population of your workforce, it is helpful to conduct an opportunity and risk assessment to determine how current affairs might be impacting their relationships with colleagues. It is also useful in discovering how they feel about the location and country where they are working.

The results of this assessment help to identify the priorities for action to address potential marginalization of different employee groups. It is important to recognize and respect differences of thought and opinions while providing protections and safe harbor to those employees feeling marginalized.

Above all, constant communication will help keep these employees feeling connected to the organization. You can keep them informed with fact sheets, webinars, and training sessions about the values and purpose of the organization. A clearly stated and articulated purpose from the senior leaders of the organization will unify and galvanize the workforce.

Read the April 2018 Mobility magazine article for more information.

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