How global mobility can drive a diverse and inclusive workplace

Today there is a greater awareness of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, not only in policies, but as a core component of company culture. How can companies attract and retain diverse talent?

Summer-issue-250619b
Relocate magazine summer 2019 issue
This article is taken from the Summer 2019 issue of Relocate Magazine where you can find a full Awards supplement.Companies are fast realising that cultivating an inclusive culture encourages employees to do their best work for the company. Being on the front line of human resources, global mobility departments play a critical role in providing vital support for a diverse group of candidates as their first experience with their new employer. A study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) revealed a direct correlation between increased revenue and diversity within an organisation. Research by McKinsey & Company also supports this notion, showing that the most diverse companies were (by gender, 21% and racial/ethnic, 33%) more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median. So, its clear companies need to work on diversity, but what can global mobility teams do to help drive a diverse and inclusive environment?

Attracting and Retaining Diverse Talent 

Recruiting is often a new hire’s first experience with an organisation, so it is important to give the right impression. Diversity is playing an increased role in recruitment – as cited by Forbes – and is proving a key competitive differentiator/advantage. To successfully attract diverse talent, all involved with the process need to understand what diversity means to a wide range of people. As an industry, relocation policies have historically been a one-size-fits-all model, yet there are huge variations in personal situations. In addition, global mobility teams can ensure they are appealing to all by making sure the relocation programme is flexible and reflective of the modern family dynamic, specific to the relocating country, including:
  • Single-parent employees

  • Accompanying partners or adult dependents
  • Spouse/partner re-employment
  • Dual career families
  • Single employees

  • LGBTQ+ relationships

By recognising and supporting employees’ varying needs in global mobility policies, it encourages them to accept assignment offers, which helps to ensure deserving talent does not experience barriers to success.The elimination of unconscious bias should also be a key priority for companies and global mobility teams, as this is often where employers are going wrong. In addition to undertaking specific training, global mobility teams should provide relocation statistics to indicate unconscious bias; for example, if companies are falling short of diversity achievements, despite their best intentions. Collecting and reviewing feedback from employees (including those on assignment and those who turned an offer down) is also vital in helping to determine whether diversity and inclusion are truly being achieved. Discussions highlight shortfalls, helping the company to better evolve its relocation programmes.

Case Study: Family and Partner Support 

An employee (internally referred to as an ‘associate’) relocating with their partner/family enables them to have their support network close to them. In addition to improving the work/life balance of the employee, if they successfully transition and are settled in as quickly as possible, they are more able to focus on their assignment. Below are examples of how SIRVA helped support Capital Group’s employees with an inclusive family benefits programme:
  • On-site delivery support to help parents supervising young children 

  • In-person meets and greets 

  • Hotels for late-night arrivals 

  • Live-in partners receiving the same benefits as married couples 

  • Security deposit advances made for early-in-career assignees 

  • Cultural and language training for assignees/partners/families 

  • In-depth destination research, e.g. safety for assignee/partner/family 

  • Accommodation/care for ailing parents 

  • Resources for parents of children with special needs
In terms of partner support, ‘trailing spouses’ have been replaced by dual-career families, where both partners make significant contributions to the household income. A 2018 survey report by Ernst & Young (EY) found that 82% of partner respondents had a bachelors, masters or PhD degree and 77% were in work when their partner was offered the assignment. This means that partners are now educated, career-focused equals and involved in the decision process. The top reason for a failed assignment, according to the study, was a partner not willing to move because of his or her career. In fact, 71% of all respondents (approximately 3,500 employers, partners and transferees of 81 nationalities located in 121 countries) attributed an unhappy, unintegrated partner as the number-one reason for failed assignments. This shows that offering partner support is not only a factor in whether an assignment is accepted or not, but also helps to make the assignment a success. 
Partner support can include help finding a new job, training, developing a career plan and learning the language and business etiquette. The definition of ‘partner’ must also be expanded by companies wanting to be inclusive; 78% of employers surveyed by EY now recognise ‘partner’ in the broadest terms by including legally married, as well as unmarried partners of both the opposite and same gender. 


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Assignee Compatability 

There are, however, two sides to this coin: while diversity in the workforce is critical to success, this must be balanced with budgets, immigration and local culture to ensure success for the transferring assignee. Challenges may arise based on limited school options at the destination, acceptance of LGBTQ+ lifestyle in other cultures, personal safety and healthcare availability for those with dependents who need long-term or in-home care. Each of these factors, when linked to an employee’s personal situation, may drive whether the relocation opportunity is truly right for them. Therefore, it is critical that benefits and opportunities are open to all qualified employees, but everyone involved must accept that what may be a great professional opportunity, may not be the right decision for an individual or his/her family. Employees declining an assignment or relocation should not be viewed negatively, but with respect of the employee as an individual and not just a worker. 
Rather than just delivering a relocation package, companies must also ensure that partners and vendors share the same values and training is given where required. They must also make sure that the drive for inclusion is not just seen in policies, but among all employees. Who is informing the policies? Do these decision-makers come from a diverse background and do they understand diversity and inclusion challenges? Companies must have honest and open discussions about 
whether diversity and inclusion are truly being achieved – and not just seen as a box-ticking operation.

Overcoming Challenges to Achieve Diversity 

One way to deal with these challenges is to utilise a candidate assessment tool to educate families on the culture, laws and social mores of a particular destination and to determine whether or not that location is appropriate for them. Assessment and education at an early stage is an important step to ensure they are making informed decisions.Another way to overcome challenges in achieving diversity is by giving global mobility teams a ‘seat at the table’, so they are recognised not just as a support function, but as a strategic partner. This enables them to improve mobility decisions at higher levels within the company and demonstrates a commitment to achieve a voice for change to improve diversity and inclusion.In addition, conversations with individual employees are highly important, not only as an opportunity for global mobility teams to learn more about an assignee’s needs and the support they can offer, but as a safeguarding mission to help them better prepare for future similar relocations. These conversations can be informal or formal; topics can include child or adult care options, relocating with children with special needs, dual-career families and those moving by themselves.The flexibility of policies also needs to be made possible, as exceptions to the rule are common – no one family is the same. For example, the policy may offer childcare reimbursement during a home finding trip, but an employee may instead have a parent living with them who cannot be left alone. Flexibility allows for adult dependent care to be a reimbursable expense on a home finding trip, which is of great value to the assignee. Another example is an employee not feeling comfortable checking into a temporary housing option at night, so employers offer a hotel stay for the night of arrival, allowing the employee to move into his/her apartment during daylight hours.

Summary 

To conclude, fostering an environment of inclusivity can have an undoubtedly positive effect on the recruitment, involvement and retention of a diverse workforce. A workforce that is diverse offers different ideas, perspectives and experiences and encourages healthy debates, inspiring innovation. It expands employee perceptions and, as such, also increases the company’s ability to reach a more diverse customer base. A Center for Talent Innovation survey found that 48% of companies in the US with more diversity at the senior management level improved their market share the previous year. The EY study reported that 33% of employers noticed anincrease in the job performance of their assignees by offering partner support. And 85% of the CEOs surveyed by PwC, whose companies have a formal diversity and inclusiveness strategy, said it has improved their bottom line. This is because a diverse workforce brings different perspectives, helping businesses gain a well-rounded view of their market and products/ services, while providing an inclusive environment for talent to thrive.The education of staff on the true value of diversity – such as how a person’s experiences and perspectives can be of great value upon assignment and elimination of unconscious bias – helps companies to attract and retain the best talent. Global mobility teams need to offer flexibility in policies to allow programmes to be inclusive. The benefits are substantial to employees and their employers, alike.
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