ESG: Putting the social factor into leadership and global mobility

Organisations have embraced greener alternatives in their quest to improve their environmental credentials. The social and governance aspects, however, have received less attention. Dr Sue Shortland explains some of the actions employers might take to address social issues to provide a more comprehensive approach to meeting ESG objectives.

Group of people discussing ESG

This article is taken from the Autumn 2023 issue of

Think Global People magazine

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View your copy of the Autumn 2023 issue of Think Global People magazine.

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues have become high profile matters in recent years. One of the key concerns that has captured organisational attention and imagination is how global mobility can become more environmentally sustainable.Companies have increasingly begun to embrace this aspect across a wide range of policy areas. So, for example, their focus has been on actions that can be taken for a greener approach to travel, housing, furnishings, and supporting employees financially on aspects such as utilities and cost of living.Yet, perhaps surprisingly, less emphasis seems to have been placed on the social and governance aspects within ESG. It is important to remember that these three ESG pillars support each other andcompanies looking to improve their employer brand as well as contribute positively to a better society will need to focus on social and governance issues as well as improving their environmental credentials.

DE & I Actions

With respect to the social pillar, organisations can focus here on diversity, equity and inclusion (DE & I) objectives. This is beginning to extend beyond the traditional general organisational remit into the global mobility domain – the latter being a business area that has traditionally moved a relatively homogenous population. To attract and address greater diversity within the international sphere, organisations have begun to modify their assignment approaches and supporting policies, thereby aligning these with organisational objectives to improve DE & I.Organisations need to consider practical steps not only to widen their diversity, but also to ensure equity and inclusion once more diverse candidates are on board. The main focus that global mobility professionals appear to be taking currently is on updating policies in order to ensure a more inclusive use of language alongside a more flexible approach to supporting employees with diverse needs. But action also needs to be taken to ensure that employees and their families understand that their personal needs are being considered – in other words, good communications are needed such that individuals and their families realise that organisational policies are becoming more tailored rather than generalised and prescriptive.Another current trend is towards provision of cash lump sums rather than prescribed policy elements. Again, while this presents a method of assisting with individual needs, it is important to remember that employees and their families will frequently require some support in order to guide them as to how to apply cash benefits that best meet their circumstances during the complex process of global mobility.  As such, personal and tailored communication as well as support for non-traditional assignees/nonstandard assignments will become increasingly important if equity and inclusion are to be achieved for a more diverse profile of individuals and families on the move.However, for a truly strong focus on the social pillar, organisations need to go beyond inclusive language and flexible application of benefits. To encourage and support a more diverse workforce, be that in-country or globally mobile personnel, organisations will need to ensure that access to relevant employment opportunities is made available to the broadest possible spectrum of candidates.  This may involve supporting the deployment and growth of local talent as well as individuals who  are prepared to move countries in order to further their careers. Organisational leaders will need to consider aspects such as how diverse populations can be socially and culturally integrated within the workforce and how access to opportunities can be offered to individuals who may be considered as non-traditional post-holders.

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Access for non-traditional candidates

Transparency in offering positions will be crucial to ensuring diverse applicants are able to apply for career opportunities. Organisations will need to remember that nontraditional applicants may not look in the job marketplaces where organisations traditionally advertise roles. Care also needs to be taken about the use and nature of social networks because these tend to lead to opportunities for those who form part of that specific network, potentially excluding anyone who does not consider themselves relevant to it.In order to diversify the workforce, and potentially make local roles and international mobility more widely available, organisational leaders may need to consider how they can access less well-networked populations. Of course, organisations may feel that this requires considerable effort simply to widen out the marketplace to individuals who may or may not be appropriate for the roles while traditional advertising and networking can bring in sufficient numbers of suitably qualified candidates. The message here though is that a more diverse profile provides wider choice for organisations to address talent pipeline deficiencies.

Record keeping and monitoring

In order to manage the social ESG aspects effectively, it is important to ensure that records are kept on diversity such that the organisation can see where there are areas that still require further input and support.  Keeping diversity records is also paramount to monitoring actions and determining their success.The starting point is to have a clear definition of what constitutes diversity and which aspects are to be recorded and monitored.  So, for example, an organisation may wish to record diversity statistics according to established protected characteristics such as those published in the Equality Act (2010). Such demographics are likely to include gender, race and ethnicity, age, disability, religion, and sexual orientation.However, organisations that wish to monitor other characteristics as part of their diversity initiatives might also wish to record aspects such as family size, special needs children, non-traditional families, etc. The argument behind this is that when individuals relocate, the moves involve entire families and as such, the social pillar will include addressing any special needs required by accompanying families as well as those of employees themselves.In addition, organisations might even wish to consider data collection on issues such as educational background, international experience, and other social background information. Here the aim is to widen diversity out to include those with different experiential, informational, social networks and value-set diversity.

The input of the global mobility function

With respect to international mobility and actions that the global mobility function might take, practical initiatives might include, for instance, adding additional allowances to match DE & I cases, considering actions that might be taken to support diversity requirements within the selection process, increasing flexibility within policy design aside from providing cash alternatives, even implementing new policies to support a more diverse workforce. The use of specialist service providers to support diversity needs might also be included within policy.Communication lies at the heart of success and as such it is crucial that the global mobility function or service suppliers employed to manage the moves consult with the employee and family in order to understand individual requirements that need to be addressed within the employment situation and as part of the mobility process. Organisations might need to widen out their definitions of ‘family’ to include other members beyond spouses/partners and children, reflecting diverse family situations and the support that other individuals may give within family life.

CSR values and actions

There is also a corporate social responsibility (CSR) angle here.  Organisations increasingly have a social and moral duty to the populations and locations where they run their operations. Organisations which are held up as socially responsible become high profile and highly sought-after places to work, again attracting the best talent from the marketplace. There is a positive message here – corporately and socially responsible employers are highly valued societal members and this raises brand profile.Hence, besides having a social focus on the employee and family being employed and/or relocated, organisations should consider extending this out into the destination location such that local leaders and employees who are relocated abroad adopt a strong social emphasis. This means that a CSR objective could well be part of the leadership/assignee job specification with CSR/DE & I principles being applied in the delivery of role objectives and in the development of local people.It is important therefore that organisations look beyond a narrow social DE & I focus in selection and deployment of leaders, managers and globally mobile individuals. Emphasis also must be placed on the social pillar within the ESG policy to encompass the outcomes of appointments and assignments and their impact locally on CSR and DE & I principles in the host environment.

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