June 22, 2018

Diversity and Inclusion as a Global Mobility Policy

This article originally appeared in The RES Forum Annual Report 2018.

Global Mobility is innately an advocate for diversity. We move people all over the world to increase business intelligence, global mindsets, and diversity of thought. We encourage and advocate for cultural competence when we send expats to a foreign country. However, how often are we aligning with diversity and inclusion leaders to achieve the strategic goals for the company?

In 1890, William James noted the fact that “human beings have a fundamental need for inclusion and belonging.” Diversity and inclusion (D&I) have proven to create competitive advantages with talent for companies and increase bottom line revenues. According to a Deloitte survey from 2015, “companies with an inclusive culture have 22% lower employee turnover.” Combine that with McKinsey’s latest inclusion and diversity report finding that companies with higher gender diversity in their executive teams are 21% more profitable. An even greater increase of 33% higher revenue is attributed to ethnic/cultural diverse executive cultures.

Workforce planning and diversity and inclusion currently work side by side to make sure companies are appealing to and are retaining talent. Global Mobility has an opportunity to elevate the discussion and position GM not only as an advocate for diversity but as a collaboration tool for attracting diversity. Now is the time to align with diversity and inclusion to:

1. Ensure our language attracts a diverse expat population
2. Have our policies reflect and represent the diversity
3. Plan for repatriation to maximize the diversity of thought that each expat brings home with them



One key tool diversity and inclusion uses to measure success is the pool of candidates applying for each role. KPIs judge the language used in job profiles and advertisements by measuring the percentage of ‘diverse’ applicants that have not only applied for but have been chosen for consideration. Pitfalls occur when companies take on diversity, and subsequently Global Mobility, from a single point of view. Typically, American-centric companies have ‘cultural jungles’ (Philip Berry, PB Associates) that create policy and language for the entire company. These ‘jungles’ may not intrinsically see diversity from other points of view. Christopher Bylone, Global PMO Diversity and Inclusion, International Flavors and Fragrances, gives an example, “IFF views ourselves as ‘global company that just happens to be headquartered in the USA’ and this really helped break the mold of how other US companies carryout a Diversity & Inclusion program”. Bylone goes on to describe diversity from a global perspective “diversity looks different in every corner of the world. It is important to approach from the local interpretation and adapt our approach accordingly”. Global Mobility can also face these pitfalls when our assignment postings, policy language, and opportunities do not inherently represent the (internal or external) candidate pool. An alignment with diversity and inclusion provides the opportunity to share best practices, synchronize strategies and contribute to the corporate vision.



Further to the language of our policies are the policies themselves. As we attract a broad candidate pool and encourage diverse culture, do we in GM have policies to mirror and represent what diversity and inclusion and the broader company, look to accomplish? Traditionally – expats have been men, usually single, on assignment for 2-3 years. As GM has matured and grown, we have seen more women go on assignment and ‘traditional’ families change. Now non-traditional families including domestic partners, gay couples, dual career partners, just to name a few, are becoming more frequent. This diversity forces us to look at our policies and revise them. Most companies use exceptions - however, there is a significant impact on the overall success of our programs. Exception management increases both soft costs and actual expense. According to Oliver Meier with Mercer, “Used too frequently, {exceptions} can destroy the consistency of your mobility policy, lead to inequity among international assignees, and create employee retention problems as well as cost issues”. The need to work with D&I increases to make sure GM policies reflect the talent gamut represented in the company. Simple changes include recognizing partners, whether married or not. Changing the definition of families to include extended family will encourage cultures where larger families live together. Even giving mind to flexible working terms gives parents an additional incentive to take assignments. One well-known consumer goods company has built a team of diverse GM professionals to actively provide input into the creation and development of policy. “If we are too ethnocentric, we lose sight of other perspectives. We must incorporate elements of diversity in GM [policy].”



It goes without saying that the most impact expats can have is the diversity of thought they provide upon repatriation. Succession planning has long been identified as a key factor in GM assignment success, and the topic of repatriation is a constant topic at industry events. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) “the decision to send an employee overseas should be made holistically, taking into account a host of factors: career management, individual preparedness, cross-cultural disposition and family readiness”. Average turnover rates for repatriates have been said to reach 25%. If a company on average relocates 100 employees per year and 25 of those employees have left due to improper succession and repatriation planning, millions of dollars spent not only on the actual relocation cost, but the intellectual property they’ve developed while abroad, has now just walked out the door – likely to a competitor. A repatriation culture and program that recognizes the diversity of thought the employee brings back with them can help in the transition process. The largest complaint repatriates have is the lack of worth their new skills seem to have back home. Incorporating these skills is vital to the success of any multinational organization and ultimately a GM program.


Strategic Partnership

The alignment of GM with HR, talent management and ultimately D&I not only makes sense but is an organic symbiosis. These departments working together and complementing each other cannot only better prepare the expatriate’s assignment but also their repatriation into the home country and the progression thereafter. If GM managers have identified the candidate as high-potential, the loss we suffer after a repatriate leaves is far greater than the work it takes to plan ahead. The statistics are clear: Over 350 CEO’s from around the world have signed and committed to creating measurable action to increase inclusion in their workplaces (www.CEOaction.com). There is no better time than now for GM to contribute more strategically to the conversation. “The price of light is less than the cost of darkness” (Richard McDonald). As we undertake the shifting role of GM, part of that shift is moving from an administrative role to a strategic partner. Actively supporting company strategy and aligning with Diversity & Inclusion can move Global Mobility out of the darkness and into the (lime)light.

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Riordan, Christine M., 2014. Harvard Business Review. Diversity is Useless without Inclusivity.
Anderson-Finch, Shannon, et al., Deloitte Development, LLC, 2015. Inclusive Mobility: How Mobilizing a Diverse Workforce Can Drive Business Performance
Hunt, Vivian, et al., McKinsey & Company, 2018. Delivering Through Diversity.
Meier, Olivier. Mercer. March 2018. Managing Mobility Policy Exceptions https:// mobilityexchange.mercer.com/Insights/article/Managing-Mobility-Policy-Exceptions
Gulati, Amy. 2014. SHRM. Protecting Your Expat Investment with Effective Repatriation. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/global-hr/pages/protect-expat-effectiverepatriation.aspx www.CEOinaction.com
Bylone, Christopher. 2018. Global PMO, Diversity & Inclusion and Strategic Workforce Planning. International Flavours & Fragrances.
Berry, Philip. 2018. Philip Berry Associates.

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