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Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in a Global Workplace

Mobility Perspectives and Strategies

Like all organizational functions and business units, Mobility has an important and unique role to play in ensuring all employees have equal opportunities to excel. In two recent insideMOBILITY® forums attended by over 60 Mobility professionals around the globe, we learned about some impressive progress in this area.

In this article, we share highlights from the peer-to-peer discussions at these meetings, including strategies that have helped overcome inclusion barriers as well as diversity and inclusion (D&I) challenges yet to be resolved.

Defining & Diversity Inclusion

*Source: May 7, 2019, Ideal. Diversity And Inclusion: A Beginner’s Guide For HR Professionals

Mobility’s role in enhancing D&I

Organizations should grant assignments or job-related relocations based on merit, skills and qualifications. Mobility D&I efforts are not intended to bypass that mandate. Rather, Mobility’s D&I efforts should help address the fact that too often, not all qualified candidates are equally in the running for assignments due to personal characteristics and situations.

Granted, some employees may choose to not pursue assignments, assuming their personal circumstances would disqualify them from consideration or would preempt their success. Other employees, though, are removed from assignment consideration by HR or business leaders due to those personal characteristics. Mobility needs to make sure the pool of qualified assignee candidates is not limited due to self-imposed or institutional bias and discrimination (whether intentional or unintentional).


A multi-directional role

Mobility’s general mission within an organization encompasses a range of both strategic and tactical activity – working with business units to ensure that talent is optimally assigned and then managing all the aspects related to efficiently deploying that talent.

Mobility’s role in promoting D&I reflects that same dual focus.

First, on the strategic front, Mobility should:

  • Be at the table early on when assignment options are being discussed to make sure local living conditions are accurately portrayed
  • Help highlight and promote assignment opportunities so they’re available and inviting to all potential employee candidates
  • Assure qualified employees that they’ll be fairly considered for the position

Regarding the second, more tactical aspect of supporting D&I within the organization, Mobility should:

  • Design unique relocation packages where necessary to help address specialized needs and concerns based on the assignee, family members and the location
  • Craft general relocation packages so that they’re less standardized – i.e., not written as if every assignee was the head of a household of four moving to a “westernized” country
  • Offer a heightened level of “duty of care” to help ensure the employee’s and family’s wellbeing and ease throughout the course of the relocation process


“I saw the HR leadership strategy for 2019, and part of it was promoting diversity through international assignments, but I had not been informed in advance. I offered to help and HR did not understand how I could be involved!”


Assumptions and unconscious biases

Why do some organizations fail to open an assignment opportunity to a wider, more diverse group? All too often, qualified candidates are ruled out, or never even considered, based on the business’ assumptions about how the employee might fail to fit into a challenging environment. These assumptions might include:

  • The location is too dangerous for this person
  • The person won’t feel comfortable with the local norms and standards
  • The employee won’t want to, or be able to, move their family
  • The local infrastructure will not serve the assignee’s or the family’s needs
  • The older employee might have trouble adjusting to a different lifestyle

Clearly, an open discussion about these kinds of concerns up front with a candidate is a far better approach than deciding for them, but many organizations still hesitate to handle these concerns head on.

“80% of our assignees are white males according to our statistics, so I conducted research where I sent questionnaires to women asking about mobility options. The majority felt they would not be considered for an assignment because they have a family.”

Going beyond bias

Localized bias and hostile locales are real issues of course, even while the organization does everything it can to support a move. It’s important to be upfront about the challenges certain employees are very likely to face in certain environments. Personal danger, discriminatory practices and even legal restrictions can’t be ignored and shouldn’t be minimized. These kinds of realities might preclude someone from pursuing an assignment, but, again, that should be their choice based on the facts.

Preventing self-deselection

Unfortunately, qualified employees occasionally don’t apply for assignments because they feel they won’t receive serious consideration due to gender, age, race, sexual orientation, family situations, ethnicity or other personal factors.

Mobility should pre-empt this tendency by working with talent to ensure targeted employee outreach in the course of periodic performance reviews and check-ins. Mobility also should encourage assignment opportunities to be publicized in all offices – even in locations where employees tend not to seek assignments.

Participants identify opportunities for improvement

“We need to understand about qualified employees who are not applying for an assignment and why.” – insideMOBILITY London participant

“We need to discuss assignments more openly. Employees from some countries don’t tend to put themselves forward and that needs to be addressed.” – insideMOBILITY Geneva participant

“We need to update our relocation policies to reflect our diverse workforce.” – insideMOBILITY Geneva participant

“Most discussions on D&I are still based on gender and don’t account for other factors.” – insideMOBILITY Geneva participant

Tips for supporting a diverse program and diverse employees

  • Engage top leadership level support to push for business-wide engagement of a more inclusive approach to mobility management
  • Involve the organization’s overall D&I function to ensure these standards are correctly carried over into the Mobility program
  • Help employees envision a positive assignment by sharing success stories or case studies of others who have managed through distinct and varying circumstances
  • Offer a “buddy system” for assignees to help ensure strong, local support before and after the move
  • Describe relocation policies in a Q&A format that addresses a full spectrum of circumstantial, diversity-related scenarios

Promoting D&I within and across the Mobility and Talent functions is not always accomplished through a single program approach or an over-arching policy. Rather, D&I in Mobility is also supported on a case-by-case, human-centric basis. As one participant put it at a recent insideMOBILITY forum, “The relocation policy should support the circumstance.”

To really promote change, broad culture transformation is imperative and this can come to life if you have the right stakeholders on board, you have great success stories to tell and can lead by example from the very top and heart of your organization.