Amid the significant challenges global businesses are facing today to compete and succeed in the digital age, some are discovering the valuable overlap that exists in their objectives – and potential strategies – concerning Inclusion and Diversity (I&D) and global mobility. Both I&D and mobility leaders are looking to attract the best talent and critical new skills for the future, fill talent gaps on a temporary or permanent basis, and provide innovative opportunities to engage, develop and retain their most-valuable employees.
A sustained focus on I&D brings people’s differences – both visible (gender or race) and non-visible (culture, sexual orientation) – together in the workplace. I&D provides equal opportunities for all employees, promoting acceptance and understanding and the value that our differences bring to be a good organization for everyone.
A formalized I&D initiative, when ingrained in an organization’s values and culture, also creates an innovative, productive environment that’s better positioned to meet organizational goals. Diverse workplaces also produce diverse thinking, ideas and skills – all of which are crucial as technology transforms businesses and dramatically increases the need for new skills deemed critical to future competitiveness and survival.
As forward-looking businesses discover the advantages of formal I&D practices amid ever-evolving workforces, organizational change and new business models, they have much to gain by aligning the broader I&D agenda with international assignment programs –ultimately enhancing overall talent management, workplace productivity and global competitiveness.
Some organizations are making progress but there’s room for improvement, as distinct challenges to I&D progress continue to exist for many organizations from the perspective of their global mobility programs. These include:
KPMG’s 2018 Inclusion and Diversity Opinion Survey reveals that among more than 175 participating global organizations, only 41 percent said that they possess specific I&D objectives as part of their global mobility strategy. Asked why I&D objectives are not included as part of global mobility, nearly 60 percent cited the fact that candidates for international assignments are still determined primarily by the business unit involved and not by, or in consultation with, the global mobility function.
Nearly 40 percent further stated that “international assignments are open to everyone from all over the world” while 31 percent noted that with programs being diverse by nature, “there is no need” for diversity goals. Nearly a quarter of participants also felt that I&D objectives are considered outside of mobility’s remit.
It is worth noting here that the 41 percent of respondents who do have formal inclusion and diversity goals tell a different story. A strong business case for I&D across all areas of the business was cited as the most-common reason for setting global mobility inclusion and diversity goals (70 percent), well ahead of other factors such as responding to internal feedback (12 percent) and marketplace pressure (5 percent).
Some forward-thinking businesses are therefore realizing the value of – and making the business case for – an increasingly diverse workforce as they address both mobility and broader talent-management challenges. To these businesses, the overarching organizational advantages are clear in an era of unprecedented change and transformation.
That said, we see a vast number of businesses today that are still ‘behind the curve’ in developing formal I&D programs that are also aligned with mobility initiatives, and our caveat there is the risk these businesses face in falling quickly behind in today’s unprecedented environment of rapid – and accelerating – workplace and workforce changes.
Our advice to global firms today is that global mobility can play a key role in supporting and broadening the organization’s I&D initiatives by turning certain strategic, operational and policy challenges into talent and business-development opportunities. Some leading-edge practices for consideration include:
Global mobility functional leaders can contribute significant insights, knowledge and experience in mobilizing and supporting the growth, development and retention of a diverse pool of talent. The clear overlap between I&D and global mobility creates strong synergies for formally aligning international assignment programs with the broader I&D agenda.
Competitive advantages can be achieved by reviewing program demographics and designing strategies for broader talent pools. In addition, creating broader educational and communication plans for audience expansion and penetration can hold great potential.
Diversifying global mobility policies and programs for wider applications will help to ensure that key I&D objectives have a place and voice at the table. Seeking out and valuing diversity in all its forms will ensure that all talents are fully utilized and aligned with the organization’s talent, culture, brand and business development goals creating an organization which embraces the full spectrum and power of diversity.
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