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:

  • Integration and training: A lack of formal integration of overarching organizational I&D initiatives within global mobility programs and targeted I&D training for global mobility team members;
  • Data tracking: One of the biggest hurdles is the scarcity of mobility-related data on most demographics, apart from gender. Inclusion and diversity data points have not traditionally been captured in the global mobility space in areas such as religion, ethnicity, age, disability status and working mothers;
  • Prospective assignment talent pools: The resource pool of candidates for a specific international assignment role may not be very diverse, coupled with selection processes that fail to include the right mix of both HR, talent management and business stakeholders to reinforce an organization’s wider I&D objectives;
  • Selection and assessment: Candidates for international assignments are often determined solely by the business unit involved. This makes it difficult for talent and global mobility functions to implement the organization’s overarching I&D initiatives;
  • Country laws: External factors such as host-country immigration laws can make it difficult to achieve internal I&D goals, or for LGBT employees to consider international assignments. A same-sex partner or spouse may not be able to enter legally to accompany the employee while on assignment abroad;
  • Demographic road blocks: Demographic categorization of employees can result in an adverse decision around international assignment offers. In KPMG’s 2018 Inclusion and Diversity Opinion Survey addressing this issue, 39 percent of respondents cited sexual orientation, 31 percent cited gender or gender identity, 31 percent cited socioeconomic background, and 28 percent cited ethnicity as factors in their decision-making.

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.

Global Mobility has a key role to play amid change

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:

  • Having a global I&D strategy that’s aligned to the talent and business strategy and a global mobility strategy that’s aligned to I&D to create a global talent initiative;
  • Embedding I&D into global mobility programs;
  • Robustly linking an organization’s general recruitment strategy to the selection of prospective global mobility candidates;
  • Using diverse candidate slates for international assignments;
  • Visibly targeting diverse groups for international assignment opportunities, for example flagging support for women, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBT candidates;
  • Factoring in greater lead-times to deployment of diverse talent, as these employees may require more time to support pre-assignment activities.

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.

The information contained herein is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavor to provide accurate and timely information, there can be no guarantee that such information is accurate as of the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future. No one should act on such information without appropriate professional advice after a thorough examination of the particular situation.

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