Are Cost Containment and DEI Mutually Exclusive? 04.19.2023 | Laura Levenson, Jennifer Connell

With recession fears overshadowing both the boogeyman and (gasp!) the tax man this year, it’s no wonder that many companies are making a frantic beeline for the drawing board to slash costs. But it’s important to remember that protecting the employee experience is also a critical component of an organization’s resilience, and this includes prioritizing DEI in your programs, policies, and culture. But are the two mutually exclusive? Or can you prioritize cost containment while simultaneously working towards ensuring your mobility program is inclusive to a diverse pool of talent?

This was a great – and notably timely – question that arose during the Q&A section of our recent Mobility Trends & Predictions Webinar, hosted by leaders of our Advisory Services team, Laura Levenson and Jen Connell. Their response gave us plenty to think about and offered up some key best practices for organizations grappling with the same question.

Can DEI still be a priority for companies in cost containment mode?

Laura Levenson:

I think there’s definitely an assumption that whenever you’re adding something to a program or enhancing it in some way, it’s going to increase the cost. And sure, sometimes this is true. But we’re very quickly finding that infusing principles of inclusion, diversity and equity into a program doesn’t necessarily have to have a cost attached to it. And oftentimes, it can be a powerful cost-reducing agent in the long term!

One great example I can offer is the traditional benefit of spouse-partner assistance. At least from what we’ve seen, not every company that offers it, but those that do are now looking into expanding that offering to include all family members. This means that the support wouldn’t be solely for a spouse or the partner, but it could instead be used by a single employee going on an assignment or transfer, or any accompanying children, and in some cases, elderly dependents who are also accompanying.

We’re not talking about increasing the amount of the budget but broadening the usage of the budget. It’s a simple tweak that makes the benefit more accessible to a wider population, which may be the difference-maker in enabling someone to accept an assignment! That’s one example, but there are other things that can be done, such as changing the policy language to be more inclusive, like swapping pronouns like he or she for “the assignee” or “transferee”. Depending on the organization’s culture, some may also opt for a more personalized tone in a policy, referring to the transferring employee as “you”. This eliminates the need for pronouns while making the policy a little more conversational, which is a great thing. These “tweaks” don’t require much (if any) financial investment, and yet they go a long way towards increasing the accessibility of the program and moving towards DEI objectives.

Jen Connell:

I agree with the need to re-brand spousal support as “family transition assistance” as it casts a wider net of employee demographics who can use and benefit from this service, ultimately bettering their experience. As Laura mentioned, we’ve really seen some companies loosen the constraints and language around some of these benefits in pursuit of ensuring that families get whatever support they need to successfully settle into the new location. Again, it’s not a question of increasing the benefit amount, but rather empowering the family to be able to allocate the funds towards eldercare assistance, sourcing suitable childcare, or paying for support for a special needs family member. I’ve seen some companies that will even include some pet care assistance, like identifying a dog sitter or dog walker — whatever it takes to make them happy.

Companies need to be cognizant of the fact that we’re not in the clear when it comes to the global talent shortage. Skilled employees aren’t easy to come by, and replacing lost talent is a massive drain of time, money and resources. So, ensuring that your highly valued people know they’re valued, is paramount. This is why employee wellness and DEI objectives absolutely need to be a part of the cost containment conversation rather than an afterthought.

Our recommendation: get ahead of the game! While many organizations are prematurely dumping all their eggs into the “cost-cutting” basket in the wake of recession fears, resist the temptation to do the same. Uphold your responsibility as a business to create a better employee experience for everyone, and you’ll be first out the gate with a program that retains and attracts talent well into the future.


Did you miss our 2023 Mobility Trends & Predictions Webinar? Catch it here:

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Written by Laura Levenson


Laura Levenson is a Practice Leader in Weichert Workforce Mobility’s Advisory Services group. She has worked in management capacities for workforce mobility and Big Four firms, and is well-versed in bringing clarity to the most pressing global talent deployment challenges. She brings over 25 years of experience to her role and is a frequent speaker on the mobility conference circuit.

Written by Jennifer Connell


Jennifer Connell, SCRP, SGMS-T, is Vice President of Weichert’s Advisory Services group. She has over 25 years of experience in the workforce mobility and employee benefits industries and is a recipient of Worldwide ERC’s Distinguished Service Award. She has spoken on workforce mobility topics at industry conferences throughout North America and written for mobility- and HR-themed blogs and magazines worldwide.

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