As today’s mobile workforce becomes increasingly diverse, the unique needs of employees and families relocating within borders or taking on global assignments have changed significantly. Yet many companies have not updated their relocation policies to reflect this.
Many policies are still designed to manage the relocation of a nuclear family to destinations where they may easily adapt. However, today’s assignee population includes households of same-sex partners, minority executives, unmarried heads of household and family members with special educational needs and abilities, all requiring non-traditional support to thrive on an international transfer or assignment.
Best-in-class employers are leading the way in both identifying and addressing the changing needs of mobile employees. Global mobility professionals are tasked with ensuring that alignment with the company’s inclusive strategy underscores the importance of incorporating diversity and inclusion policies in global mobility planning. Primarily, these leaders are exploring approaches and solutions to the legal, cultural and social barriers that both affect and potentially impede employees from global mobility opportunities.
Research reveals that in more traditional companies, despite best intentions, existing relocation policies inherently discourage diverse employees from seeking overseas assignments. Provisions such as educational assistance, home leave, and family settling-in assistance are geared to assignees who are accompanied by children who are able to attend local or mainstream international schools, and spouses who are female. Traditional programs do not address children with special or unique needs, or unmarried or same-sex partners.
Moreover, in many cases, programs designed to support accompanying spouses/partners typically focus on job or career enhancement, when careers and jobs may not even be possible for accompanying partners due to local labor laws, even in cases of legally-recognized marriages in both the home and host country.
On the other hand, more progressive companies offer broad-based options related to these typical benefits for families, such as educational assistance in finding specialized schools, additional home leaves for unaccompanied assignments, or spouse/partner assistance designed for both working and non-working spouse/partners of the same or opposite sex.
Over the past several years, I’ve written and spoken extensively at industry conferences about the need for diversity in global talent mobility. Reflecting on the events of the past several months, it has also become quite evident to me that for organizations to be successful, they will also need to provide training that supports developing people in areas such as Diversity, Equity, Inclusiveness and Belonging.
But it’s not an “overnight fix”; rather, it requires an approach that implements not just an understanding of the concepts, but also behavioral tools and ongoing reinforcement through various learning and behavioral modalities. From readings to group discussions to meaningful community outreach, a great place to start helping people successfully develop these important skills is to educate people about cognitive biases, how these affect how we Think, Act and React, and how to break these biases through behavior change. This creates new habits which leads to more effective individuals, teams and organizations.
The COVID virus has had a particularly heavy impact on people of color and other marginalized groups. However, these challenges have brought opportunities to uncover and confront age old injustices in the workforce. Technology and social media have provided the platform for exposing the inequities that exist in society and the imperative to learn, change and take a more inclusive approach to the workforce in every way – from hiring decisions and training to deploying talent globally. Companies that train their employees in these so-called “soft skills” and understand the necessity for diversity, equity, inclusiveness and belonging will set themselves apart by their ability to Communicate, Connect, Adapt and Innovate effectively.
Additionally, those companies that flex to the diverse needs of their highly valued mobile employees will, in return, reap the benefits of employees who put forth their best contributions.
For a deeper dive on this topic, download a copy of Weichert’s latest whitepaper on diversity and inclusion in workforce mobility.