Building a diverse and inclusive mobile workforce

Fostering diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the mobile workforce has been a perennial problem for companies. Many employers reject candidates for international assignments because of unconscious bias. Many employees do not even apply for such assignments in the first place due to a perceived lack of support for their needs. The resulting low representation of women and minorities in the mobile workforce affects diversity at the managerial level. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected women and minority groups, has made it even harder for these groups to take advantage of mobility opportunities and reversed some of the DEI progress made before the crisis hit.

Focusing on DEI is to every organization’s advantage because it helps widen the available talent pool. When the right policies are used, the opportunity to go on assignment will be offered to candidates who would not normally be considered or those who would otherwise have dismissed applying. Despite the great benefits that DEI in mobility programs can bring to both individuals and employers, many organizations are failing to take advantage of this opportunity.

Mercer research shows that only around 50% of organizations are taking or planning to take any measures to achieve gender diversity in their mobility programs. What’s more, only 12% have undertaken initiatives to promote and facilitate mobility opportunities for minority employee groups, whether that be older and younger workers, LGBT+ employees, ethnic and national minority groups, or assignees with physical disabilities.

We asked the attendees at our recent Talent Mobility and Expatriate Management Conference about the barriers to building diverse mobile workforces. Here is how they responded:

Lack of coordination between mobility, DEI and talent teams  64%
Lack of flexibility in policies  14%
Lack of role model and perceived support for women and minority groups 9%
Lack of awareness around DEI 9%
Lack of suitable candidates  5%

One way to overcome the obstacles mentioned above is to adopt an evidence-based approach. By diagnosing the situation and engaging before taking action – and, importantly, assuming accountability for including DEI in mobility – organizations can break down some barriers to success. Global mobility alone cannot solve all DEI issues, but it should at least be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

Read the full article for more insights and an action plan for building a diverse and inclusive mobile workforce.

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Talent mobility diversity: fragile progress Based on data gathered in Mercer's last Worldwide Survey of International Assignment Policies and Practices, companies are making modest progress on their DEI initiatives, but there is much room for improvement.

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