ESG and How to Make Global Mobility Programs More Diverse, Equitable and Inclusive

As companies around the world increasingly prioritize environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, their global mobility programs are evolving to better align with diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) objectives. That’s according to a new benchmark survey on ESG and global mobility by AIRINC, a leading provider of mobility data and advisory services.

The survey found that nearly two-thirds of respondents (64%) have made modifications to their mobility policies to promote greater DE&I, and half say they are moderately or extremely focused on achieving company DE&I goals through their mobility programs.

While progress is being made, there is still room for improvement when it comes to measuring and reporting on DE&I (diversity, equity and inclusion) within mobility programs. Only 8% of companies consistently report on the diversity profile of their mobile employee population, though 58% either provide some ad-hoc reporting or anticipate having to provide DE&I information soon.

To make mobility programs more supportive of DE&I, AIRINC’s top initiatives include updating policy language to be more inclusive, adding flexibility to accommodate diverse needs, and introducing new policy provisions. The most common considerations are support for non-traditional dependents like family members beyond just spouses and children, more consultations with employees to understand personal circumstances, cash allowances employees can use for individual needs, and greater flexibility around pre-assignment trips.

Looking more broadly at the social aspects of ESG, some companies are making other changes to provide more equitable access to international opportunities and invest in local talent development. For example, 71% of survey respondents offer an internal job marketplace or posting board for open positions to increase transparency.

However, the survey suggests these marketplaces may have more limited impact if hiring for international roles still relies heavily on informal internal networks that disadvantage less-connected employees.

On the talent development front, while just 8% of companies make developing a local successor an official objective of an assignment, 38% say there is an informal expectation that assignees will help train a local employee to take over the role.

About 62% of companies expect mobile employees to contribute to local corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives during their assignments, even if it is not a formal documented objective. And a majority of respondents see remote or virtual assignments as an effective way to develop skills, share knowledge between locations, and promote cross-cultural understanding.

The AIRINC survey provides a valuable snapshot of how global mobility programs are evolving their policies, practices and priorities to better align with and advance their companies’ social and DE&I goals as part of a broader ESG agenda. Progress is underway, but the findings also highlight opportunities for further improvement.

KPMG, a network of professional services firms that offers audit, tax, and advisory services, offers some leading-edge practices to make inclusion and diversity (I&D) work:

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

Both organizations advise having the global mobility industry keep identifying new ways to promote DE&I, develop local talent pipelines, give back to host communities, and ensure international opportunities are genuinely open and accessible to everyone.

The AIRINC survey compiled responses from over 50 multinational companies across industries like automotive, high-tech, consumer goods, energy, professional services and more. It offers a unique benchmark on this increasingly important dimension of global mobility.