Talent Mobility, a lever for achieving your DE&I Strategy

By Des Mckell, Vice President Global Advisory Services, UK & Ireland at NetExpat.

Quite rightly, all stakeholders have an eye on DE&I: the financial market analysts, shareholders, employees, and future talent are all looking very carefully at how DE&I is being applied and managed not just in the Boardroom, but in every corner of an organization around the world. 

The topic of DE&I has been amplified for the global talent population, with C-suite leadership seeking ways to ensure that they have a robust strategy in place for those employees working internationally, positioning them strongly within an increasingly competitive global talent marketplace. For a set of reasons belonging to the past, the mobile employee population has not always been the most diverse: white, male dominant until a few years ago, or “HQ-centric” for fear of losing control.  

DE&I is at the heart of what we deliver at NetExpat and it’s why we are so passionate about amplifying the conversation within the world of talent mobility. At a recent NetExpat Automotive Best Practices Exchange, Lisa Ewers and Merrill Markiewicz who oversee talent mobility at General Motors shared their CEO Mary Barra vision: “Our goal is simple: we want General Motors to be a Workplace of Choice, a best employer and the most inclusive company in the world. All of which are critical to enable us to achieve our vision”.

And investing in DE&I works! The McKinsey “Diversity wins”study(1) confirms that organizations in the upper quartile of gender diversityoutperform by 25% organizations in the lower quartile. Viewed through a cultural and ethnicity lens, upper quartile organizations will again outperform their lower quartile peers by 36% in terms of profitability! 

Our last Global Mobility and DE&I Summit, attended by 100 talent mobility and DE&I professionals from across the globe, highlighted the importance of best practices sharing of this key but complex topic between the two different functions. When asked if global mobility had a role to play in DE&I, an overwhelming 90% of participants polled yes(2). DE&I is indeed another opportunity for global mobility to play a strategic role and to demonstrate its relevance to the C-suite. DE&I is all about ensuring that a diverse, fair, and inclusive international workforce exists and with that, comes the need for talent development and mobility - top down as well as bottom up. 

For over two decades, NetExpat has played a pivotal role in supporting organizations to succeed – and share their success - in diverse multi-cultural environments and to assist talent to have an equitable opportunity in experiencing an overseas assignment.

In addition,  Danone, who attended our summit, has so much success to share and to inspire us all: Putri Realita, Global Diversity and Inclusion Lead at Danone confirms that DE&I is an established, ongoing ambition for Danone, being an integral part of Danone 2030 company goals, fostering “inclusive growth”. As Danone’s predominant revenue streams shifts from Europe to the rest of the world, it’s important to have a balance of nationalities across the entire organization. The way DE&I works at Danone is inspiring: with executive sponsorship, Danone has over 300 DE&I champions across the organization who promote an inclusive workforce and focus on opportunities to increase gender and cultural diversity in areas of the business previously dominated by male employees e.g., IT, Shopfloor, Production etc. Danone also survey their global workforce to understand whether line management are demonstrating inclusive behaviors and to constantly identify new areas of improvement.

In 2010, Danone launched a spectacular DE&I initiative aimed at gender diversity: their “EVE program” which supports over 1,000 Danone female employees each year to reach their full potential within the organization. 

The global mobility function within Danone is strongly aligned to support Putri’s DE&I team, with impressive results! Axel de Billy, Global Mobility Director and his team are helping to build a more diverse assignee population at Danone, with an impressive 40% female assignee population and 40% of expats represented by nationals from countries in their emerging markets.  Axel explained during the Global Mobility and DE&I Summit, that the opportunity to experience an overseas assignment at Danone is considered essential in developing a rich and diverse mobile population. This is particularly important so that all Danone future leaders have first-hand understanding of the local culture to later navigate and leverage a diverse and multi-cultural workforce. Cultural agility, accessible through intercultural training, is foundational to the Danone international assignment program as Axel confirms: we want to equip our talent with the skills they need to “dance together”!  

Axel adds that “the Danone talent mobility program has been designed with their Employee Experience at the center, with their specific needs depending on their own cultural, sexual orientation or disability needs. A high touch and flexible approach so that everyone within Danone is dealt with equitably and does not experience barriers to mobility and global opportunity”.

Putri shared that DE&I awareness is truly built across the entire Danone organization, with leaders sharing their own personal experiences and stories from across the globe. This powerful and practical example has helped to humanize the discussion, and to shine a light on the way that gender, sexual orientation, culture, ethnicity, and disability can be viewed outside of your home country.   

But how do you get there? 73%(3) of corporations feel that their GM and DE&I functions were strongly aligned. An encouraging 20%(3) of corporations have started a systematic analysis and have undergone a “DE&I audit” of their mobility policies and practices. We see these two steps as being foundational in building strong relationships internally and to help to identify “quick wins” in relation to how you describe mobility, how you support everyone based on individual needs and how you drive inclusivity.

The World Bank Group (WBG) was another major contributor to the NetExpat Global Mobility and DE&I Summit rich conversation: Monica Oldham, Global Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Edna Diez, Director Performance, Careers and Learning shared how the WBG became such a diverse and multicultural organization made up of 165 nationalities across the globe. Edna explains that by the very nature of their work, WBG needs to be on the ground around the world and cannot rely on a heavily HQ centric organization or culture. They compete to hire the very best talent and need to offer an engaging career, which often requires an overseas assignment. Edna recognizes that not every employee at WBG is suitable for an international assignment and not all locations will make it easy or even possible for some of their employees to move. Active listening and creativity are key as well as treating each employee and families individually. Regardless of gender, cultural, sexual orientation or disability needs, everyone should feel included and protected and this is the key intersection between global talent mobility and DE&I at WBG.     

Monica stimulated the Global Mobility and DE&I Summit discussion with the participants to understand which DE&I dimensionsthey consider within their own organization when talking about DE&I and talent management and mobility decisions”. Encouraging responses included disability, gender, and sexual orientation. Monica explained that WBG started by focusing on gender and nationality as these were easily obtained through their HRIS. WBG have since broadened substantially the scope of DE&I by allowing employees to self-identify the nature of their differences via their confidential “personal diversity profile” also including disabilities, race, ethnicity and LGBTQ+ etc. WBG have seen a 40% completion rate of their “personal diversity profile” which not only collects information, but also allows for confidential feedback on the level of inclusiveness employees feel, especially via their line manager. 

WBG adopt a robust career pathway approach and conduct regular conversations with each employee to understand their openness to an international assignment. It allows both sides to have the space needed to discuss openly and to explore the future opportunities that may be available, the timing, impact on families, challenges faced in the new culture/location etc. Edna shared that just like Danone, they adopt inclusive language within their mobility program and make sure they consider the needs of each employee and family. WBG has invested in learning and awareness programs for line managers, training them on all aspects of DE&I and allowing them to qualify across levels of certification.

Strong alignment of DE&I and talent mobility has been key within WBG and like Danone, continues to set a great example of how other global organizations can ensure that diversity, inclusion, and equity are represented in their organization. Share with us how your employees are not just being invited to the party but are being asked to dance too!  

(1) Source: How Diversity & Inclusion Matter | McKinsey
(2) (3) Source: 2021 Global Mobility and DE&I Summit, attended by 100 talent mobility and DE&I professionals


About Netexpat :

For years, NetExpat has been a global leader in the cross-cultural training and professional coaching industry for expatriates and their partners. By maintaining our focus on our core business we have acquired an unsurpassed reputation in areas such as spousal assistance, executive coaching for newly-transferred expatriates, cross-cultural training, and repatriation programs. Today, as a result, we are recognized as one of the global market leaders in ‘Career & Life Transition.