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The case for inclusion in the Global Workforce

I recently presented at a webinar, Inclusion in the Global Workforce with Christle Van der Ven, Head of Global Mobility at IKEA, & Karlijn Jacobs, co-founder of Expat Valley.

When I first shared the title, I was asked why ‘Inclusion’? Why not ‘Diversity’, ‘Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)’ or ‘Sustainability’ - which is the ultimate outcome of an inclusive, diverse and equitable ecosystem. And of course, they are all fair challenges. So, here’s my reasoning:

Inclusion is complex and it is intangible. It’s essentially a sense of belonging, the presence and absence of which I have experienced personally. As the daughter of a journalist, moving has been part of my life and as enriching as it was, there were times when I felt excluded – like the time I was sent to a Russian nursery when I was four. No one looked like me and there was no way for me to communicate with them for the first six months, the time it took me for me to learn rudimentary Russian. Or more recently, on secondment to Romania, when I was reminded regularly (not at work but in everyday life) that I was a person of colour.

So, as someone who has lived through exclusion, all roads to DEI start with a feeling of inclusion. This sense of inclusion is so vital to ensuring that we feel safe and can thrive at life and in turn at work. Providing this sense ofinclusion or belonging to everyone, should promote diversity because people will stay and are happy to stay if they feel comfortable being themselves. This diversity in turn should promote equity and a combination of all of this should create a sustainable ecosystem.

The intangibility of inclusion makes it hard enough to deliver and measure, but there is a further complexity – what we need to feel included is very personal. It is determined by multiple factors that are in addition to our workplace and its culture. It is determined both by our individual situations – our age, gender, race, family situation, sexual orientation and what we need to manage our health and wellbeing and by external circumstances like the society we live in and how accepting it is of who we are.

Given how hard it is, why bother?

If we think about inclusion in the context of cross-border deployments, we are asking people to do one of three things:

  • Move their lives (and the lives of their families) physically across borders and adjust to new cultures and ways of working; or
  • Disrupt their lives (and the lives of their families) by commuting / travelling ad-hoc across borders and working across different cultures; or
  • If the role allows it, in an increasingly virtual world, to form meaningful relationships and immerse themselves into new teams and ways of working without ever having met the people.

So, inclusion, or that sense of belonging, becomes vital to ensuring the success of all cross-border deployments – physical or virtual.

If we look at Inclusion from a talent lens, the data is very interesting.

From a workforce perspective, there is a global war for talent – in fact skills and talent shortage is the biggest concern for approximately 71% of CEOs (according to Deloitte’s 2022 CEO survey). So attracting and retaining the workforce is high on all organisations’ strategies and agendas. If we look at the role inclusion plays in attracting and retaining talent:

  • 75% of people looking for roles want to work for organisations with a diverse workforce1;
  • The ratio of women in the workforce is becoming more balanced, although there is concern that some women who left the workforce during the pandemic may not return so giving them a feeling of inclusion by offering flexibility/ hybrid working could be a big driver to help them back in2;
  • Gen Z, now entering the workforce, is the most ethnically and racially diverse generation and the Deloitte 2022 Gen Z and Millennial survey showed us that 52% of Gen Z and Millennial employees would leave organisations intwo years if they are not satisfied with progress made in creating inclusive and diverse work environments3;
  • More than 1/4 senior-level leaders of colour expect to leave to advance compared to only 12% of their white peers4.

From a business perspective, inclusion and in turn a diverse workforce:

  • Enhances creativity and innovation by 20%5;
  • Makes better decisions 87% of the times and make them twice as fast6;
  • These in turn contribute to improving revenue, as the data shows diverse management teams can lead to a 19% increase in revenue7;
  • Because of all of this, not only do organisations want to become more diverse, but their investors also now expect it, with approximately 115 institutional investors engaging with organisations to show how they have improved human rights practices and disclosure8.

In summary, inclusion is good for people and for organisations but there is no getting away from the fact that inclusion can sometimes be difficult to deliver even at a domestic level, so how do we translate this for a global workforce, given the nature of cross-border deployments?

Organisations across the board continue to focus on this issue. It’s a learning curve for all and I am sure we all look forward to making further strides in this area, whether focussing on domestic or globally mobile employee inclusion. We will actively share our thoughts too as we continue to learn!


Data sources:

  1. Glassdoor (2021) What Job Seekers Really Think About Your Diversity and Inclusion Stats;
  2. Deloitte (2019) Understanding Generation Z in the workplace Glassdoor (2020);
  3. Deloitte (2017) Meet the US workforce of the future;
  4. DDI (2020) Diversity and Inclusion Report 2020;
  5. Deloitte (2018) The diversity and inclusion revolution: Eight powerful truths;
  6. Cloverpop (2017) White Paper: Hacking Diversity with Inclusive Decision-Making;
  7. Boston Consulting Group (2018) How Diverse Leadership Teams Boost Innovation;
  8. PRI’s 2020 report, Why and how investors should act on human rights;
  9. Polling results from the Deloitte DBrief on ‘Inclusion in the Global Webinar’, based on 66 responses;
  10. Polling results from the Deloitte DBrief on ‘Inclusion in the Global Webinar’, based on 56 responses.