Global Virtual Teams and Their Dramas – Six Tough Steps to Start Working Together

It’s that time of the year again when we arbitrarily change our clocks by an hour because of reasons that nobody seems to understand anymore, in a planet-wide April Fool’s joke. Perhaps it’s just scientists’ way of reminding us that time is relative? Luckily, the EU is about to get rid of that nasty habit but until then I still cringe because now I literally have to get up at 4 am. I am a morning person but there are limits and I feel sorry for my global, virtual team because now they have to handle my bad mood all day long.

They know me well, so they probably just think “Oh, another one of her dramas”…

We have become accustomed to drama everywhere and we are used to arguing in meetings for the sake of positioning ourselves. Sometimes you just want to win over the other person’s view. It’s about who is better than the other. On the surface.

What is this argument really about?

Have you ever considered that you jump into an argument easily not because you want to move forward the team and “think further and outside the box” but just because you like power? Have you considered that you are worried about losing power when you treat your team members with respect and listen to them instead of thinking that you know best of all?

I revisited the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”  by Stephen Covey through this video recently. I was lucky to “win” access to one of Stephen’s talks around 13 years ago in Frankfurt. I was very impressed with him when he made a full concert hall of around 5000 managers stand up, close their eyes, turn around several times and then point towards “North”.

There were around 35 different options to show North.

If you want to become effective as a team you need to invest in the relationship level of the team members. You need to create the framework for a supportive atmosphere in which every team member feels valued and can share her view in a way that is appropriate to them.

You probably now wonder “Ok, I know that but it is easier said than done.” and as so often you are hoping for the quick fix, the recipe or the shortcut to global virtual team productivity.

May I take your delusions from you?

There are no shortcuts in life. Someone will always suffer if you try the quick fixes, the formula or the recipes that might work for others. You will first of all need to work on yourself. Once you are ready to be a “rounded” leader who can set aside ego and nurture a team then you can read the six tough steps to start working more effectively in global, virtual teams.

1) Confront your fears and find a place of self-awareness within you

That is the hardest part of self-development. Often our ego is strong and demands that we nurture it daily. It is like the flesh-eating plant in “Little Shop of Horrors”. The ego needs fodder. We have built ways of showing to ourselves that we are worthy. It could be the new certificate that you have to attain, the endorsements on LinkedIn or the positive feedback you expect in your performance reviews and your 360-evaluation. You behavior is driven by optimizing your evaluation, turnover and other Key Performance Indicators. Learn to be self-sufficient without depending on numbers that prove you are a superhero!

2) Identify the formal roles and responsibilities of your team members

While every team needs formal roles and responsibilities most conflicts occur at the handover points. In a fully functioning and high performing team everyone also supports the other team member when they sense that the other team member is overloaded or when they feel that they have the capacity. The more dispersed and virtual the team works, the harder it is to see how much capacity everyone has.

It is your job as the leader to identify the gaps and to build a feedback loop where team members can openly communicate when they feel overloaded or when they do not have enough challenging work. You probably understand that every team member needs a healthy mix of challenges and routine tasks in order to be satisfied at work.

3) Unmask the informal roles of your team members

In your team you will find informal roles too. In a flatter hierarchy you might have an opinion leader who does not necessarily agree with you. You might find this team member challenging but this team member could be your greatest ally and supporter if you understood how this person needs to be inspired

Maybe they need more encouragement, maybe they need more brainstorming  or maybe they need more structure. You need to learn to read your team members and the informal roles they play and then adapt your style accordingly.

4) Find out the areas of support for the team members

In my management and coaching experience I learned that every human being  has needs. It sometimes took me up to two years to drive a team to high performance and great collaboration. When you understand the learning steps the team member has to go through to get to the next level you will also understand how you can lead this person to success.

Instead of asking them to work on projects that are way out of their capabilities you can give them small success experiences so they can grow in small steps and keep their self-confidence in tact. I have seen many good team members in other teams who were crushed and did not believe in their competencies anymore because their manager was overconfident or micro-managing them.

5) Ensure every team member has a voice

In any intercultural team but also monocultural team you will have more introverted team members. They will not always speak up in meetings and voice their opinions. Others might just feel it is not worth to discuss further and shut up. You can use various tools and methods to give your quieter team members a voice.

It also helps if you ask a neutral facilitator to support your annual kick-off meetings or other team building exercises. You might not see yourself how you hinder certain team members from voicing their opinion.

6) Be aware of your limiting assumptions

When a team member is very engaged but not necessarily of the same view as you are it could be a good point to consider. You might assume that the team member is less qualified or experienced than you are and as a result, you might not take her seriously.

You could also be biased against team members who behave like yourself or have similar preferences in working style. This is what we reveal in coaching sessions. In my experience, this process is easier when you work with me through this transition phase as you might have cultural and other blindspots that hinder you from fast progress.

These are six tough ways to improve your collaboration in global virtual teams.

Let’s have a conversation about your current global leader and team performance goals. You can also discuss your expatriate career topics with me. Pick my brain by claiming your RockMeRetreat*** Goal Setting Session (with Code: RMR19)

Values in Global Virtual Teams

first published on www.sietar.ch.

by @angieweinberger

Values are the foundation of your global virtual team. Values are what clients feel instantly when they work with your team. They feel the connection because true values come from the heart.

If you are a leader of a global virtual team you have probably faced many intercultural challenges until your team was ready to perform. You might have underestimated the challenges of global communication under pressure or you have taken promises at face value.

When you bring your team together for an offsite you have probably already developed the team vision, mission and brand statement but have you considered your values? I am not talking about the value statement you read in the corporate magazine. I am talking about the values you and your team members all share and the ones that your clients feel.

We recently developed ten values in an intercultural team intervention. In intercultural settings values could be expected to go into various directions but when you break them down you will see that there are similarities or universal values that we all share. Research by Schwartz and Bilsky (1990) suggests that we have universal values although they research was mainly conducted in Western cultures (and Hongkong).

achievement, enjoyment, maturity, prosocial, restrictive conformity, security, self-direction

From values you can derive team principles of communication and of working together. Then in case of conflict you have principles to base your decisions on.

When working with my clients in 1:1 career or executive sessions I always build in a session on values at work. What I felt are the seven most commonly cited (this is anecdotal, not academic data) are these:

  1. Quality
  2. Client Service
  3. Collaboration
  4. Integrity
  5. Relationships
  6. Sustainability
  7. Leadership.

Let’s assume these seven values form the basis around the globe for excellence. My clients come from all continents so I am hoping there is no cultural bias here.

If you are now thinking about working on this basis with your global virtual team I’d love this approach. You just have to remember that the meaning behind these words is culturally different so in a team setting you should ask your team how they show these values at work. Ask them for examples and stories. You might get different views on Leadership and Integrity but having the discussion or collecting stories will help the team see those differences.

►Building principles

Before you can formulate team principles ensure that you are all on the same page. Suggest every team member to contribute their wording. Even if it is messy. Create a team page or social media space where you can share your wording for values.

When you develop team principles it is important that you word them in the form of „We do…“ (active and positve). Example „We support each other achieve excellent quality by giving honest feedback.“

►Take photos, videos and allow images

When you see the values at work take photos and allow your team members to create videos or graphics. Put them on your coffee cups or shared file area. Be creative.

►Aligning language of your global virtual team

When you start this exercise you might notice that the language of your team members is not always aligned. They might say similar things with different words. Aligning the language of your global virtual team means that you come up with definitions, quotes and images. I often hear people telling me they work hard but I need to understand what in means in their context. In Switzerland working hard means getting up at 5 AM and being in the office at 7 AM and leaving the office at 5 PM to work in the community fire brigade or study in the evenings or raise four kids. In the US working hard might mean working 80 hours per week no matter when. In India „working hard“ might mean coming to the office even if you are unwell or even if your family needs you at home.

►Drop the assumptions

The more I work with global virtual teams the more I would advise you to drop your assumptions or at least to critically reflect them. You might only have a glimpse of understanding of the values of your team members until you have a personal conversation at a business conference at 2 AM in the morning. Sharing values requires trust and that is only built over time by people who show their values towards their colleagues constantly.

Ten Exercises to Build Psychological Safety in Global, Virtual Teams

Since the beginning of this pandemic in the spring of 2020, numbers of teams have become virtual, on and off, depending on the surges of the virus and the decisions of their respective companies and governments. Virtual teams, of course, already existed before that, but they have now become a common practice. And now that this phenomenon has become routine, many have focused on this new problem: fostering psychological safety, particularly in remote teams, because it is quite challenging to do so in such a context. Discussions on diversity and inclusivity have been all the rage in recent years (and still are, of course, as we have yet to achieve a perfectly diverse and inclusive world), but psychological safety has become a subject of interest, fueled by the unusual circumstances of this pandemic.

But what is psychological safety, exactly? It is the belief that team members have when they are comfortable enough to ask questions or contribute ideas without fear of being judged, punished (in more extreme cases losing their job), or humiliated for not knowing something or making mistakes. Wondering what the difference is between trust and psychological safety? It’s rather subtle: trust is an essential component of psychological safety, as it is defined as “the extent to which we hold expectations of others in the face of uncertainty about their motives, and yet are willing to allow ourselves to be vulnerable’ (Geraghty, 2020). It is how you view other people and how you find them predictable and how you think you can rely on them whereas psychological safety is about how others view you or rather how you think they view you.

Hirsch, Wendy: Five Questions About Psychological Safety, Answered. Science for Work, 9 October 2017, https://scienceforwork.com/blog/psychological-safety/.

But let’s get back to psychological safety. When you eliminate the fear of judgment, your team members can not only be themselves, but they will be their best selves, as they will be allowed to be innovative, creative, and agile, and most importantly, ask for help when needed. Diversity of thought is a great advantage for success (Page, 2008), and this is where psychological safety comes in: “Without behaviors that create and maintain a level of psychological safety in a group, people do not fully contribute — and when they don’t, the power of cognitive diversity is left unrealized” (Reynolds and Lewis, 2018). 

Psychological safety doesn’t happen from one day to the next, though. It needs work, it requires everyone’s participation, and a profound culture change. Everyone needs to go through four stages to feel safe. According to Timothy Clark, these are inclusion safety, learner safety, contributor safety, and challenger safety (Clark, 2020). Psychological safety needs work, a change of attitude and a change of culture.

Increase mistake tolerance

Based on the belief that nobody’s perfect and we all make mistakes, even if we work hard and try our best, the idea here is to change our mindset and stop viewing failures only as such but as learning opportunities. Teams with better psychological safety will not correct others for a mistake they made to put them down, they will tell them to help them. Amy Edmondson published a study in 1999 in which she coined the term “Psychological Safety.” In it, she reported conversations she had with employees she interviewed for her study. In one of those conversations, a lady told her that before her team decided to offer a better psychologically safe environment, when someone would point out a mistake she made, she would take it as a reproach and would then be on the lookout for a mistake that person would make to be able to blame her in return. After the team made psychological safety a priority and had worked on it for a while, it totally changed her perception and in turn, that changed her behavior. She reported that she viewed it then as a learning opportunity because her colleague would do it purely to help her and help the team make better products (Edmondson, 1999, p.371). Some companies have even created special events to discuss this so that not only the employee making the mistake learns from it, but the whole team (or even a larger circle) does too.

Exercise 1: Hold an Anxiety Party. 

The Google Ventures team decided to implement this because when they were created, they had a rather flat hierarchy and although they appreciated all the advantages and liberties that brought, the team found they lacked critical feedback. They came up with the idea of an Anxiety Party: they hold this type of meeting a couple of times per year, where all team members have to write a list of everything that causes them anxiety. Then, everyone shares and the other team members have to rate the level from the most to the least worrying (5 – you really need to improve in this area to 0 – I didn’t even realize this was an issue). They realized most of the time, people worried for nothing. The score generally makes people feel relieved and stop worrying about non-issues and focus on what actually needs improvement (the 5s and 4s to start with). This is a great psychological safety exercise since the issues are brought up by the people who have them and feedback is then easier to accept.

Keep your biases in check, remember Hanlon’s Razor to adopt a more positive mindset

Hanlon’s razor principle is the assumption that when something goes wrong, it is more likely accidental rather than the result of ill will, or as Hanlon wrote: “Never attribute to malice, that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” Ok, well, stupidity may not be the most probable cause, since hopefully, your team is not stupid, but let’s say humans can sometimes be absent-minded, tired, distracted, overworked, etc. Simply put, when someone makes a mistake, one shouldn’t assume it was intentional. This rule of thumb will help cultivate understanding, compassion, forgiveness, and trust in your team.

Take the case of an email that gives the impression that a colleague was rude or too blunt; you can probably rightly assume that this is purely a miscommunication problem (maybe English is not their mother tongue, or the author is from a culture where things are said in a direct manner, but it isn’t meant to be offensive, or maybe you just misinterpreted things). When in doubt, clarify things in person or on a video call. The use of emojis might also help avoid tone misreadings when you are the one sending a message. Some might not be comfortable using them in a professional setting, but they really can help prevent certain types of misunderstandings. Modifying your biases and assuming good intentions in people can go a long way!

Exercise 2: Ask powerful questions. 

When you doubt someone of the wrongdoing, ask these powerful questions (From Douglas W. Hubbard, 2009, cited in Vinita Bansal, no date):

  • Why do I feel this way?
  • What data do I have to justify that the other person acted out of bad intention?
  • Are there other instances where they acted this way?
  • Have I spoken to them about it?
  • What is the probability that I am incorrect?
  • Could I be biased at the moment?
  • What other possible reasons could make them behave this way?

Make it a Habit for Everyone to Speak Up and Participate

First, team leaders need to prioritize psychological safety explicitly. Ground rules must be laid down and applied. Leaders, alongside their team, need to establish how failure is handled (no punishment for failure despite efforts, reasonable risks taken, and good faith). They should make failure an opportunity to learn and, above all, to share collectively the lessons learned thanks to failure (which will be not only a learning opportunity but also one to create a safe space for others to know that we can all admit our failures, contributing to this safe space). Finally, teams need to learn how to accept and adopt productive conflict. That is to say, having constructive discussions, allowing questioning, and accepting contesting can be done, by following certain ground rules, such as respect, listening, honesty and kindness, for everyone to feel safe doing it. Even when there is no conflict, nothing delicate to discuss, making sure every team member has to participate should become a habit. It is the leader’s responsibility to ensure everyone speaks. To do so, they might use different methods to ensure everyone gets the chance to speak. For example, one can give each a turn to speak, or when with a bigger group, use break rooms to facilitate everyone having time to speak up. Speaking up in smaller groups is also easier, less intimidating. The team must try different methods to ensure everyone gets turns speaking up.

Exercise 3: Create a space for idea sharing. 

Try creating a particular space for ideas (new, crazy, or maybe even bad ideas), whether during meetings or on a specifically dedicated Slack channel, for example. That way, people know there is at least this time or space where they are not only allowed but purposefully encouraged to brainstorm, share and contribute whatever they have on their mind, knowing this frame is meant for it and is a safe space to do so.  

Exercise 4:  Accept Silence to Give Time to Reflect. 

For everyone to have a chance to speak, people need to learn to be more comfortable with silence. For example, during Zoom meetings, participants tend to be uncomfortable when silence arises and tend to want to fill it (or hope someone else will). Doing so can prevent others in your team from speaking up. Sometimes, people simply need more time to reflect before answering or formulating their ideas before communicating them, especially non-native speakers. Some are just shy or new in the company or in that position, and don’t have the confidence yet to speak.  We all need that extra few seconds to muster up our courage to share that original idea or important concern, sometimes. Leaders have to remember that reflective silence is valuable and to purposely give time for everyone to have a chance to speak-up, even if that means letting an uncomfortable silence last longer (it’s not thaaaat painful, is it… and something might come out of it!). To avoid experiencing a more detached type of silence, you can let your team members know in advance what kind of input you are expecting from them at the next meeting a bit in advance.

Exercise 5: Value diverse perspectives. 

Diversity of ideas and perspectives is a major factor in creative and innovative thinking. It is one of the important factors to success (Page, 2017, 2:45). To encourage this, ask everyone to play the devil’s advocate alternately. That way, people have to think differently, and it takes away the risk (real or perceived) that the rest of the team will judge them for having different, crazy, or “negative” ideas or points of view, a point of view that could help your team solve problems and even foresee them, before they become one. This strategy using a cooperative approach instead of a competitive one, will be more effective to advance the reflection on the problem discussed (e.g. your product has a bug and you need to find a solution) and will help develop respectful debate habits simultaneously (Menzies, 2018).

Exercise 6: Promote courageous conversations. 

Sometimes a product or a project is just not as good as it could be. But team members don’t always dare say so, even if they can put the finger on what the problem might be. You can pave the road to openness by having sessions, specifically for any critiques or frustrations anyone may have with a product/project, without fear of negative consequences. Everyone must listen without interrupting. After this, everyone has to offer solutions to the problem

Exercise 7: Hold a blameless post-mortem.  

Another way to promote difficult conversations is having blameless post-mortems. The goal here is not to find out who made mistakes but what could be changed in the processes to avoid those mistakes being made in the future and improve performance. This method prompts team collaboration. If you are looking for more exercises and methods to promote courageous conversations or support psychological safety in other ways, have a look at this great article from Fearless Culture.

Exercise 8: Apply the method of “liberating structures”. 

This method was developed by Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless to enable everyone’s participation in large groups. During a meeting, to ensure everyone’s input on a specific matter, first ask everyone to reflect and take notes on the question/problem at hand for one minute. Then, everyone must regroup in pairs and discuss for two minutes, then for four minutes in groups of four (matching previously existing pairs), before finally discussing the matter with the whole group. The advantage here is that all have a chance to offer their ideas. It is less intimidating to do in small groups. Also, while still in smaller groups of 2 and 4, ideas can already be compared, reflected upon, the best can be chosen to be discussed at the next level, before they are brought up in front of the whole group. There is admittedly a very limited time for feedback, but an idea can be discussed further if it wasn’t bad enough to be eliminated at the end of a round. It nonetheless enables the improvement of the ideas before they are discussed at a higher level. This type of structure also helps avoid control or influence of the boss on the discussion, leading to a more restricted discussion and what is practical and effective, is that this structure drives the discussion to convergence.

Exercise 9Encourage impromptu conversations to build trust. 

Needless to say, in a virtual team, psychological safety is even more of a challenge to uphold.  Because trust is usually established through time and interactions, virtual teams do not have many interactions outside the scheduled meetings. Those team members don’t have the opportunity to have spontaneous, “non-business” conversations. This is why it is vital for those teams to create opportunities for such social contact. These casual conversations can foster better bonding and better relationships, which in turn facilitate communication and improve psychological safety.

For example, some might want to have different types of calls or communications, namely having a “good morning” call or (message for the whole team on a Slack channel) to start the day with a more casual conversation. Bigger organizations might want to have a dedicated video call open for anyone to drop in and chat as if they were on their coffee break. 

Exercise 10: Read body language and facial expressions.

One might think that virtual teams are at a disadvantage because it is so much more challenging to establish trust with so little contact and through a screen, and it is not entirely false, but there can be some advantages too. Online social contacts through video calls can be an opportunity to really try to understand the person talking on the screen and read their tone, body language, and facial expressions to feel what they might be feeling. It also might be easier for some people to intently look at their colleagues through a screen as they usually (hear in person) wouldn’t dare or be comfortable doing it so attentively. Indeed, as Altman underlined, “[i]n many cultures, it can be awkward to stare at someone for 30 seconds or certainly minutes at a time. But on Zoom, no one knows who you’re looking at, and your ability to apply your emotional intelligence can sometimes be enhanced.” Not only can it be helpful for employees who grew up in a culture where one can’t look directly in someone’s eyes for too long, but also for some neuroatypical people who are not comfortable doing it either. 

Take your time!

One might think that virtual teams are at a disadvantage because it is so much more challenging to establish trust with so little contact and through a screen, and it is not entirely false, but there can be some advantages too. Online social contacts through video calls can be an opportunity to really try to understand the person talking on the screen and read their tone, body language, and facial expressions to feel what they might be feeling. It also might be easier for some people to intently look at their colleagues through a screen as they usually (hear in person) wouldn’t dare or be comfortable doing it so attentively. Indeed, as Altman underlined, “[i]n many cultures, it can be awkward to stare at someone for 30 seconds or certainly minutes at a time. But on Zoom, no one knows who you’re looking at, and your ability to apply your emotional intelligence can sometimes be enhanced.” Not only can it be helpful for employees who grew up in a culture where one can’t look directly in someone’s eyes for too long, but also for some neuroatypical people who are not comfortable doing it either.

Psychological safety is not something that is built overnight. Actually, “build” is not quite the right idea here, as psychological safety is not something you can ever 100% achieve and be done with. There will always be new people joining the team, setbacks, phases so that it will always remain a work in progress. It has to be the object of constant attention and perpetual efforts. All of this seems like a lot of work, and it is. But shifting your mindset to a more understanding and caring attitude is half the job. And since psychological safety was proven to make employees happier and perform better, it’s probably one of the most profitable changes you can bring to your work. It’s a win-win!

About the Author

Anne-Kristelle Carrier has an MA in International Politics. She has been living in Switzerland since 2010 and works as a Content Editor for Global People Transitions Ltd. in Zurich. When she is not working, bringing her kids to all their activities, or trying to cook something that they will eat (that doesn’t start with “chicken” and ends with “nuggets”), she enjoys everything Switzerland has to offer to residents and tourists alike, like ski slopes, Wanderwege, and museums.

References

Bansal, Vinita, (no date), Hanlon’s Razor: ‘How To Be Less Judgmental And Build Better Relationships,’ TechTello. Available at: https://www.techtello.com/hanlons-razor/ (accessed on 3 February 2022).

Clark, Timothy. The Four Stages of Psychological Safety, Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation, 2020, Random House, New York.

Edmondson, Amy. Psychological Safety and Learning Behavior in Work Teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. 2 (Jun., 1999), pp. 350-383. (Available online at https://web.mit.edu/curhan/www/docs/Articles/15341_Readings/Group_Performance/Edmondson%20Psychological%20safety.pdf)

Geraghty, Tom, The Difference Between Trust and Psychological Safety, 16 November 2020, https://www.psychsafety.co.uk/the-difference-between-trust-and-psychological-safety/

Hubbard, Douglas W., Failure of Risk Management, 2009, Hoboken (New Jersey).

Hirsch, Wendy. Five Questions About Psychological Safety, Answered. Science for Work, 9 October 2017, https://scienceforwork.com/blog/psychological-safety/.

Lipmanowicz, Henri and Keith McCandless, Liberating Structure 1: 1-2-4-All. https://www.liberatingstructures.com/1-1-2-4-all/, retrieved 15, January 2022.

Menzies, Felicity. How to Develop Psychological Safety and a Speak-Up Culture.   https://cultureplusconsulting.com/2018/03/10/how-to-develop-psychological-safety/, retrieved 4 January 2022.

Page, Scott E.Diversity creates bonuses. It’s not just a nice thing to do.LinkedIn News Youtube channel, retrieved 10 January 2022.

Page, Scott E. (2008) The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies

Razetti, Gustavo, 9 Exercises to Promote Psychological Safety in Your Organization, How to Encourage Courageous Conversations at the Workplace. https://www.fearlessculture.design/blog-posts/exercises-to-promote-psychological-safety-in-your-organization

Reynolds, A. and Lewis, D., The Two Traits of the Best Problem Solving Teams, Harvard Business Review, 2018, https://hbr.org/2018/04/the-two-traits-of-the-best-problem-solving-teams.

https://rework.withgoogle.com/blog/creating-a-high-trust-performance-culture/

Paul J. Zak is the author of Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies.

Our Eight Commandments (Global Mobility Trends 2021)
The Global Mobility Workbook

We have been living in a world dominated by political, economic, and environmental uncertainty for many years now. However, the past two years have been particularly exceptional and tough for most of us. The global health crisis caused by Covid-19 has brought the entire planet to its knees. The pandemic impacted all aspects of life and radically changed the way we work. The world of Global Mobility has not been spared. Considering the extent of the impact caused by the pandemic, it doesn’t take a fortune teller to foresee that Global Mobility teams will have to deal with the blow of the crisis in the years to come.

However, it’s not all bad news! We need to think positively and see the good in all situations. For example, the crisis showed that Global Mobility teams continue to be incredibly resilient and are constantly coming up with immediate and particularly creative solutions to face issues that arise overnight. Imagine the difficulty of having to suddenly repatriate an expat (or an expat family) who was temporarily on holiday in a third country and remains stuck there without any other assistance. Or the complexity of finding a quick solution for someone who was about to go on assignment but suddenly had to postpone their departure, despite all their household goods having already been shipped to the host location. The following section will briefly outline the top eight Global Mobility (GM) trends to watch in 2021.

1 – Diversify the Assignment Types in Your Guidelines

A constantly changing and diverse population like today’s requires closer alignment between mobility types and support levels and more flexibility and agility. Since the 1990s, the mobility types have evolved enormously from only having long-term or short-term assignments. In the 2000s, new types of assignments emerged, such as the rotator, the international transfer, the globalist, and the commuter. Then, the 2010s saw the rise of business travelers, international new hires and domestic relocations. In the present decade, we will see the assignment type evolve and diversify further with new possibilities like the “flexpat”, the virtual roles, the contingent workers, remote working, and other future mobility options we haven’t thought about. Predictably, there will be more variety in the range of mobility locations as well. The “global approach,” which Global Mobility has seen increasing over time, will become the leading type of move. 

Even though Long-Term Assignments (LTAs) remain an important and widely used relocation model, it is also true that the deployment of shorter and more flexible approaches, such as Short-Term Assignments (STAs), business trips, immersive experiences, and commuter models, are constantly gaining traction (Deloitte, 2019). The Global Assignment Policies and Practices Survey from KPMG (2020) confirm the same trend, with survey participants expecting to rely the upcoming five years more on STAs (46%), Commuter (52%), and Permanent Transfers (52%). On the other hand, 44% of respondents expect a reduction in the use of traditional LTAs, and 42% believe that it will remain the same. The diversification of assignment types directly brings us to the next trend; the need for flexibility. 

2 – Become More Flexible in Dealing With the Needs of a Diverse Workforce

Flexibility has dominated HR headlines for several years. It continues to be a trending topic, driven by several factors such as a constantly changing expat population and assignment types, employee expectations, modern technologies, and tools. This trend has also been driven lately by the unexpected global halt caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as it has been a severe stress test of flexible policies and has raised essential questions in the flexibility debate (Mercer, 2021a). 

For a GM program to be successful, it needs to work well both for the organization and the expats. But having a policy both flexible and defined enough to be used as the foundation for any mobility scenario is a big challenge even for the most evolved GM programs, as data from Mercer’s 2019 Flexible Mobility Policies Survey report.

The expat population is changing. Nowadays, a more diverse population than ever is embarking on International Assignments. Employees are more diverse in cultural backgrounds, family situation, age, gender, etc. It is impossible to address all the needs of these various groups in a one-size-fits-all policy.

A more diverse workforce equals a larger variety of individual assignees’ expectations, with the result that a proposition might be very attractive for one employee while not being appealing at all for another. This is clearly pinpointed by the 2018 How Global Mobility is Responding to New Dilemmas Survey: expectations from millennial generation employees are impacting mobility programs for 43% of surveyed companies, while the aging workforce has 36% of companies re-evaluating their program policies.

The need for flexibility is clear, and organizations have come to understand its importance as 65% of respondents of the AIRINC Mobility Outlook Survey 2021 (MOS) believe that demand for flexibility from the business will increase. Furthermore, 33% of respondents state that increasing flexibility within policies is their top priority to focus on in the next couple of years. The survey also shows that the number of policies that companies support increased each year, with an average amount of 4.5 policies in 2017 to 6.2 in 2021. 

Flexibility is needed to cater to individual needs. According to the Mercer 2019 Flexible Mobility Policies Survey, the most popular policy elements for which the participants introduced flexibility are family-related: housing, spousal support, child education, and home leave tickets are all items that can help improve the Expat Experience while on assignment.

However, with the crisis, the importance of duty of care over excessive flexibility was acknowledged: policies should not be made flexible if they are essential for the wellbeing of employees. Flexible policies have prepared some companies to deal more efficiently with urgent repatriations and unforeseen mobility scenarios. Other companies adopting flexible policies have found them inapplicable and inappropriate in the context of urgency. 

3 – Expect more Balance in Dual-Career Expat Couples 

Dual-Career Expat couples have been a topic in GM for the past years. The 2017 Worldwide Survey of International Assignment Policies & Practices (WIAPP) survey report pinpointed dual-career/family-related issues and cost as the main barriers to mobility. Similarly, the expected advantages of a flexible mobility program were also closely related to these issues. Also, the report published by Crown (2019) highlights the same problem. But if this is not a new phenomenon, why is it considered a trend to watch in 2021?

Because nowadays many more households, globally, rely on two salaries. This means that when an employee is asked to take on an international assignment, the economic impact on the family is more significant than it used to be. Consequently, an increasing number of companies are struggling with the challenges posed by the dual-career demographic and are in search of creative solutions. According to the report published by Crown in 2020, dual-career couples are more the norm, and often the accompanying partner has left a career for the move. Interestingly, research also shows that often, the expat partner has the most challenging time adjusting. Lack of spousal/partner career support is, according to the latest AIRINC MOS (2021), even among the top five reasons why assignments fail. 

To deal with the dual-career factor, companies have put in place several strategies. Many have put in place policies to support split families, offering more frequent home leave. However, this is generally limited to 12-24 months, after which the employee runs a higher risk of suffering from burnout with a negative impact on work productivity as well. Another solution is the increase of commuter assignments, especially across the EU, where distances are limited. The downside of this could be that the commuter status will impact the employee and their family and the team’s morale in the home and host location after some time. Another strategy, the one for which we advocate, is putting Expat Spouse support at the core of GM policies. The most standard support comes in the form of reimbursements for job search assistance, professional affiliations, and credential maintenance.

4 – Facilitate and Organize “Virtual Assignments”

The first trend highlighting the continuous diversification of GM also encompasses a higher number of Virtual Assignments. Differently than managers who oversee a region or frequent Business Travelers who might occasionally be involved in operations abroad from remote, a virtual assignee does remotely the same job as an assignee who has relocated to the host country. Virtual Assignments have been the breakout topic since the pandemic (Crown, 2021). The COVID-19 crisis is changing all the debate around the possibilities of working from home and Virtual Assignments. Never in history have so many employees worked remotely to guarantee essential business continuity. Virtual Assignments also raise a lot of new questions. 

Virtual mobility does not necessarily imply that employees remain in the home country while being responsible for operations in other locations. It allows expats to ‘’work from anywhere’’, meaning that employees can also work in a third country of choice (not the home country or the location benefiting from the task performed). This possibility enables expats to become digital nomads as they are no longer bound to a specific location. Implementing a more significant number of Virtual Assignments also means acknowledging and accepting that working arrangements are changing fast in response to technology, generational changes, and sudden business disruptions. 

Of course, there are limits to this as well. The most obvious of which is that not all jobs can be performed remotely, which is also one of the reasons why virtual mobility will not replace traditional mobility. Tax and compliance issues can pose a risk too. The company having no existing operations and not wishing to have a permanent establishment in the location where the employee would like to be based is another possible barrier to Virtual Assignments. Some organizations are also concerned that Virtual Assignments could hinder company culture and teamwork, with the risk for the employee to feel like a perpetual outsider. The final point worth considering is that cost saving is not necessarily automatic. In some cases, the assignee wants to live in a high-cost country where sending them will cost the company much more (Mercer, 2021b). 

It is now easier to see how the popularity of virtual mobility is closely related to the increase of a more dispersed international workforce. As companies upgrade their technology and become more agile, they could decide to assign projects and tasks to mobile people rather than moving defined jobs as such. In other words, instead of trying to fit assignees into predefined boxes, the aim is to manage a diverse workforce in a more fluid and coordinated way (Mercer, 2021d). 

Moving jobs to people instead of moving people to jobs will not substitute the traditional way of thinking GM, but it is one more tool companies can use in their global operations. We live in an era where recruitment is not limited by geography, and hiring can occur in any global location to fill open positions. As organizations gradually embrace best practices to manage a distributed international workforce, it will be essential for Global Mobility teams to adapt to a new way of thinking and learn to implement Virtual Assignments successfully. 

5 – Expand Your Skills and Become More Agile 

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, multi-skilling is “the practice of training employees to do several different things, or of using employees who can do several different things,” or, in other words, the ability to master a wide range of skills relevant for different types of functions and jobs. Research from Hershbein and Khan (2018) provides broad-based evidence of how firms demand even more upskilling from workers when the local economy suffers a recession. Thus, this practice will likely be even more helpful in the aftermath of the crisis, when more agility is required in all business areas. 

The “future of work” (#FoW) is skill-driven, and the expansion of the gig economy brings proof to the statement. Since organizations are becoming flattered and more digital, corporate positions or job titles will not matter as much as skills and the capacity to update and renew these skills. Mercer listed a series of skills that GM professionals should acquire to thrive under these conditions. Below is a summary. 

Now more than ever, global mobility teams are asked to be advisers to the business and help anticipate risks and compliance issues. Mobility professionals should function as bridges between departments and geographies and serve as facilitators to coordinate arising matters. One possibility is that the mobility functions will be gradually more oriented towards consultancy. In one sentence, Global Mobility teams need to master compliance issues.

Ensuring that the basics are in place in terms of metrics and cost tracking will be essential, but what will make a difference for HR professionals is turning the results of newly developed metrics into concrete suggestions to improve people management.

It is also fundamental that mobility professionals speak the same language as general management and finance departments, linking mobility with compelling business cases.

Another crucial point Global Mobility teams need to bring to the top of their agendas is developing the ability to be good storytellers. Explaining the bigger story behind talent mobility and to what extent employees’ tasks relate (even distantly) to the overall economy and the society’s well-being is a differentiator. Storytelling is also about clearly summarizing the mobility program policy’s main principles or what the very mobility program entails. 

Today we live in an unprecedented abundance of information. The crucial issue is determining which data are true and relevant and interpreting them to draw appropriate conclusions for the business. GM professionals also have a role to play in the digitalization of companies. They need to familiarize themselves with the concepts and technologies revolving around AI and develop statistical and technology literacy.

Now that companies diversify more and more their compensation approaches, GM professionals need to dig deeper into Expat base pay, benefits, short-term and long-term incentives to have a more comprehensive financial understanding of the implications of an international move. It’s time to broaden reward skills. 

6 – Consider Adding “Human Touch” 

The days when careers were only about moving up the ladder are forgone. Nowadays, it’s about moving across the structure and the expat experience (KPMG, 2021). For employees, this results in a heightened focus on wellbeing, development, and recognition. At the same time, expats have started perceiving the mobility experience differently: They once used to see compensation as the primary incentive for global relocations but now tend to value providing validation on both a personal and professional level. Nowadays, the global workforce is attracted and motivated by a more personalized, agile, and holistic experience. Therefore, adding the human touch is needed which predictably results in a better relationship between employees and employers.

Employers picked up this trend and refer to it as improving “employee experience.” 47% of respondents of the AIRINC MOS 2021 mentioned this as a top priority to focus on in the upcoming years. However, it would be unfair to deny that it is too often difficult to prioritize employee experience if teams are too busy focusing on the many operational aspects of the mobility program. A well-designed human-centric global mobility program does not simply consider individual employee needs but also considers all the people involved. 

If you wish to embrace the human touch in your global mobility program, you successfully should focus on the following four core aspects:

  • Operational Support. Structure of operations and satisfaction with external vendors.
  • Financial Welfare. Rewards, benefits, and other types of support provided to the employee. 
  • Professional Engagement. Successful integration into the host location and career progression.
  • Expat well-being. Employee resilience and focus outside of work life.

The COVID-19 crisis has particularly highlighted the very last aspect of the above list, expat well-being. According to Deloitte’s 2020 Global Human Capital Trends, 80% of the respondents identified well-being as an important priority for their organization’s success over the next 12-18 months, making it this year’s top trend. Yet, only 12% feel “very ready” to address this issue, showing a clear “readiness gap.” Expat well-being does not stop at healthcare considerations and should not only be prioritized during emergencies. Expat well-being should also entail social, emotional, and financial aspects. Those are natural aspects in which highly mobile employees are automatically more at risk. Factors such as stress, mental health, family and financial issues, and demotivation or failed assignments should put the mobility team on full alert. We need to get back to providing a service that is essentially a human experience. Especially, to improve the expat’s well-being it is extremely important that they have contact with people from inside and outside the company to which they can talk to. 

Undoubtedly, the current crisis pushes companies to accelerate their strategies to ameliorate expat well-being, potentially enabling a better work-life balance. There are plenty of good reasons to make investments to improve well-being: Burnout impacts employee retention, employees with higher well-being are more likely to feel engaged at work and recommend their organizations, and to some extent, well-being drives organizational performance (Deloitte, 2020).

7 – Deal with Harder Immigration Compliance 

Even before this global pandemic, the waiting time organizations had to face before holding all the authorizations required for an employee to travel abroad for business was becoming increasingly longer. The quicker visa to obtain, that for short-term business travels, are not intended for productive work or long-term assignments. Many countries are enforcing measures more actively against illegal employment. A growing number of employees have to pay pricey fines, and some even undergo criminal punishments. 

Problems only increase when the employee is accompanied by their spouse who travels on a holiday visa and then tries to find a job in the new host country or get a local driver’s license. 

Undoubtedly, the unexpected crisis caused by the widespread presence of COVID-19 has made immigration compliance and timelines for assignments even more complicated for organizations wanting to send their employees abroad, repatriate or transfer them to a third country. Also, companies might be losing key talent now that the job market is picking up if they had to wait for their assignments, sitting on packed suitcases for more than a year.

In a world where business travel, secondments, and overseas relocations are routine, the resulting level of disruption caused by the restrictions on movement that governments set in place to combat the spread of the pandemic is unprecedented. With companies working hard to prioritize their staff’s well-being, another whole set of legal challenges arise. In such a rapidly changing scenario, some mobile employees might remain stranded in their host country or a transit country or even risk overstaying their visas. Some of the measures that governments around the world are enacting are temporary, but others could have a more negative effect on business in the near future. 

  1. Entry restrictions and an increased number of admission criteria for citizens of certain countries, including bans on some high-risk locations.
  2. Heightened eligibility criteria and application requirements where visas are issued, including suspension of visa waiver agreements and more detailed document requirements for new applications.
  3. Longer lead times for applications and discrimination in the selection leading to class systems of vaccinated versus non-vaccinated applicants.

8 – Embrace Digital Innovation

In the past 24 months, many organizations have focused on digitization (moving to more digital formats) and digitalization (strategically shifting to digital processes and activities) of the mobility function. Many consider technological breakouts to be a megatrend. One of the biggest challenges is to incorporate technology into the business in a way that adds value to the company and its employees. One positive example of digitalization is reporting assignees through an intuitive HR system and tracking assignees through security apps such as the International SOS assistance app.

Companies’ level of ‘digital engagement’ depends on how “digitally mature” their global mobility programs already are. Some might be just ‘exploring digital,’ using robotics to carry out simple and repetitive tasks, while others might be already ‘becoming digital’ with a formal digital strategy set in place. 

Mobility functions are already experiencing success where automation is implemented to perform tasks that humans would generally be assigned, such as ending routine emails or copying and pasting information from public or private sources. In turn, workers are given higher-value tasks for the benefit of the mobility function. By adopting and introducing those techniques into existing processes, GM teams will focus on diminishing costs, increasing productivity by improving operational efficiency, and retaining talent. Some of the latest HR systems like Success Factors or Workday offer basic workflow functions for international assignments but cannot yet run the full process with all the external vendors involved. Data needs to be shifted from the HR System to the vendor platform but an integrated solution has to be found to do this efficiently while still respecting GDPR and Data Security.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology is another interesting use of AI in the field. It is already being used to speed up administrative/transactional processes in mobility functions. Equally important is that automation can also reveal itself as crucial in reducing hierarchical thinking. If you want to read more about this topic then this article on our blog might be of interest to you. 

Core office technologies such as telephone, word processing platforms, and email have already evolved to expand connected and collaborative working possibilities. Expats can now access the latest information, join video conferences, share and work on the same documents or workspace at their convenience, from a device and location of their choice. It is a great aid tool for managing assignee package creation. It makes it possible for Global Mobility teams to stay in close communication with their assignees abroad. 

As for Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR, respectively), they can transform the employee’s onboarding experience into the organization or allow them to meet and collaborate with colleagues in other countries. Additionally, it can be used to virtually recreate cities to immerse oneself in the new environment before deciding to move there.

According to Deloitte (2020), AI is projected to add US$13 trillion to the global economy over the next decade. It is no wonder that in their 2020 Global Human Capital Trends Survey, 70% of the respondents stated that their organizations were exploring or using AI to some extent. At this point, the question is not whether AI will affect jobs but rather how. Reducing costs by replacing the workforce with AI technology is not the only viable path: 60% of the surveyed organizations use AI to assist rather than replace workers. 

By using smart devices to predict, detect and prevent risks in moving people around the globe, AI is already helping organizations go beyond traditional ways of managing the global workforce. With the massive increase of the data volume available to organizations, the emergence of advanced AI-based algorithms, and the growing availability of data scientists, systems become increasingly self-managing and potentially self-defending against risks.  

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References 

Websites

Dictionary.cambridge.org. (2021). multi-skilling. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/multi-skilling

Mercer. (2021a). Global mobility policy flexibility in practice. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/Insights/article/Global-mobility-policy-flexibility-in-practice 

Mercer. (2021b).The rise of virtual assignments. (2021). Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/insights/article/the-rise-of-virtual-assignments 

Mercer. (2021c). Upskilling the Mobility Function. (2021). Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/Insights/article/Upskilling-the-Mobility-Function 

Mercer. (2021d). Talent mobility: looking ahead. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/Insights/article/Talent-mobility-looking-ahead

Books and Reports

AIRINC. (2021). Mobility Outlook Survey 2021. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://www.air-inc.com/mobility-outlook-survey-2021/ 

Crown. (2019). Big Global Mobility Trends to Watch in 2019. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://www.crownworldmobility.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Big-global-mobility-trends-to-watch-in-2019-CWM.pdf 

Crown. (2020). Big Global Mobility Trends to Watch in 2020. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://www.crownworldmobility.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Big-global-mobility-trends-to-watch-in-2020-CWM.pdf 

Crown. (2021). Five Standout Talent Mobility Trends for 2021. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from  https://www.crownworldmobility.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/5-standout-talent-mobility-trends-for-2021_digital-CWM.pdf

Deloitte. (2019). ’Global Workforce Insight 2019.’ Deloitte. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/ch/Documents/tax/deloitte-ch-Back-to-the-future-global-workforce.pdf

Deloitte. (2020). ‘2020 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Survey. Deloitte.’ Deloitte. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/insights/us/articles/us43244_human-capital-trends-2020/us43244_human-capital-trends-2020/di_hc-trends-2020.pdf 

FIDI. (2019). ‘2020 Vision: A Focus on Next Year’s Trends.’ FIDI Global Alliance. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://www.fidi.org/blog/2020-vision-focus-next-years-trends 

Hershbein, B. and Khan, L. B. (2018). ‘Do Recessions Accelerate Routine-Biased Technological Change? Evidence from Vacancy Postings.’ American Economic Review. Vol. 108, no. 7, pp. 1737-72. Retrieved May 27, 2020, from https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/aer.20161570

KPMG. (2020). Global Assignment Policies and Practices Survey. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2020/10/gapp-2020-survey-web.pdf

KPMG. (2021). Global Mobility Forecast: Trends in Risk, Talent and Digital. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2021/02/global-mobility-forecast-trends-in-risk-talent-and-digital.pdf 

Mercer. (2017). Worldwide Survey of International Assignment Policies and Practices. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://www.imercer.com/products/WorldwideIAPP

Mercer, (2019). ‘Flexible Mobility Policies Survey.’ Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/solutions/data-solutions/policies-and-practices-surveys/flexible-mobility-policies-survey

PWC. (2016). Women of the World: Aligning Gender Diversity and International Mobility in Financial Services. Retrieved 18 August 2021, from https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/industries/financial-services/assets/women-of-the-world.pdf 

More Sources

Baker McKenzie. (2019). ‘The Global Employer: Focus on Global Immigration and Mobility.’ Baker McKenzie. Retrieved May 27, 2020, from https://www.bakermckenzie.com/en-/media/files/insight/publications/2019/12/the-global-employer-focus-on-immigration-and-mobility_041219.pdf

Beck, P., Eisenhut, P. and Thomas, L. (2018). „Fokus Arbeitsmarkt: Fit für die Zukunft?”. Stiftung Zukunft.li. Retrieved 28 May, 2020, from https://www.stiftungzukunft.li/publikationen/fokus-arbeitsmart-fit-fuer-die-zukunft 

Bertolino, M. (2020). ‘How Covid-19 Is Disrupting Immigration Policies and Worker Mobility: A Tracker’. Ernst and Young. Retrieved May 28, 2020, from https://www.ey.com/en_gl/tax/how-covid-19-is-disrupting-immigration-policies-and-worker-mobility-a-tracker

Hauri, D., Eisenhut, P., and Lorenz T. (2016). „Knacknuss Wachstum und Zuwanderung: Hintergründe und Zusammenhänge.” Stiftung Zukunft.li. Retrieved 28 May, 2020, from Knacknuss Wachstum und Zuwanderung

Robb, A., Frewin, K. and Jagger, P. (2017a). ‘Global Workforce Trends: The Impact of the Digital Age on Global Mobility.’ Deloitte. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/uk/Documents/tax/deloitte-uk-global-mobility-trends-latest.PDF 

Robb, A., Frewin, K. and Jagger, P. (2017b). ‘Global Workforce : Digital Innovation in Mobility.’ Deloitte. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/fi/Documents/tax/deloitte-uk-digital-innovation-in-mobility.pd 

How we Create Space at the Table for Female and Minority Talent – Six Tactics for Global Mobility
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Biases and prejudices are burdens that confuse the past, threaten the future and render the present inaccessible” ~  Maya Angelou. 

Although international organizations have Diversity and Inclusion objectives, in the vague sense of it as it were, yet according to a report by KPMG, 2018, many are falling short due to failure to understand how Diversity and Inclusion impact Global Mobility programs. 

Another survey by KPMG highlighted that the majority of Global Mobility Programs do not have specific Diversity and Inclusion objectives as part of their department’s strategy. 70% of the companies that do have diversity and inclusion practices in place stated that this was due to a strong business case for diversity across all areas of the business. 

At this juncture, it is important that we define “Female and Minority Talent”. While what you consider as a minority will depend largely on your home base country, where your headquarters is based, I recommend that you consider all of these groups:

  • BIPOC: The acronym BIPOC refers to black, indigenous, and other people of color and aims to emphasize the historic oppression of black and indigenous people.
  • LGBTQ+: LGBTQ+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Queer, and other sexual identities and genders.
  • Religious and cultural minorities in your home and host countries.

We previously discussed the obstacles women face in Global Mobility. We also raised the why question. This is about the how.

As rightly posited by Tom Paton, diversity is slower to gain reception in areas where prejudice or centuries of deep-rooted behavior may persist. Unconscious bias is when a Sponsoring Manager is preparing to send only white men abroad to fill a business gap. 

What you will see is often unconscious bias against female talent because the Sponsoring Manager assumes that a woman has a house to keep and children to raise. Sometimes the prejudice is just as simple as “women don’t do this kind of job or can’t work in this country”. There is a strong stereotype that women with children don’t want to work abroad. 

Meanwhile, data shows that 88% of women feel that they need to go on an international assignment to advance their careers (PWC, 2016). The study shows that 73% of women in Financial Services wish more transparency on opportunities overseas. The lack of transparency in overseas opportunities leads minority groups and women to be underrepresented as they are not aware of the opportunities. 

Consequently, companies have smaller talent pools as the communication of overseas opportunities is often rather ambiguous. The outcome of the survey by KPMG brings a little hope in this aspect, as nearly half of the companies surveyed indicated that the review of their Global Mobility processes will result in broadening communication to employees about opportunities. 

We all want to maximize the potentials of our pool of resources. 

There is enough evidence that companies having both gender diversity and ethnic and cultural diversity are more likely than ever to outperform their less diverse peers. 

McKinsey’s most recent report ‘’Diversity Wins’’ outlines that companies in the top quartile for gender-diverse executive teams are 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth-up quartile. The outcome for ethnic and cultural diversity is equally appealing. Therefore, the business case for diversity and inclusion is clear, it is time for us to take matters into our own hands.

Here are our top six tactics to give female and minority talent a seat at the Global Mobility table.

1 – Identify Strong Candidates: This boils down to eliminating all forms of prejudices, stereotypes, and biases. Regardless of being male or female, it is important to create a system of identifying those who are qualifying for international work and projects. The key points to consider for an ideal selection are performance, potential, and if needed proficiency with the relevant languages. Use your performance and potential data and don’t just rely on “gut” feeling about candidates. Make sure that you have “hard skills” added to your HR System so you can search talent by language or IT skills.

2 – Select Candidates Based on Intercultural Sensitivity Tests: Every candidate that meets the requirement for being sent on an assignment should go through an intercultural sensitivity test.  We must stop making the assumption that women with children are unwilling to take up an international assignment.  Not only can women be willing to receive an assignment, but they are just as capable of accomplishing great things and succeeding as their male colleagues.  On another note, the potentially stressful or dangerous context in the host location might be a deterrent for some employees, but before assuming, have a conversation with your potential assignee. You have to ensure that your selection process is based on data and facts, rather than sentiments. Work with a professional to assess their intercultural competence. At GPT, we use assessment tools such as the Intercultural Development Inventory or  Individual Cultural Blueprint Indicator.

3 – Provide Global Guidelines for Recruiters: This sounds simple yet very profound. We have witnessed the surge of different “expatriates” such as Cross-Border Commuters, Virtual Assignees, Global Nomads, International Business Travelers, and Commuters. In Global Mobility, if we want to be inclusive, we need to offer support to all of these people, their families, and their needs have to matter to us. Here are my ideas for your global recruiting guidelines. 

4 – Enhance Intercultural Intelligence Across all Levels: “Intercultural intelligence means suspending judgment until enough information about the other person becomes available; paying attention to the situation; cross-cultural training that increases isomorphic attributions, appropriate affect, and appropriate behaviors; matching personal and organizationally attributes; increasing the probability of appropriate organizational practices”  Now is the time to promote intercultural intelligence within your workforce population. Offer “Unconscious Bias” training for your senior managers and ensure your senior managers lead a diverse workforce. Expose them to other cultural styles.

5 – Offer an open Job Platform: Most companies work like Twitter. You have fans and followers and people who watch what you are doing closely. Instead of organizing talent programs, you can make your global job market transparent. All talents want to be given a fair chance at success and you need to find ways to motivate more introverted busy bees as well. Part-timers often need more recognition and sponsors who help them be seen for opportunities. 

You might want to rewrite all your job postings to be more inclusive and reduce the white male-dominated language. You also need to reduce the profiles so they match real professionals. As I mentioned in “The Global Career Workbook” most job profiles I’m reading have been written for Superman and Wonderwoman. According to a study by Hewlett-Packard, women only apply for jobs when they meet 100% of the requirements while men already do so if they meet 60% of them. This finding is often quoted in articles to prove that women lack confidence. It is never wrong to boost up your confidence, but the reason behind the figures seems to be something else. 

According to an article by Tara Sophia Mohr, the reason why women apply less quickly is because of the bias that women need to meet more qualifications than their counterparts. Secondly, from a young age girls are being taught to follow the rules and are being rewarded for doing so. This often leads to a rule-following habit that makes women believe that if they don’t meet all the requirements, that they shouldn’t waste their or the HR Manager’s time and energy. So, don’t post vacancies that only heroes can fulfill as you will miss out on many potential candidates. 

6 – Target Your External Job Ads to Female and Minority Talent: When you post a job profile on LinkedIn, you can pay for as much or as little exposure as you want and target it to a very specific audience. Indeed, if you manage your campaign effectively by targeting Female and Minority Talent you not only show your support, you also help your brand. Mention that you wish to hire women and minorities explicitly. Posting jobs online is like getting applicants in real-time. Online announcements can help you either increase your efforts to attract more candidates or even prevent candidates from applying if you’ve already found the right person for the job. If you are looking for younger recruits in particular, then e-recruitment is probably the single most effective and efficient strategy possible; in the US, for instance, 98% of the 18–29 age group are active internet users. It can help if you build a fan base through a specific topic and use this fan base for building your female and minority talent pipeline.

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Why we Need to Push for More Minority and Female Expats in Global Mobility

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https://globalpeopletransitions.com/every-expat-and-spouse-should-have-the-best-experience-why-we-need-to-transform-global-mobility/

https://www.globesmart.com/blog/four-ways-organizations-can-support-their-lgbtq-employees/

References:

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Kramer, S. (2018). How Inclusion and Diversity Impact Global Mobility Programs [Report]. Retrieved 15 June 2021, from https://fowmedia.com/how-inclusion-and-diversity-impact-global-mobility/ 

McKinsey & Company. (2020). Diversity Wins: How inclusion matters [Report].
https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/featured%20insights/diversity%20and%20inclusion/diversity%20wins%20how%20inclusion%20matters/diversity-wins-how-inclusion-matters-vf.pdf

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PwC. (2016). Women of the world: Aligning gender diversity and international mobility in financial services. Pwc. https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/industries/financial-services/assets/women-of-the-world.pdf

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