Global DE&I policies — when all staff are equal, but some are more equal than others
Creating a clear commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) requires care and coordination. But embedding your policies and pledges in different countries and cultures can make it feel like you’re trying to push water uphill.
In this edition of Reloverse, we look at the steps ESG and HR professionals take to overcome barriers and deliver effective DE&I in disparate locations.
There’s no single definition of diversity. It means something different in Dallas, Dublin or Doha. While it’s easy to deter discrimination based on race or nationality, confronting issues of gender, sexual orientation or religion can land organisations in hot water overseas, legally and reputationally. So how do ESG and HR specialists define and design DE&I sensitively and effectively in different jurisdictions?
Listen and learn
Being able to express, measure and leverage DE&I is first and foremost an exercise in active listening. It requires an understanding of international legislation and indigenous lifestyles, from data protection to social taboos. This in-country intelligence is more easily acquired by asking local teams how things can best be done where they are, than simply telling them how you’re going to do it. Insights, from law to folklore, will create a clear sense of cultural competence by you at the centre, enabling better buy-in from those on the ground. Be cautious of baseline numbers as they’re often highly misleading—and even gathering them in many countries will put you on a collision course with local data protection laws.
Effective DE&I is driven by commercial returns above any crusade to improve society or make things better. It needs to be clear that performance objectives, from overall growth to individual business challenges, sit behind a quest for greater diversity and inclusion. Use data over descriptions, as talent attraction and retention rates speak louder than intangibles such as happiness or wellbeing—particularly as we witness a backlash against so-called woke culture. Be clear on understanding your why before you develop your what and use numbers over nuance.
Clarity begins at home
Like most components of ESG, it’s easy to let emotionally charged and politically correct language cloud what you’re truly trying to say. Choose words for clarity and ease of translation. Understand that ‘minority’ means something very different in India than it does in Indiana. Avoid your own preconceptions and stereotypes and seek advice from those who have to implement your plans. If you’re unsure what a regional manager in Brazil thinks, it’s quite possible you haven’t asked them. The best DE&I professionals have experience of people outside their country and comfort zone and speak and communicate with clarity: in short—use words that work, worldwide.
At the heart, not from the heart
Successful DE&I programmes are routed in truth, strategy and impact, in the same way all core business functions are. They are more than an add-on to Human Resources or a statement of the right thing to do—they are driven by data and commercial imperatives. To build high-functioning teams, enhance brands and reputations, and culturally align an international business, leaders need to promote inclusivity as a universal priority at C-suite level. That means professionals need to earn respect and resource by baking DE&I into the business with an emphasis on the bottom line. Always focus on the motive, above the emotive.
Global and local
Consistency is key, but best-in-class DE&I plans begin with a global framework that can be highly localised. A singular strategy will be irrelevant and ineffective if parachuted in, so respect that regions will vary. That can also be a two-way street, where overseas insights and feedback inform and improve your central messaging. It simply means creating a value set where DE&I is a fundamental tenet of the way your organisation operates, from direction to doing business day-to-day. Any one-size-fits-all attempt to keep things consistent will rapidly be derailed by local legislation, so accept your messaging may change, even if your message does not.
Santa Fe’s compensation and benefits manager, Amanda White, confirmed the need to listen, adding “Asking local teams for their input and insight is essential. It can feel like writing by committee or watering-down strong intentions—but you’ll end up with a policy that’s practical and relevant, where nothing gets lost in translation”.
In summary. Define what diversity means, listen and become culturally competent—then communicate your intentions with clarity, using data above desire. Commercial motives mean more to international teams than your personal motivation. Above all, it’s more about building a better business than lofty, altruistic intent. The universal bonus is, when it’s done right, diversity and inclusion benefit organisations and individuals, creating fairer societies. It enables each of us to bring our authentic selves to work, regardless of factors we don’t directly control. That permeates beyond the workplace, creating tolerance and understanding, helping us Make It Easy for people to work, live and thrive in new places around the world
If you’re looking for a culturally competent partner that understands diversity and inclusion spanning the entire relocation journey, we would love to support you and your international teams. Simply drop an email to email@example.com and we’ll get back to you.