The political turmoil and social unrest that has beleaguered the United States in the past few years have brought some key issues to the forefront for assignees looking to relocate here. We have noticed this firsthand at Globiana as our coaches are getting an increasing number of questions about topics such as school safety, racial inequality, and abortion rights. People are wondering how to keep their kids and themselves safe. For employers who want to attract and retain talent, it’s clear that they need to address these concerns upfront.
Because people have such strong personal feelings and opinions about these topics, a company’s response will have an impact beyond policy-making and benefit offerings. In the era of DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), internal actions, as well as public response, matter when employees weigh whether to join, stay, or relocate with an organization.
For many companies, all of this combined means there is work to do to determine where they stand and to institute policies that deliver the support needed to employees and their families. Some current issues are discussed below.
Lax gun laws and the prevalence of guns and gun violence in the US have many thinking twice about relocating here. One of the common concerns voiced recently is school safety as it relates to guns. While school safety encompasses much more than gun violence, such as bullying, cyber security, and student well-being, it is gun violence that is often front and center when people are asking about safety in US schools.
What companies and/or their relocation partners can do to help parents is to provide factual information about US gun laws; inform about that gun laws are state-specific and vary greatly depending on where you are; and if available, provide access to data about the relationship between state laws and occurrence of gun violence. Also, guidance on how to go about finding out what local school districts/schools are doing to promote safe campuses is key.
In addition, connecting assignees with people who have experience with the local community and local schools can be effective in alleviating concerns. Providing coaching can also be a strategy for addressing questions related to worries about gun violence and personal safety. Educating managers is important to ensure they have the tools needed to answer questions and provide support once an employee is in place.
Health Care/Abortion Rights
With the recent Supreme Court reversal of Roe vs. Wade, the decision about abortion rights now lies at a state level in the US. About half the states are expected to ban abortion or severely restrict it. For HR departments/benefits providers, this means they have a big task to determine how to navigate the new landscape and what it ultimately means for the organization and its employees.
For those considering relocating to the US, questions such as how this may impact quality of life, equality, and wellness care, are common and an important part of the decision-making process.
When it comes to abortion rights, company leadership and HR departments will be tackling everything from personal beliefs, legal questions, privacy concerns, and budgeting issues, to a general uncertainty of what’s in store, as no one quite knows what the future holds; many wonder if other reproductive and lifestyle rights are at risk of being restricted in the coming years in the US.
Strategies for addressing the current situation include
- Determining where your state falls with regard to abortions
- Understanding where your employees stand on the issue
- Understanding/formulating where you as a company stand on the issue and communicating this clearly
- Looking at what your healthcare and other benefits currently include and consider if you need to expand/adjust your plans, and then communicate any changes clearly
Determining what kind of support to provide and how to adjust benefits plans accordingly is one of the main tasks facing companies right now. Many are looking at how they can ensure access to abortion by providing financial and travel assistance to go out of state. Because it is still uncertain what the legal ramifications are with those strategies, many are also considering things such as increased health savings account contributions, more paid leave, paid parental leave, and child care benefits. Some companies are going the other way and are removing abortion coverage altogether from their healthcare plans. Clear communication regarding what the policies look like is crucial so that employees can make informed decisions.
Racial inequality is not a new topic in American society but it has perhaps gotten renewed attention in the last few years, and for many considering relocation, it’s a real concern. Not only are they worried about what it might mean for their personal safety, but there is also the knowledge that the systemic racism that exists in society at large also exists within many companies. You don’t need to look further than the well-publicized résumé study by economists Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan, to get a glimpse of the problem. In the study, applicants with White-sounding names received 50% more callbacks for interviews than equally qualified applicants with Black-sounding names.
While the recent focus on DEI efforts in the corporate world has brought some level of awareness to workplaces and even prompted a call to action, many have yet to take meaningful steps forward in addressing racism. There is a general model for how to begin the process of achieving workplace equity, as described on hbr.org, and in simplified terms, it is based on 1) understanding the problem and where it comes from, 2) developing real concern for the people it’s harming, and 3) figuring out how to correct the problem.
Traditionally, organizations have kept mum on issues that can seem controversial to employees and customers. But, a recent survey from Perceptyx found that a majority of workers wanted their companies to take a public stand on current issues, even when controversial.
There is no one “right solution” to the topics discussed above — individual organizations will have to find what works for them. What all companies can do, and probably need to do, (whether in the US or elsewhere) to stay competitive in the future, is to formulate a public stance based on their core values, and then work to uphold those values in the organization. Many workers include a company’s public stance as a criterion when making their employment decisions, and consumers are doing the same before spending their resources.
By: Felicia Shermis