In an illustrated image, two boys stand hand in hand against a split backdrop. They’re both in the right half, with more background showing on the left. Behind the boy on the right is an urban environment with an office building rising behind the child. On the left, it’s rural with a scattering of houses, a large tree and greenery in the distance. The boy on the right has brown hair, wears glasses, a green sweater and light-coloured trousers. The boy on the left has lighter brown hair swept to the side, he has a blue hoodie and pink trousers. Both are smiling. On the left it reads, “I can’t ask about their children.” Then, “Shaping the future of Global Mobility.” The RES Forum logo is in the bottom right.

Karlijn Jacobs, Ombudsperson for International Children, Expat Valley

“I can’t ask about their children,” is one of the comments I frequently hear from Global Mobility specialists when talking about supporting their employees’ family relocation experience. Also: “I don’t want to overstep any boundaries”, “I assume they will talk about this with their own community”, or “I’m not sure how I can be of help so I would rather not breach the subject”.


Confident communication

When talking to Jessica Drucker about her research paper – Embracing DE&I, we realized that the “I can’t ask …”-obstacle is something we have in common when it comes to supporting global mobility professionals. In many cases, the issue doesn't stem from a lack of willingness to support employees with DE&I or family-related concerns. And it’s not about underestimating the importance of those aspects of successful international relocations. It’s about feeling insecure in communicating effectively with employees for whom either or both topics may be important.


Why is this so difficult then? DE&I and family-related matters are inherently personal. Most of us have been taught that these are irrelevant in our professional lives, and we only start exchanging information when the relationship with our colleague has developed over a longer period. Moreover, in today's professional environment, insensitivity towards personal matters is widely discouraged. Finally, discussing topics like homosexuality can be challenging when one lacks knowledge or training, making it difficult to seek understanding without feeling uninformed. It’s difficult to inquire about children and their wellbeing if you personally lack the experience of moving them around the globe (or: you don’t have children to begin with).


Starting an important conversation about a sensitive topic doesn't require personal experience or extensive training. My advice is to 1) acknowledge that you are about to start a conversation on a sensitive topic, 2) explain why you are addressing this topic, 3) leave room for the other person to decide if/what they are willing to share with you, now or in the future, and 4) emphasize how any information they share will be treated with confidentiality, and only shared with relevant parties with their specific permission (which is also important in light of GDPR and other privacy law). For example:


“I’m going to ask you some questions about your family, as the wellbeing of your child(ren) and partner are essential to the success of your international relocation. At all times, you decide what information you are willing to share, and I want you to know that I understand that you might want to think about some of my questions before you decide to answer them sometime later. Understanding your family’s needs helps me to ensure that we have everything in place to support them effectively, or to inform you about what we can and cannot do, so you can make well-informed decisions about your family’s relocation. The information about your family you share with me will be handled with great care, and only be shared with other people or parties with your consent.”


Aligning ambitions

An additional obstacle occurs when Global Mobility (and: Talent Acquisition, GM Supplier Representatives, etc.) represent an organization that’s unclear about their position in the sensitive matter. As a person, you may know the facts about how support for (or lack thereof) DE&I or Family Relocation Experience influences successful international relocation. You may understand that ignoring these elements will fuse a ticking time bomb. But if the position of other business stakeholders is unclear, you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.


So, the ideal starting point is to find out what your organization’s stand-point is: what is their ambition towards DE&I? Does your organization want an equal share of women-led assignments? Are they looking to successfully relocate single parents, LGBTQ+ families, and people from any ethnicity to as many global destinations as possible (considering that some locations may simply not be safe)? If this is unclear, either put it on the agenda of your team, of your annual review, and other places where you can bring these matters in front of decision makers. Whilst an overarching ambition may still be in the making, you can support your colleagues by analyzing their unique needs in the context of their unique relocation. While the language of your organization’s policy may not be inclusive, it can always be interpreted following its original intent to ensure that benefits are available for all families. Assess whether the standard benefits address all their needs, or is an exception needed? If so: you could explain the situation to other decision makers by stating:


“I have identified XYZ needs with this colleague, which need to be catered for in the context of ABC move and we need DEF exceptions for this relocation to be a success. The cost of DEF exceptions is such and so, the cost of relocation failure is significantly higher. Making this investment not only supports this colleague and the success of their international relocation, but it also contributes to our organization’s position as an inclusive // family-friendly organization, which supports our brand’s reputation.”


Executive Summary

Many professionals hesitate to delve into Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) or family-related matters, fearing they might overstep boundaries or lack the necessary understanding. This reluctance stems not from a lack of willingness but from insecurity in effectively communicating on these topics. Initiating conversations on sensitive topics doesn't require personal experience; rather, it demands empathy, respect, and clear communication. Guidelines include acknowledging sensitivity, explaining the purpose, respecting boundaries, and ensuring confidentiality. Embracing diversity and prioritizing family support are integral to successful global relocations. Overcoming communication barriers requires a collective effort to foster an inclusive environment where every employee's needs are acknowledged and addressed.


The RES Forum says

We understand the need for global mobility professionals to involve experts like Jess from Rainbow Relocation Strategies, and Karlijn, when unsure how to resolve an identified concern or problem. Expat Valley recently launched an AMA-feature to extend support at an early stage of relocations. Overcoming communication barriers requires a collective effort to foster an inclusive environment where every employee's needs are acknowledged and addressed.


RES Forum research

This piece is taken from the RES Forum research paper Embracing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, shaping the future of global mobility. Written by Jessica Drucker from Rainbow Relocation, the report is a detailed and comprehensive deep dive into why DE&I matters, and a clear demonstration of why it’s so important to get it right. Plus, it’s a guide to achieving a better future for your colleagues and your organisation.

Get your copy of Embracing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, shaping the future of global mobility, here:


About Karlijn Jacobs and Expat Valley

Karlijn Jacobs is the Ombudsperson for International Children. Her goal is for international children and their families to experience equal support and understanding as they would have received if they had not moved across borders. She is the Founder of Expat Valley, a social enterprise that supports internationally mobile families, and everyone that benefits from their wellbeing. With Expat Valley, Karlijn raises awareness amongst multinational organizations that employ a global workforce about their employees' Family Relocation Experience. For those organizations looking to improve employee wellbeing, she offers education and hands-on tools and solutions.