The Ethical Complications of Transparency

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The Ethical Complications of Transparency on International Mobility at Solvay Group Chase Jeffrey Engel
Georgetown University

The Ethical Complications of Transparency on International Mobility at Solvay Group
Solvay is an international business leader in the plastic, chemical, and pharmaceutical
industries. With revenue exceeding $14 billion and over 28,000 employees worldwide, the
company has stamped its mark on the international market (Groysberg, Nohria & Herman, 2011,
p. 6). With much of its sales accumulating in the European, North American, and South
American markets, Solvay has recently undertaken a company-wide initiative focused on global
expansion. Marcel Lorent, a Human Resources Manager (HRM) at Solvay, was selected by the
company to lead its newly developed HR International Mobility (IM) Group. With expansion
continuing to proliferate, Lorent’s objective is to “streamline the international mobility process
and make the entire transition a better more productive experience for the expat” (Groysberg et
al., 2011, p. 2). Challenging Lorent’s objectives, however, are ethical complications that may
manifest as a result of company practices and issues. In this case analysis, I will discuss these
problems, identifying the risk they have of manifesting ethical complications within the
company’s International Mobility process and provide solutions and recommendations in which
Solvay’s HR directorates can implement that will enhance its future efforts in the International
Mobility process and assist Lorent’s overall objectives.
Issues
Expatriates and the International Mobility Group
Solvay has placed a growing organizational emphasis on global expansion in recent
years. At any one time, the company has over 300 expatriates deployed world-wide, and sees the
processing of nearly 80 new expatriate moves each year (Groysberg et al., 2011, p. 1). To
improve the company’s efforts, Solvay appointed HRM, Marcel Lorent, to lead the company’s
newly developed IM Group. Lorent’s overall objective for IM at Solvay has been to manage the
expat process and to provide as much help to the expatriate in order to ease her or his experience.
Although he has made strides in improving IM’s efforts, there remain concerns at a macro level
that can hinder much of the Group’s ability to successfully perform its operations. In particular,
Solvay has an organizational issue in which there is a lack of transparency company-wide,
especially when it comes to the IM process.
Lack of Transparency
Solvay has developed a culture centered on the concept of organizational consensus.
Decisions regarding company policies, procedures, and actions depend largely on agreement
throughout the company’s chain of command. As a result, poor communication between
departments has developed along with a slow, ad hoc decision-making process (Groysberg et
al., 2011). Together, these issues have led to an organizational-wide lack of transparency.
Despite the reorganization of its HR structure in 2006, which focused on centralizing
pertinent HR functions and processes, transparency has remained a primary issue at Solvay. This
problem has become particularly apparent for Lorent and the IM Group. At IM, one of Lorent’s
main objectives is to streamline the expatriate process and make it more transparent to the
candidates. Groysberg et al. (2011) explained “Lorent and his team had worked hard to ensure
greater transparency across the organization to address a lack of clear information, concerns
about parity, a lack of clarity around calculations of packages, and delays on paperwork and
expat decisions” (p. 8). Unfortunately, the inability to align information between departments,
the lack of understanding towards the expatriate process, and the slow decision-making time
greatly hinders...
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