Written by Katherine Rodriquez and Wyatt Fernandes
August 11, 2021
Creating a sustainable culture of inclusion within an organization is top priority of most organizations. Of course, this effort needs to be undertaken with great care and attention to different perspectives, particularly the millennial perspective.
Millennials make up one of the most racially and ethnically diverse adult populations in American history. They are also expected to account for as much as 75 percent of the workforce by the year 2025. We think their insights and their influence are pivotal to crafting a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) program that has true staying power within an organization.
We recently spoke with millennial colleagues here at Salary.com to get an informal take on what diversity means to them and what they think employers should consider when it comes to achieving DE&I in their organizations.
Diversity = freedom of expression
A common theme emerged when we asked the question, “What comes to mind when you think of diversity?”
Millennials we spoke to believe that the older generation of corporate leaders have a more traditional view of diversity as determined by demographics. The more tangible aspects of diversity like gender, ethnicity, age and sexual orientation. However, millennials refer to diversity and inclusiveness as a wide range of ideas -- a diversity of thought and freedom of expression. Different perspectives shared by people from different upbringings, socioeconomic status, and geographic locations. This parallels responses to a recent Salary.com survey on DE&I with participants placing the highest level of importance on the need for employees to feel supported and free to speak up.
One colleague noted, “Your initial instinct is to think of the physical aspects like age, race, or ethnicity. But what is also interesting is how people can be so diverse in their personalities, too, which is something not a lot of people realize, including myself.”
Given that freedom of expression is seen as a basic human right, many millennials think such diversity should already be fully in place at the organizations they work for.
Diversity = a non-traditional talent pool
Millennials recognized that organizations are having a difficult time hiring and maximizing the talents of a diverse workforce. While creating a diverse employee base looks good on paper, it can be challenging to effectively implement. Many company leaders believe this is a “pipeline” problem.
A millennial colleague had some thoughts on how to tap into a more diverse talent pool, noting “Diversity is really something that our company has been striving for since day one. So, I really felt the frustration because it was not for lack of trying, it was just the candidate pool contained the same standard candidates. We need to look at the types of job descriptions we’re posting and where we’re posting them. Some potential candidates may not even be on LinkedIn yet, for example.”
Another millennial suggested looking beyond the resume. “Think outside of the box when you are recruiting. Consider people who may not have the traditional business degree from the traditional four-year college. Don’t limit the scope of a candidates background.”
Looking at other avenues of recruitment, like tapping into alumni networks of non-traditional post-secondary educational institutions, is important to organizations looking to diversity their talent pipeline. Reputation is everything when it comes to employee recruitment and retention. Fostering that sense of belonging and freedom of expression that is so important to millennials can have a tremendous impact. Millennials will not stick with a job where they feel undervalued or feel the need to hide a part of their identity.
Diversity = innovation
Millennials are a generation of innovation and there are countless studies that prove a diverse and inclusive workplace fosters greater innovation. When people are encouraged to combine their different experiences and perspectives it creates a supportive work environment. One where authentic relationship-building, open communication and genuine dialogue about difficult issues is ingrained in the culture.
So how do we build this kind of environment at a company?
A millennial working at Salary.com shared their thoughts pointing to the importance of communicating beyond the strategic level of support for DE&I and making sure that, day in and day out, all employees get the support they need. Another noted “Just have more conversations. Everyone’s busy but everyone can also spare 30 minutes of their time to have a conversation to talk about DE&I”.
According to a Deloitte survey, 74% of millennials believe their organization fosters innovation when an inclusive culture exists compared to 10% of millennials who believe their organization fosters innovation when the culture is not inclusive. Building an inclusive work environment and managing it successfully will ultimately lead to happier and more productive employees, and new ideas will flow more freely.
The bottom line is that diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplaces is a big topic for good reason. Not only do millennial workers want to work in more inclusive environments but it is proven that organizations that embrace it are more successful. Now is the time for employers to take a stand and proactively pursue DE&I initiatives that will lead them to creating a diverse workforce that reflects all aspects of our society today.
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