Diversity, discrimination, attracting millennialsDiversity, discrimination, attracting millennialsDiversity, discrimination, attracting millennials

Defining Diversity as Millennials Do: Is Your HR Department Really Ready?

Both your HR department and your Millennial staff will undoubtedly agree that diversity in the workplace is important for the well-being of individual staff and the company as a whole. But when each says diversity, are they both describing the same thing? Do they agree on what makes for a diverse  workplace?

After 25 years working with both Human Resource leaders and the last 10 with Millennials, I know they probably don’t share the same definition of diversity. And with 50% of the workforce currently made up of Millennials who directly connect diversity–as they define it– with their engagement at work, it is critical to the health of any organization that Human Resource leaders and Millennials are on the same page about what “diversity” means.

Rather than seeing diversity as something to merely tolerate, or tip toe around, Millennials are demonstrating that they believe that there are tangible benefits to proactively seeking out minorities and people of diverse backgrounds to share ideas and ensure everyone’s voices are heard equally.

But, it isn’t enough for Human Resource leaders to understand how Millennials define diversity. They also need to know how to implement the right strategies for promoting diversity effectively and in ways that Millennials will respond to favorably as we develop the workplace of the future.

For Millennials, Diversity is Not Limited to Race

For Baby Boomers, diversity largely refers to race or gender. or the last 30 years Boomers have supported efforts that promote workplace diversity and reduced racial discrimination. Those efforts have helped make big strides in the racial diversity of offices across most, but not all, industries.

Millennials are the most diverse generation and consider having friends and coworkers from different races as expected. As a result, Millennials have widened the net of those who are included in “diversity” initiatives. Racial diversity is still important, but they also want their workplace to be diverse in terms of socioeconomics, sexual orientation, life-experience, and even where their colleagues grew up.

For Millennials, a multiracial workplace is good, but if all their colleagues come from the same suburbs and ivy league schools, they will still see your workplace diversity as lacking.

When it comes to diversity, Millennials want to be proactive. This means they don’t just want racial barriers of success removed, they want to actively collaborate with people of diverse backgrounds and learn from colleagues with different life experiences other than their own.

And to do that, they expect far more proactive efforts of inclusion by their employers.

From Diversity, Inclusion, and Millennial Engagement

For Millennials, inclusion involves opportunities that positively highlight differences, allow for the sharing of ideas, and facilitate teamwork between different groups.

And the reward for Human Resource departments who can meet Millennial expectations about inclusion? A more equitable and ethical workplace of course, but also far higher rates of Millennial engagement.  And, the sad truth is that the opposite of engaging them is losing them.  If you are Amazon or Toyota, each with 340,000 employees, that is a MULTI-BILLION dollar problem annually.  Even if you have 10,000 employees Millennial Turnover is likely an $87M problem annually.   (See our blog on the Staggering Cost of Millennial Turnover)

Human Resource departments who meet Millennial standards for inclusion see a 20% increase in engagement compared to those that fall short. With low-engagement costing the US economy 350 billion dollars every year, Human Resource departments have plenty of reason to look critically at their workplace diversity and asking themselves if it is everything it could be.

How Human Resource Leaders Can Meet Millennial’s Expectations for Inclusion

Diversity is a tricky issue for human resource leaders to tackle. Even genuine efforts to help promote diversity and inclusion can sometimes backfire.

So, what can be done to effectively promote diversity and help all staff members feel a sense of inclusion in the organizations they work for?

In the prestigious Journal of Applied Psychology, Downey, van der Werff, Thomas and Plaut, the authors of the paper “The Role of Diversity Practices and Inclusion in Promoting Trust and Employee Engagement”— which looked at the connection between diversity and engagement in the healthcare industry— describe three strategies that not only help promote inclusion, but also result in greater trust between employees and employers:

  • Mentoring Programs that help “…reduce social exclusion…” in the workplace
  • Management training to reduce bias’ in hiring managers
  • Diversity staff and task forces that give inclusion efforts traction by tracking results, follow-up on current initiatives, and implementing new programs

At Launchbox365, we train Human Resource leaders and managers in these exact strategies to help them ensure they are meeting the inclusion expectations of their Millennials staff. Through our work, we have seen first hand the boosts in trust and engagement that can take place when strategies like these are implemented properly to help increase the diversity and openness of organizations.