Millennials and the Changing Definition of Diversity

Diversity isn’t the easiest topic to talk about, especially at work, but not having these conversations could be damaging to the success of your business.

Diversity Defined By Generation:

Millennials see diversity as the blending of different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, and believe emphasizing their differences helps them bring value to their organization. Research from Harvard defines this as acquired diversity, or traits acquired based on experience. Their non-millennial colleagues traditionally have believed diversity should be viewed as protection to all, regardless of gender, race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Harvard views this as inherent diversity, traits you were born with.

Times Are Changing:

For generations, employees have been taught to put aside their differences at work, but times have changed. The Millennial generation is the most diverse generation the U.S. has ever seen, second only to Generation Z, who have not yet entered the workforce. This culturally diverse upbringing has played a big role in making Millennials significantly more comfortable talking about diversity and inclusion than older generations.

Millennials are willing to ask tough questions and are demanding their employers to do the same. In fact, almost half of millennials reported not pursuing an employer that doesn’t maintain or encourage a diverse and inclusive working environment.

Unfortunately, many organizations are falling victim to the traditional view of diversity, and it’s starting to cost them big time.

Only sixty percent of millennials report being actively engaged when their organization does not foster an inclusive culture, versus eighty-three percent whose organizations do foster an inclusive working environment.

How Leaders Can Foster Diversity:

  • Make employees feel heard by providing them with a forum to share their ideas, feedback, and voice.

  • Try not to silo or bucket your employees, each individual has a unique set of skills and passions they bring to the table. Foster connections based on these, not on inherent traits.

  • Look beyond resumes. Individuals with acquired diversity can be invaluable to your organization.

  • Always keep a pulse on your organization’s culture, make continuous improvements.