As the clamor for greater diversity and inclusion in the workplace grows and the pressure of scrutiny mounts, companies are trying to figure out how to create a work environment and organizational culture that embrace the differences people bring. Quietly, however, Generation Y, also called the millennial generation, is putting a new face on the very concept of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
“They are an idealistic generation. If they don’t connect with an organization, they can be gone in three to six months,” says William A. Guillory, Ph.D., a 25-year veteran in diversity training and consulting.
Fifty-eight percent of the senior executives who responded to a survey conducted for the Society for Human Resource Management said they expect workers to have more diverse backgrounds and experience in the future. Last year, Sherry Snipes, founder and president of Global Diversity Collaborative, and Cheryl Gentry, founder and president of Glow Media, a project and event management firm, launched The Diversity and Inclusion Awards, aka The DANDI Awards, to put the spotlight on individuals, groups and organizations that effectively engage in D&I best practices.
“Diversity is about learning from others who are not the same, about dignity and respect for all, and about creating environments and practices that maximize individual and organization perfomance,” diversity and inclusion specialists Guillory and his associate, Daniel S. Guillory, Esq., argue in their article “The Role of Human Resources in the 21st Century, the Age of Globalization.” The two are principals in Inno-vation International Inc., headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The more diverse the group of people are, the more they are positioned for incredible performance, creative innovation and quantum thinking, Guillory said in a telephone interview with The Network Journal. “The difficulty is, you can either turn it into total chaos if you don’t know how to bring about transformation of the people involved. If you can transform the people who comprise an organization or team, then you have something that even goes beyond the concept of synergism,” he said.
The millennial influence
While much of today’s conversation focuses on differences of race, gender, religion, national origin and sexual orientation, young people are also beginning to play a transformative role in shaping the work environment and organizational culture. By 2015, the millennial generation is projected to be 45 percent of the U.S. workforce. Born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, they have little tolerance for a culture of exclusion and even less for the paramount of the bottom line. They are drawn to organizations that practice diversity and inclusion in terms of talent and performance. These can be “young organizations with young-thinking people irrespective of age, progressive organizations that don’t have the time for discriminatory practices, for excluding people,” Guillory said. “Their basic focus is on talent, performance and profitable operation.”
Millennials have specific concerns about the workplace. Typical questions, Guillory says, are: Is it an inclusive culture? What is it like to work here? Do I feel I belong? Do I get a sense of a diversity of people? Is diversity of thought encouraged? How do I begin my process of learning? What do you have in mind for me as a career? How do you plan to recruit me? If I decide to come, in my first week will you set up some kind of learning for my career progression? How meaningful is your work to humanity? Is what you put on your website in terms of branding the reality that your employees are experiencing? How progressive are you in terms of integration of technology with people to maximize performance?
“Those are some of the things young people look for, and all of these questions happen before they talk about money,” Guillory said. “If the market is a glut of people who want jobs, then organizations can be more cavalier about transforming themselves. If it’s the other way around, then they have to work through the whole process. In either case, acquiring and retaining the best talent is challenging during the best of times and the worst of times”
The D&I Commitment
The founders of The Diversity and Inclusion Awards, aka The DANDI Awards, use the following best-practices criteria to identify commitment to diversity and inclusion:
• Cultivating diversity and fostering an inclusive environment;
• Encouraging diversity of thought and different perspectives;
• Enhancing greater opportunities for all cultures;
• Raising consciousness and understanding of various cultures;
• Addressing the changing needs of increasingly diverse business communities;
• Raising awareness for all elements of diversity;
• Displaying leadership in fostering diversity and inclusion;
• Driving successful integration of diversity, equity and fairness principles;
• Dedicating time and attention to civil, human rights and social justice issues;
• Driving best practices in diversity and inclusion; and
• Demonstrating measurable diversity and inclusion results.