Millennial Influx Puts New Twist on Diversity, Desirable Workplace

Organizations need to rethink their diversity and inclusion programs if they want to attract, retain and engage a changing workforce.

While D&I programs have been around a long time, the influx of millennials into the workplace and the ever-growing demand for talent is shifting how companies view and manage the programs, according to Michael Hyter, senior client partner and managing director with Korn Ferry.

"The most prominent discussions we are having with clients today are about millennials—how to think about talent, diversity and inclusion," Hyter told told Bloomberg BNA.

The discussion is prompted by demographics: currently, one in every three workers in the U.S. is a millennial (those born between 1982 and 2000), and this generation will comprise 50 percent of the workforce by 2020, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data.

Acknowledging the differences between baby boomers, Gen X and millennial workers is a necessity because the generational differences are a bigger component of diversity today than gender, race and ethnic groups, according to Hyter. "How they define value is so different than the boomers define it," he said. Even so, addressing the needs of all three generations, and not just millennials, is important, he added.

While D&I is important, companies should avoid the trap of categorizing all employees into one set group and presuming one size fits all, since each individual might have a different viewpoint or experience, according to Hyter. "Millennials require us to think of them as individuals, as opposed to members of a group. Have an eye towards understanding what motivates the individual, and you will eventually increase the level of engagement," he said.

Companies have to become more effective with how they assess and resource talent generationally, and how they support that talent, if they want to attract the people they need, according to Hyter. "HR is such a differential between Company A and Company B these days; it can make a difference in where people decide to work," Hyter said.

Millennials want to be at a company they can feel good about, according to Tom McMullen, Korn Ferry Hay Group’s North American Total Rewards Expertise Leader.  A positive work environment stems in part from initiatives that include diversity, career planning and mentoring, he told Bloomberg BNA.

Although a decent wage is necessary, people work for more than a paycheck, according to McMullen. "There are things on the list of most workers of what keeps them at an organization," he said.

This inventory of must-haves to stay on the job most typically includes feeling they are treated fairly, being in an enjoyable work environment, liking what they are doing and finding meaning in their work, McMullen said.

Millennials do want more out of their jobs than money, according to a survey by the Futurestep division of Korn Ferry. The survey, with 900 respondents, found that the ability to make an impact on the business and have a good work/life balance were the most important. Other factors that came in ahead of compensation included receiving ongoing feedback and development, agreeing with the values of the organization, a clear path for advancement, and a fun and friendly workplace.

"It’s about a lot more than just the money," McMullen said.

A more in-depth examination of employee engagement, including suggestions and resources for employers, appears in the strategic white paper titled "Diversity and Millennials: Influence of Millennial on Workplace D&I Programs."

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