Today’s workplaces are politically correct. We are careful not to say anything that might be perceived to marginalize or offend a particular group, and when it comes to age, ethnicity, race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation, companies want to make sure every employee is respected and equally represented. We do this not because of profit, but because it’s the moral thing to do. This goal is at the heart of what most of us think of when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
But as of this year, the millennial generation (comprised of those born 1980-95) constitutes a majority of the U.S. workforce – and this group of younger professionals has a unique idea of what true diversity and inclusion should look like.
According to a 2015 study by The Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative (BJKLI) and The Deloitte University Leadership Center for Inclusion (which surveyed 3,726 global professionals of all levels, ages, genders, races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations), while millennials value the ideals of diversity and inclusion just like professionals in other generations, they define the constructs differently.
Most baby boomers and even Generation X-ers view diversity and inclusion in terms of representation and assimilation. But for millennials, walking into an office lobby and seeing all types of people should be a given. True workplace diversity and inclusion means that people can come to work and be their genuine selves without fear of negative consequences. This is known as cognitive diversity.
The study’s millennials shared that cognitive diversity is the secret sauce for better engagement and empowerment along today’s fickle employees; inclusion is important not as an abstract ideal that checks a box and makes everyone feel good, but as a critical tool that enables business competitiveness and growth.
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