How The Millennial Generation Has Redefined Diversity

A client came to me once and said, ‘Aerial, how do we get our millennials talking? They bring value to our organization and seem have a deep appreciation for diversity but we just don’t know how to engage them. Is there some kind of internal communication strategy we need to implement?”

I belong to the millennial generation so I understood the necessity behind their inquiry. An obsession with Generation Y, also know as millennials, has overtaken all aspects of culture. Millennials are likely the most studied generation to date. Brands and organizations have formed a fascination with how to relate and connect to millennials. Media and scholars have developed a 21st-century style of urgency to understand this demographic. Not since the baby boomers has a generation been the target of such fixation and the growing generational gap is redefining how we think about diversity and inclusion.

 

Millennials Leading a Cultural Shift

Not only are millennials the largest generation to date, we are the most traditionally diverse generation in history. A culture shift in the population shows that of the 80 million millennials and counting, 60% classifying as non-Hispanic white in comparison to 70% of the previous generation. That percentage is projected to continue a decline as ethnic minorities (blacks & hispanics) will account for 60% of the population by 2045. Of millennials in the US, 59% are white and 27% have immigrant backgrounds. The ethnic profile of the millennial is far more blended that than of previous generations. In addition, there are millennials who come from an increased percentage of single-parent homes, blended families, and families with same-sex parents than ever before (Broido, 2004).

Authors Neil Howe and William Strauss described the generation as an ethnically diverse generation who are team players, optimistic, confident, trusting of authority, rule-followers, achievers in school, and generally achievement-oriented in everything they undertake. Furthermore, millennials will make up an estimated 50% of the workforce by 2020 ultimately changing the face of organizational leadership.

Here at the 2016 NOW Diversity Workforce Diversity Breakfast Forum with panel of young professionals for The Millennial Report on Workforce Diversity – myself, Kinika Young (Bass, Berry & Sims), Marcus Johnson (Edward Jones) and Luke Marklin (Uber) and Q&A facilitator Jonquil Newland (News Channel 5) giving insight on how millennials are changing the workforce. (Photo Credit: NOWDiversity.org)

Millennials Needing Expression and Acceptance

For millennials, walking into an organization and seeing all types of people is a norm. Diversity of race and gender is a given and in some cases a must. While older generations likely consider demographics, equal opportunity, and representation as the frame for diversity, millennials are much more concerned about the diversity of thoughts, ideas and philosophies as we contain an unending curiosity to understand differences and explore opportunities for collaboration.

There is a growing segment of millennials who are refusing to check our identities at the door while many organizations are remaining unchanged in their response to our need for expression and acceptance. This need is not just an expectation we hope to receive for ourselves but one we want to see granted to other cultural groups as workplace demographics evolve. Our appreciation for share of voice is aligned with an appreciation for cognitive diversity.

This means organizations are forced to rethink and redefine their approach. Instead of using the phrase ‘diversity and inclusion’ to describe race, age and gender in a traditional fashion with no ties to business growth or evolution, the millennial generation has compelled organizations to consider a combination of unique traits to overcome challenges and achieve business goals as the diversity of experience and the inclusion of thought become increasingly more crucial to future innovation.

Millennials Commanding Inclusion and Innovation

As millennials move into leadership, a transformation in traditional diversity and inclusion models will challenge past approaches and break barriers that have hindered the progress.

Connectedness is part of our generational DNA and breeds the kinds of transformation organizations of the future will command. While there is much work to be done, the millennial generation is a likely catalyst to show how advocacy, learning, and leadership can collectively leverage opportunities to see greater inclusion and innovation.

If making a commitment to diversity and inclusion truly means allowing an individual to bring his/her true and whole self to work, organizations must ensure millennials, along with other culturally advanced cohorts, can work in a collaborative environment that openly values tangible participation from individuals who have different ideas and perspectives that can have positive impact on business outcomes.

This post is an excerpt from my thought leadership series, The Original Millennial.

Pre-order the book below.

The Original Millennial Aerial Ellis

Introducing the Launch of The Original Millennial

Slackers, narcissists, entitled — the infamous cliché known of a generation born around 1980 or so. This special breed of individuals, debunking myths and assumptions, will lead a cultural shift to represent a full 75 percent of the U.S. workforce by the year 2025 and change the face of leadership.

They are creative, innovative, enterprising, influential, bold, unapologetic, and ready to solve the world’s problems.

They are called the original millennial.

Last month, I announced the launch of my newest project – The Original Millennial – during my keynote speech before 250 attendees at the Memphis Urban League Young Professionals Empowerment Conference.

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This is an eBook project that will begin funding a social venture to support startups run by women and minorities who own businesses in the public relations marketing, media and digital industries.

The Original Millennial, a thought leadership series featuring the stories and experiences of millennial entrepreneurs, is the first of many projects that will fund this social venture effort. For $5.99, you may pre-order the eBook with exclusive content including interviews and videos for early release later this year.

The millennial generation is bigger and more diverse than any other generation has ever been. Most of us original millennials born in the early 1980s went through college only to find ourselves dissatisfied with our jobs, hopping from job to job more frequently than our parents, grandparents and even older siblings, or employed in fields unrelated to our area of study. We became more likely to start our own businesses or entrepreneurial ventures and less likely to stay in an unfulfilling work environment than previous generations. We became invigorated by the ways that business can go well and do good at the same time. If we were unsatisfied with our jobs or communities, we became relentless in finding a better situation even if we had to create it ourselves.

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We are the generation that doesn’t stop at the question ‘why?’ We ask ‘why not?’

Contrary to what has said or perceived, the original millennial is not lazy and selfish lacking motivation and creativity. The original millennial is a servant, innovator, go-getter – a leader. We’ve become leaders of the social entrepreneurship sector which emerged around 2007 during the time when most of us graduated college or started our careers. Many millennials have been inspired by a cultural change to create organizations and movements that are neither businesses nor charities, but rather hybrid entities that generate revenue in pursuit of social goals. Now there are tens of thousands of social ventures and many are being led and utilized by millennials. The original millennial believes that solutions of the past won’t work for problems in the future, and we will be the generation leading the shift and bringing change to life. 

To support the release of The Original Millennial eBook series, visit theoriginalmillennial.com

Your contribution is an early investment that will empower millennial entrepreneurs in the year to come.

Pre-Order TOM