When we think about diversity we often think about it in either racial, ethnic, or gendered terms. However, there is a type of diversity that is just as important: age diversity. Having a company made out of different age groups is one way to keep a business relevant. Millennials are often discussed in the future of marketing and business. They already make up half of the U.S. labor force and spend over $200 billion annually, making them key players in shaping the future economy.
Despite those facts, millennials are often seen as lazy, job-hopping youngsters whose short attention spans make it nearly impossible to market to. As prevalent as those negative stereotypes are, millennials are full of potential and bring a lot to the table—including change.
Millennials are ushering in a new age of diversity. An estimated 44.2% of U.S. millennials are part of a minority race or ethnic group, making them not only a diverse generation but a more accepting one as well. A survey by Pew Research Center also showed that they are more racially tolerant and open to change—being more open to interracial dating, more receptive to immigrants and more open to non-traditional families—compared to older generations.
Their open-minded and tolerant attitudes extend to the workplace as well. Diversity and inclusion is key to keeping a millennial employee productive as millennials are 38% more likely to feel engaged and 28% more likely to feel empowered when working for an inclusive company.
Being diverse and inclusive has become a key factor employees look for in a company—a 2014 Glassdoor survey showed that 66% of respondents cite workplace diversity as a key factor when choosing between job offers. For millennials, this is a given, an aspect they naturally expect to be present at a good company. Their demand for it has even changed how diversity and inclusion is seen and implemented at companies.
A lot of this stems from how differently millennials see diversity and inclusion from previous generations. Traditionally, baby boomers and gen-Xers see diversity and inclusion solely in terms of demographic representation in the workplace, a moral imperative to be fair regardless of whether it helps business. Millennials, however, see diversity more as cognitive diversity—having a team with minds from different backgrounds is key for innovation and improving business. They also see inclusion as the next step, beyond having representation. Inclusion to them is about a collaborative work environment that is open to contributions and supports their development.
Companies can take great steps to foster a diverse and inclusive work environment. Paying attention to age diversity is important in order to bring up a generation of workers that are truly engaged in the work that they do. The future of work is focused on diversity and inclusion—and millennials are key to seeing that happen.