There is no denying that 2020 has been a chaotic time for companies and employees alike. A global pandemic, racial tensions, and an uncertain economy have created a vast amount of mistrust and anxiety. More than ever, employees are looking to leadership for empathy and transparency. As the oldest Millennials turn 40 this year (you read that right) a new generation is entering the workplace, Gen Z. Born between 1996 and 2010, Gen Z are starting their careers at arguably one of the most inopportune times in history. Understanding what matters most to this generation, and how that might differ from previous generations, is crucial for companies looking to recruit and retain the best and the brightest this generation has to offer. There is one fundamental area that should not be overlooked: diversity and inclusion.
The Pew Research Center reports that Gen Z is the most ethnically diverse generation in history, and in a recent Monster survey, 83% of Gen Z candidates said that a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is important when choosing an employer.
Over the past few months, you’ve probably seen many Gen Zers protesting and raising awareness for Black Lives Matter, but this generation’s crusade for social justice started long ago. Several events and societal changes during Gen Z’s formative years had an impact on this generation’s outlook on diversity and inclusion. This is the first generation to grow up with an African American president. They were the first generation to see gay marriage legalized. At a young age they were part of the #MeToo conversation, a movement that sparked a long-overdue conversation about pay equality and harassment in the workplace. Unlike the generations before them, diversity wasn’t the exception while growing up, it was the norm.
Additionally, the Gen Zers applying at your company grew up in homes and had families that were much more diverse than generations past. The nuclear family had evolved. Some had two moms, others had two dads. Many had racially and ethnically diverse parents from different parts of the world, and some came from multigenerational households. Today, they want to work for a company that reflects their varied and diverse upbringings.
It’s Gen Z’s background that no doubt contributes to their open-minded outlook, and it’s shaping what they expect from employers today. Gen Zers are more likely to be engaged in their careers when there is an inclusive culture. A recent Deloitte study found that 83% of Gen Z report being actively engaged when their organization fosters an inclusive work environment. Companies that are behind the times in these areas are quickly losing their appeal in the current climate. According to a new survey by McKinsey and Company, many Gen Z employees considered their company’s inclusiveness while making career decisions, yet almost half of all respondents do not feel very included at their organizations. Most respondents, regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation, say they encounter barriers to a sense of inclusion.
Now is the time to shine a spotlight on your D&I efforts. If your company has employee resource groups (ERGs), having them share their experiences and lead tough conversations is crucial. Young talent won’t settle for lip service, they want to know you’re being proactive in your efforts to bring more diverse voices to the table. Being candid about where you need to improve and how you’re going about doing it can be far more compelling to them than patting yourself on the back about what you’re doing right.
Diverse teams are more innovative and likely to be more reflective of the customer base you’re trying to attract. Perhaps the biggest benefit to evolving your company’s D&I efforts: diverse organizations are better at attracting and motivating a new generation.