If you wish to have more millennials on your team, master the art of organizational diversity and inclusion. Though these values have been around for a while, a different lens to view them is emerging. A new study by Deloitte and Bersin shows that millennials today are seeking cognitive diversity – the blend of different backgrounds, identities, experiences, and perspectives within a team. This goes beyond just inclusion, which in such a scenario becomes the foundation for diversity initiatives and not the end goal.

Is this necessary at all? Recently, Ernst & Young found that global companies with high diversity scores realize a return on equity (ROE) of 7.5%, while those with less diversity see an ROE of only 4.5%. In other studies, heterogeneous groups are known to outperform homogenous ones, in the business context.

How can you adjust sails to redefine your D&I initiatives to gain competitive advantage and employee engagement? Here are some ideas:

  1. Create space for differences. AT&T, the telecommunications conglomerate, aims to create “a true culture of inclusion where every voice matters.” This company has multiple employee resource groups (ERGs), which provide support, advocacy, education, and mentoring to women, military veterans, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBT community. The idea here: to allow every identity its own space and create interaction. Employees have autonomy to host diversity events.

    According to Cynthia Marshal, Sr. VP, “ERGs help people feel comfortable and heard. They give employees the opportunity to learn more about people who are different than they are. In addition, leadership involvement in these groups helps employees find role models and mentors, strengthening inclusivity.”

  1. Think about it right from the start. Diversity initiatives are mostly woven into the organizational culture as an afterthought. But a more effective way of perpetuating it – thinking about everything (goal-setting, hiring, performance reviews or team celebrations) from the inclusion perspective. Wanda Hope, Chief Diversity Officer of Johnson and Johnson believes, that embedding diversity into all organizational material helps employees think about it constantly, and challenge hidden biases. Such communication also attracts the right talent, and helps engage employees 80% more.
  2. Seek ideas from your team on being diverse. This is not just an HR or people management issue. If diversity initiatives don’t align with different employee populations, it’s a miss. According to Ronald Copeland, Sr. Vice President of Kaiser Permanente, “If we just designed the solutions ourselves in isolation, we may miss the boat on critical levers that need to be pulled to get results.” To make their healthcare services better, Kaiser Permanente created a panel of healthcare professionals and interviewed African-American and Latino patients about how to remove barriers to care. The feedback received significantly increased the quality of their service delivery and patient loyalty.

What is the key experience millennials wish to have at their workplaces? To feel valued, to be heard, and to be accepted. If your initiatives can cater to that, you’ll have engaged your employees well.

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