When most people think about diversity and inclusion, they tend to think primarily – although certainly not exclusively – in terms of visually identifiable characteristics, such as race and gender. The type of diversity that is apparent on a company website photo or clothing company magazine ad, with a half-dozen racially diverse men and women smiling and laughing together. But some suggest that younger generations might have a very different perspective on comprises “diversity.”
Writing for the Observer, Drew Reggie argues that millennials tend to think of diversity not in terms of what people look like on the outside, but in terms of what’s inside their heads – cognitive diversity. “A 2015 report by Deloitte shows that millennials accept traditional diversity – people of a different race, ethnicity, gender identification, age — as a given, and now consider the term diversity in a cognitive context — people with different thoughts, ideas, philosophies, and skill sets,” he writes. “Millennials are the most traditionally diverse generation in history—only 59% Caucasian.” Consequently, says Reggie, a diverse workplace from a millennial’s point of view is not just one where people look differently, but one where they think differently.
In other words, millennials are taking a deeper diver into the idea of diversity. Because it’s just expected that those around them will be diverse in terms of race, gender, age, etc., diversity is really defined in terms of viewpoints and ways of thinking.
That different framing of diversity, says Reggie, is how millennials define inclusion. Inclusion, in their minds, is just diverse people working together to get the job done. This, Reggie says: “not only fosters innovation and promotes creativity, but it (in many cases) forms bonds and for a more cohesive team.”
The argument Reggie puts forward, if accurate, is a promising one. It not only means that diversity is becoming so pervasive in younger generations that it’s simply become a given, but it also means that younger generations are starting to find the coupling of diversity and inclusion as a necessity. It’s not enough to have a rainbow of employees in the group. We need to include their ideas and viewpoints as well.
That as we’ve long said is the business imperative – not simply building a workforce of individuals who look different (although that can be important), but most importantly taking steps to ensure that the viewpoints and inputs of those individuals is sought, encouraged and acted upon. That’s inclusion. That’s what matters.