Companies that hope to attract the most talented employees might need a wake-up call. The Millennials who constitute their prospective workforce hold social views that differ substantially from those of their Baby Boomer colleagues. They are more liberal and open minded. And not only are they’re more tolerant of those who are different from themselves, politically, culturally, racially, and in terms of sexual orientation they in fact celebrate those differences in themselves and in others and are very proud of them.
For example, about one in three Millennials identify themselves as liberal, and just 25 percent as conservative. Compare this to the Baby Boomer generation, only 21 percent of whom self-identify as liberal, with 41 percent calling themselves conservative. More than 70 percent of Millennials support same-sex marriage compared to less than half of Baby Boomers. In fact, on this and a wide range of similar social issues, Millennials care more about diversity and tolerance than their Baby Boomer predecessors.
For Millennials, the concern about a more diverse and inclusive society unequivocally extends to the workplace. That’s the finding of a comprehensive survey of more than 36,000 university students in the U.K. conducted by global employer branding leader, Universum.
Of the students surveyed, 80 percent said it was important for employers to create a diverse and inclusive workplace. For these students, the most important issue was gender, with 75 percent indicating the importance of employers maintaining a balance between the number of male and female employees. This was followed closely by diverse nationalities (72 percent), having representation from different ethnic groups (71 percent), age diversity (66 percent), and diverse socioeconomic backgrounds (64 percent).
Partnering with INSEAD and The Head Foundation, Universum extended its research to Millennials in 43 countries. What they found is that, regardless of country or region, Millennials agree that diversity in the workplace is critically important in their assessment of prospective employers, in fact, one of the most important factors.
In North America and Europe, for example, Millennials listed diversity as the third most important characteristic of future employers, behind workplace friendliness and employee empowerment. Millennials in Africa ranked diversity second, just behind employee empowerment. The only exception was Central and Eastern Europe, where diversity was listed near the bottom of the priority list.
Across the dozens of countries included in the survey, Millennials agree that what matters most in future employers is cultural diversity, including issues such as sexual orientation, religion and personality. In general, they are much less concerned with visible traits, such as age, gender and ethnicity. Here, Universum and its partners did find some minor regional differences. For example, Millennials in Africa and the United States are more concerned with ethnicity than those in other regions, but they agree with their peers in other regions of the world that cultural diversity is still more important than visible diversity.
Research indicates that companies that employ a diverse workforce are more innovative and dynamic than those that don’t. Employees from varied backgrounds are more likely to offer diverse solutions to the intractable problems, such as increased global competition and budgetary constraints, faced by modern business. For this reason alone, forward-thinking companies should work to achieve diversity in the workplace as it has proven to allow for a creative work environment filled with dynamic ideas and solutions that can drive innovation in a much more effective way and consequently impact positively the bottom line can.
There is, of course, another reason. The research conducted by Universum indicates clearly that having employees who are diverse, and promoting a workplace culture that is respectful of diversity, is more likely to resonate with those employees companies seek to engage and retain.
But it’s not enough simply to achieve diversity among their current employees. Companies must also communicate effectively with prospective employees that they are diverse, and that they value diversity as much as the Millennials they hope to attract. The way to do that is by constructing and implementing a robust and intelligent employer branding strategy. Such a strategy provides the best assurance that the talent they hope to attract will get the message, join their companies, and contribute their expertise to a thriving, creative and successful organization.