To Millennials, Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Mean Something Different

This is the wave of the future. Don’t let it roll past you. Pexels

This article originally appeared on Quora: How are millennials changing corporate workplace culture?

It’s gotten pretty easy to identify a Millennial-influenced office. More glass, more open spaces, no cubicles. But it’s not just the physical space that’s different. The culture, the activities, the people—even the terms diversity and inclusion (in the context of the workplace) have evolved to take on new meaning.

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. Millennials are the most traditionally diverse generation in history—only 59% Caucasian. So, a diverse workplace according to Generation Y isn’t just one with people that look different, but think differently, too.

Diversity alone does not make a company productive, or innovative, or fun to work for. It’s a necessary piece of the puzzle, but not the only piece. A workplace also has to be inclusive, but not just in the traditional sense.

Inclusion

An inclusive workplace has also come to mean something different, according to Millennials. Traditionally, inclusive has referred to equal opportunity and fair treatment for all. But to Millennials, once again, that is considered the base line—a necessary reality to tee up the new definition of inclusion.

Picture the Millennial’s ideal office: iMacs lined up on long wooden desks in a nice open space, framed in glass walls instead of drywall. Natural light. Maybe even a whiteboard room. Now look down the imaginary glass corridor and picture a group of young professionals sitting in a circle on beanbags with laptops. They’re collaborating. Learning from each other. Bouncing ideas and working in groups to solve problems and brainstorm innovative concepts.

This is the Millennial definition of inclusion: cognitively (and traditionally) diverse people working together, regardless of job title or years of experience, to solve problems and come up with new ideas—together. And this not only fosters innovation and promotes creativity, but it (in many cases) forms bonds and makes for a more cohesive team.

Where does your workplace stand?

This is not an entirely new concept. But what’s important to recognize is the evolution of the terms diversity and inclusion in the Millennial context, and hopefully outside of it, too. Traditional diversity is a given, or at least it should be. If everyone at your office looks the same, consider the important perspective you are missing out on. But equally important, even if your workplace is traditionally diverse, is it cognitively diverse? Do people in your office think differently? Do they approach problems differently? Are they good at different things?

Now consider how inclusive your workplace is (or isn’t). If it’s not traditionally inclusive, you have a big problem. It should go without saying that everyone—regardless of ethnicity, gender identity, age—should be treated fairly and given equal opportunity. But think, too, about inclusion at your firm using the Millennial definition of the word. Are employees charged with completing mundane tasks in isolation? Do you still have a huge cubicle farm surrounded by gray drywall? Do you hold regular team brainstorming or work sessions? Why not? What could you be doing differently to get your team working more like a team?

Traditional diversity and inclusion are necessary foundations for their Millennial definitions. Today, and certainly in the future, people in the workplace must be diverse—both traditionally and cognitively—to provide perspective, which in turn drives innovation and creative thinking. A workplace must be inclusive, both in terms of fair treatment and opportunity, and also in collaboration and group thinking.

This is the wave of the future. Don’t let it roll past you.

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Drew Reggie is the co-founder of Digital Press, a ghostwriting and influence agency for CEOs and serial entrepreneurs. Drew is also a Quora contributor. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

To Millennials, Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Mean Something Different