Michaela Jeffery-Morrison, CEO and cofounder of Ascend Global Media, the company behind Women in Tech World Series.
Diversity matters. Although there’s been some talk about companies cutting back on their DEI initiatives to ease financial pressures, it’s almost universally agreed that companies staffed by people from different cultures, races, religions, ages, genders, sexual orientations and backgrounds perform better across a number of metrics. Diverse companies make more money. They also show higher employee engagement and demonstrate greater innovation. The case is open and shut.
Start Appealing To Gen-Z Talent
But diversity is now especially important for companies who want to attract and retain Gen-Zers. And even if your organization doesn’t currently feel the need to appeal to this segment of the population, there are a few reasons that you should consider doing so. Gen-Z is a growing section of the working population, and I’ve found that they often bring passion and principles to their work. As genuine digital natives, they bring a high level of skill where it counts.
They are set to be the most populous and diverse generation in history, with the ability to have a massive impact on the world of work. As one Deloitte article put it, “Entire industries and businesses will rise and fall in the wake of Generation Z.”
A wealth of studies indicate that diversity is vitally important for Gen-Zers shopping around for their next role. According to a Monster poll, 83% of Gen-Z respondents said they consider an employer’s commitment to diversity and inclusion when deciding where to work. According to a different survey, 75% of Gen-Zers would think twice before applying for a job at an organization if they weren’t pleased with their efforts to promote diversity and inclusion.
Emphasize Retention Over Recruitment
Diversity is key to retaining Gen-Z individuals too. This is because retention is now arguably more important than recruitment. As any entrepreneur knows, recruiting talented individuals who make a good cultural fit is incredibly difficult and becoming more so. It can also be expensive and time-consuming, and many organizations are looking for ways to streamline their operations to handle financial issues and other pressures.
But that doesn’t mean retention is easy, which is why it needs focused attention and care. The more talented the individual, the more in demand they’re likely to be, and Gen-Z’s entrepreneurial spirit, which is incredibly valuable in the workplace, has a flip side; Gen-Zers have the confidence to change jobs or even leave one that isn’t quite the right fit.
Employees who feel comfortable at work, both physically and mentally, naturally feel more loyalty and affection toward their employers and colleagues, which translates to a desire to stay. This is why diversity and inclusion are so important for retention. But there are nuances to retaining Gen-Zers, and these have to be kept in mind.
For instance, more than a third of Gen-Zers say they know someone who uses they/them pronouns, more than any previous generation. And nearly 60% of Gen-Zers also believe that there should be more gender-neutral alternatives on internet forms that inquire about gender. Crucially, however, just 18% of Gen-Zers said they’d been asked about their preferred pronouns at work.
How To Attract Gen-Z Workers
All of this prompts a question: How? The first thing to remember is that whatever solution you come up with, it has to be specific to your organization, your goals and your resources. There is no one-size-fits-all with DEI; to think otherwise is to assume that all organizations—and, therefore, all people—are the same. Blanket policies may work up to a point, but they ultimately deliver unsatisfactory results, and that risks undermining the importance of DEI, both commercially and morally.
Though companies must tread their own path, they can follow three basic steps.
1. Design a measurable DEI program. Make sure your program takes into account the diverse and changing wants and needs of Gen-Z. This may involve putting aside part of your budget to ensure that your DEI program doesn’t fall by the wayside further down the line. Without ring-fencing funding for DEI, it can be threatened by other factors. One of the keys to the success of any wide-ranging cultural initiative is sustained effort over time.
2. Effectively communicate. This works both ways. First, it involves gathering information from those in your team so you can better meet their needs. It entails getting to understand a generation to which you might not belong. But it also involves explaining why you’re taking the approach to DEI that you are and how you plan to achieve your goals. Look to invite constructive feedback and be upfront about the unavoidable fact that mistakes will be made; however, reassure that you’ll learn from them and keep moving forward.
3. Get going. Start taking concrete measures to make your workplace more diverse and inclusive. For many companies, there is still a long way to go in integrating DEI as a crucial aspect of working life and showcasing your workplace as an ideal cultural fit for Gen-Zers. By taking action sooner rather than later, you can expedite the process of bringing about meaningful change.
Diversity is crucial for companies and can help lead to higher profits, increased employee engagement and greater innovation. Attracting and retaining Gen-Z—and the passion, principles and valuable digital skills they bring—hinges on embracing diversity. As the most populous and diverse generation in history, I believe this generation has the potential to shape the future of work, and your company has the opportunity to be a part of this change and future.
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