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Analysis Week 39

Talking 'Bout the Next Generation

What does Generation Z want from an employer? Plenty, and a clear commitment to D&I is at the top of the list.

As Generation Z comes of age, more employers are wondering how to attract talent from this generation. While work-life balance and compensation are among their top factors when deciding on an employer, culture fit claims the number one spot on their list.    

The culture of an organization is defined by its practices and norms that affect employee behavior. It comes as no surprise that diversity and inclusion greatly shape an organization’s culture, and has become a key deciding factor for younger generations looking for employment. 

Generational Differences around Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

As Baby Boomers retire and Generation X holds more senior leadership roles within companies, understanding how younger talent engages with diversity and inclusion is critical.

Baby Boomers, the first to enter the workforce after the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, mainly think of diversity as an issue of compliance. As a result, diversity initiatives mainly dealt with differences in ethnicity, age, gender, faith, and physical ability in the workplace. 

For Generation X, a generation that entered the workforce just after the release of the pivotal document Workforce 2000, the approach to diversity initiatives mainly emphasized social justice, but with a narrow focus on who should be the target of support (i.e., women, Black Americans, and the Latinx community).

Millennials, such as myself, tend to believe diversity encompasses a much broader spectrum of identities. We also prioritize inclusivity, and advocate for a shift in culture that ensures that everyone has a seat at the table and that their voice is heard. Diversity and inclusion are also noticeably more important to us than previous generations, and we’re less likely to stay with or join organizations if we think diversity and inclusion efforts are empty promises.

Generation Z has a similar mindset to Millennials when it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. But Generation Z has a more global outlook and greatly values freedom of expression and identity—more so than previous generations. They are also the most ethnically and racially diverse generation yet and see a company’s prioritizing diversity and inclusion as a given rather than a want. 

What Younger Generations Are Looking for in an Employer

Generation Z isn’t just looking for a D&I statement on a website. For Gen Z, D&I commitments must lead to both action and substantive change. According to Lauren Argesti, an alumnus of Georgetown University Law Center ‘16, who worked for a few noted law firms before starting her own law practice, lack of visible change is what can ultimately drive a candidate away.

“A big reason why I left firm life is because only 20 percent of equity partners are women. And that number had not changed in 10 years, despite the increase in the number of women-centered groups and resources that were made available.” 

This sentiment is echoed in the statistic that 77 percent of Generation Z stated that a company’s level of diversity would affect their decision to work there. In fact, Donelle Williams, a recent graduate, states that she received twelve job offers in education since graduating in December 2018. However, she turned them all down, citing no diversity and inclusion efforts within the public school communities to which she applied.

“I have a set of questions I ask the interviewing committee that focus on diversity and inclusion.” she reported, “And their answers, or lack thereof, have me continuing in my current position as a substitute teacher. I can’t even force myself to sign a year-long contract.”

With that said, it’s important to note that hiring and including people of different cultures, ethnicities, or origins is not the only kind of diversity the younger generation is looking for. This generation is also looking for diversity in their work options (e.g., flexible work hours as opposed to the standard 9 to 5), as well as the incorporation of people with a variety of educational levels and skill sets on their team. These facts speak to why Generation Z is also more likely than previous generations to accept temporary or temp-to-perm positions. In doing so, they’re able to use their experience working at a company for a short period of time to decide whether it will be a good fit before committing to a permanent position.

As this new generation enters the workforce, it’s imperative that employers understand what matters to them. Diversity and inclusion is at the top of that list. Winning the fierce competition for Generation Z will depend on getting D&I right. Is your organization ready?

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