Siloed Diversity Holds Us All Back

Jill Willcox

There is conflict over an issue in the field of diversity and inclusion that needs to be addressed. Here are the two opposing schools of thought:

  1. Diversity is a long process, and every disenfranchised group can’t get there at once. As we work on gender and racial diversity, we will open the door for other groups.
  1. The siloing of advancement in diversity is holding every group back. The very idea of diversity and inclusion is that every group should be equal and represented fully in business. You can’t have partial diversity and consider that a success.

In recent years, businesses have been paying closer attention to diversity issues, since studies continue to show that diverse workforces are more productive and more profitable than homogenous ones. They are also more creative because people coming from diverse backgrounds with varied life experiences bring different approaches. It only makes sense that diversity of thought breeds more creative and effective problem solving.

So, for the purposes of this discussion, we can agree that diversity is good for business. The sticking point has always been how to actually make it happen in the workplace. The business world is rife with consultants whose purpose is to help organizations shift their hiring practices and create more diverse employee workforces, but it has been slow going at many companies. This slow movement is obviously of great concern for everyone shut out by homogenized work cultures, but this is critically important to those individuals who do not fit the two groups most talked about in the movement – gender and racial diversity. If it has taken this long to work towards a CONVERSATION on diversity for those groups, how long will individuals with differences not connected to race and gender have to wait for their turn to be included?

The reality of diversity today

In order to get to the heart of the matter, let’s look at where diversity in business stands today:

  • 2016 Fortune 500 list includes only 21 women CEOs, down from 24 last year (the highest number ever reached)
  • There is no research on the employment rate of people with speech and language disorders

Now let’s look at the U.S. population:

  • 13% of the population is African-American
  • 51% are female (2010 U.S. Census)
  • More than 3.5 million Americans have autism

Not only do we have the persistent issue of primarily all white male executive leadership in business, the employment numbers of those with a disability of any type are startling. So how do we fix it?

One for all, and all for one

In order to understand why separate movements for diversity are less effective than an inclusive one, we only have to look at the Women’s Suffragette movement. Lucy Stone, the founder of the original movement, broke with her friends Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton because, unlike her, they did not support the 14th and 15th Amendments, giving black men citizenship and the right to vote. Their movements splintered as Susan B. Anthony moved closer to radical anti-black groups, and many scholars argue that this separation caused a delay in the movement accomplishing their goals.

Sadly, a thorough study of the impact of diversity outside of race and gender has yet to be undertaken. The UK’s Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills undertook an international assessment of diversity studies and found:

“There are very few workplace studies that attempt to quantify the impacts of diversity on business outcomes, when considering disability, religion, and sexual orientation. In many instances this is a result of data limitations. Very few private sector firms collect systematic and useable data on religion and sexual orientation (see for instance, 2012 Diversity League Tables). Even if they do, response rates can be very low and data on disability are often hard to analyse as they are often self-reported and can cover a wide range of conditions.”

One of our goals at The Speech Factor is to raise awareness and promote the undertaking of a study that we believe will show that diversity in all forms holds a clear benefit for businesses.

It is obvious that if all marginalized groups gathered together under a unified front they’d have a far greater number of people pushing towards the same goal, with an undeniably louder voice. Diversity can’t work in silos, because the silos are exactly what it needs to destroy in order to have success.

Learn How to Design a Flexible, Connected Workspace.


Helping Gen Z Find Their Career Calling 

Meghan M. Biro

Most of us remember being asked the age-old question as children: “What are you going to be when you grow up?”

Of course, there were always those lucky few who just seemed to know what career path they wanted: to teach, go into medicine, learn a trade, practice law, or work in marine biology.

The rest of us, however, had no clue. And not having a clue? That made perfect sense. It’s impossible to know what the world is all about when you’re young.

For most of us, that meandering ended once we got through college—despite any stumbles we might’ve experienced along the way. By design or happenstance, we found career paths that ultimately led to fulfilling careers. Some people haven’t been so lucky, however, and ended up in careers that are wholly unsuited for them and/or that don’t fulfill and inspire them.

This begs the question: If you could turn back the clock and gift your younger self with better guidance, would you start over in the hope of finding a field that really suited you?

An interesting question, isn’t it? My generation (Gen X) was luckier—far luckier, in fact—than the millennials or Generation Z, the generation that follows the millennials and who are just now reaching college age. We were luckier because we had the luxury of time—something these two generations of digital natives lack.

With the cost of higher education today, student have precious little time to waste taking gap year, switching majors, or making other work-related “mistakes” in the quest to find their calling. When my peer group and I were going to college, that was all we were expected to do: Go to school, learn, and get decent grades so that we could eventually get jobs.

Now, college itself is extremely competitive and it’s also an exercise in work. In fact, career mentors, like my friend Mark Babbit of YouTern, recommend students procure no less than one internship per year while at college or university, which means that in order to be competitive, members of Gen Z must graduate with at least four professional internships under their belt. Four internships? I thought I was kind of big deal because I had one—what about you?

Education is an interesting business. A new Career and College Readiness study by the non-profit YouthTruth found that Gen Z will likely replace their millennial elders as the “most educated American generation ever.” But the kicker here is whether that education will translate into a good-paying. On that front, of course, the jury is still out.

We have left them unprepared

According to the YouthTruth study, nearly 87 percent of Gen Z students want to go to college, despite the fact that college tuition has escalated a whopping 439 percent since 1982; 2015 college graduates were the “most indebted” to date, with the average student owing nearly $35,000.

This is a burden of debt that could weigh graduates down for decades, and definitely much more burdensome than what prior generations have dealt with. Also of note, that same study found students are still trying to find their way; less than half of high school students, 44.8 percent, don’t feel ready for college and a career.

It feels a bit as though our education system has failed this next generation. The study says 59.6 percent of students agree that their school has helped them develop the skills and knowledge they will need for college-level classes. Our education system is teaching kids how to go to school, but not how to plan for a career.

But that isn’t the only gap. Last month, I wrote an article that outlined another challenge for millennials: Their lack of soft skills, which have emerged as one of the key building blocks for career success.

There is also a distressing fact revealed by an Educational Testing Service study, which showed that millennials “consistently score below many of their international peers in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments. Equally troubling is that these findings represent a decrease in literacy and numeracy skills when compared to results from previous years of U.S. adult surveys.”

This finding points to the serious issue we have with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills in the U.S.: with about 2.5 entry-level STEM job postings for every new bachelor’s graduate, our ability to stay competitive in the global marketplace is at risk.

Instead of being shocked about research that consistently points to these weaknesses, tut-tutting while shaking our heads, we need to reverse course by helping Generation Z and the youngest of the millennials.

How we can help

To reverse the tide, the discussion about STEM and the lack of soft skills needs to be addressed at an earlier age, both in our education system and through on-the-job professional development training. We also need to expose younger people to all of the career possibilities that suit their desires and individual skill sets earlier, so they aren’t left trying to find their footing for so long.

They can’t afford it, and neither can we.

The first wave of Gen Z entered college last year and a new college application season is upon us. Now is the time for these students to start getting clarity about what they’d like to do in the future.

Career Builders is a great place to start with its Find Your Calling website, which directs young people (and their parents) to viable careers that match their interests. It makes me think of another quote by Mark Babbit:

“Find the one thing that you are really, naturally good at, and then find someone who will pay you to do it. That is the key to being successful and happy.”

Beginning with a quick assessment of an individual’s interest, Find Your Calling provides you with a list of careers, which includes education requirements and salary expectations for each. The site helps students, high school grads, and their parents match existing skills to viable careers.

Gen Z faces a world that’s entirely different than the one known by those of us who make decisions about the systems that will shape their future. Technology does—and will continue to—provide them with opportunities, and potential minefields, that we could never have imagined when we were trolling newspaper ads and online job boards.

Gen Z’s career path is fiercely competitive and often confusing. We (yes, we older folks) need to do a better job preparing them through mentoring and professional development programs, both while they’re in school and as they enter the workforce. Understanding the value our wisdom and experience provides, then being willing to pass it on to our younger colleagues, can help them save valuable time and avoid costly mistakes.

For more on today’s changing workforce, see Have A Multigenerational Workforce? Collaboration Tech Is The Key To Success.


About Meghan M. Biro

Meghan Biro is talent management and HR tech brand strategist, analyst, digital catalyst, author and speaker. I am the founder and CEO of TalentCulture and host of the #WorkTrends live podcast and Twitter Chat. Over my career, I have worked with early-stage ventures and global brands like Microsoft, IBM and Google, helping them recruit and empower stellar talent. I have been a guest on numerous radio shows and online forums, and has been a featured speaker at global conferences. I am the co-author of The Character-Based Leader: Instigating a Revolution of Leadership One Person at a Time, and a regular contributor at Forbes, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur and several other media outlets. I also serve on advisory boards for leading HR and technology brands.

Why Youth Will Determine ASEAN’s Success In The Digital Revolution

Michael Zipf

Don’t let the European Union and all of its troubles fool you. At least one regional integration has a lot to celebrate: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) turns 50 this year.

Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore founded the association in 1967 to facilitate economic and political collaboration among its members and to accelerate economic growth and social progress. Five more countries joined ASEAN in the 1980s and 1990s, helping to make it an economic powerhouse with a combined GDP of US$2.5 trillion. (If it were a single country, ASEAN would be the seventh-largest economy in the world.)

But ASEAN is in the middle of the same digital revolution as the rest of the world. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, and nanotechnology, along with accelerating progress in genetics, automation, and materials science, are shaking up the planet’s economies.

ASEAN taking over as the world’s factory

We are at “an inflection point in the history of our economies and societies because of digitization,” according to economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee in their latest book, The Second Machine Age. “It’s an inflection point in the right direction – bounty instead of scarcity, freedom instead of constraint – but one that will bring with it some difficult challenges and choices … The choices we make from now on will determine what kind of world that is.”

Brynjolfsson and McAfee are optimistic about the future, but they argue that technology may “leave a lot of people, organizations, and institutions behind.” They point out that especially workers with only “ordinary skills and abilities to offer” will suffer since “computers, robots, and other digital technologies are acquiring these skills and abilities at an extraordinary rate.”

The low cost of labor in Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam is a competitive advantage for multinational firms – and for ASEAN. Experts from ANZ Bank believe “Southeast Asia will take up China’s mantle of the world’s factory over the next 10 to 15 years.”

Preparing the next generation

Much of what lies ahead for ASEAN will depend on how the younger generations will handle digitalization – and the challenges described in the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Almost half of the region’s population will be younger than 30 by 2020. It will be a young, diverse, and digitally savvy population – so ASEAN could be in a good position to benefit from the digital transformation.

But getting into that good position will not be easy. Youths need to be prepared for the digital economy and be sensitized for what’s needed to ensure prosperity in a sustainable way. The challenges ahead are so fundamental that ASEAN will need help from all its stakeholders: public and private sectors, academia, and civil society.

Global partnership for sustainable development

The ASEAN Foundation is rolling out three initiatives in 2017 to address ASEAN’s economic, environmental, and societal issues. The projects are based on three focus areas:

  • Education: The data analytics competition “ASEAN Data Science Explorers“ (ADSE) is already underway. University students across all 10 ASEAN member states from any discipline are invited to deliver data-driven insights for ASEAN across six U.N. Sustainable Development Goals cloud-based analytics.
  • Volunteerism: In collaboration with the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) program and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN Foundation, SAP, and other partners have launched the Youth Volunteering Innovation Challenge (YVIC) in ASEAN. Under the theme “Impact ASEAN,” the initiative supports young volunteers throughout the ASEAN countries in their journey to catalyze youth-led innovation for social impact and sustainable development.
  • Entrepreneurship: Through social sabbatical programs, employees from companies such as SAP are supporting social impact intermediaries through mentoring and pro-bono consulting. The program, in association with several partners, will impact close to 20 social enterprises across Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam in 2017.

These and other collaborative efforts will help many of ASEAN’s young people excel alongside Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s “computers, robots, and other digital technologies.” Beyond justifying the two economists’ optimism, these efforts will help equip youth in the 10 ASEAN countries with the skills they need to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – and to thrive in the digital economy.

Applying artificial intelligence (AI) to complex decisions has clear benefits. But it also increasingly means automating ethical choices that can alter human lives. Learn more about how scientists are Teaching Machines Right from Wrong.


Taking Learning Back to School

Dan Wellers


Denmark spends most GDP on labor market programs at 3.3%.
The U.S. spends only 0.1% of it’s GDP on adult education and workforce retraining.
The number of post-secondary vocational and training institutions in China more than doubled from 2000 to 2014.
47% of U.S. jobs are at risk for automation.

Our overarching approach to education is top down, inflexible, and front loaded in life, and does not encourage collaboration.

Smartphone apps that gamify learning or deliver lessons in small bits of free time can be effective tools for teaching. However, they don’t address the more pressing issue that the future is digital and those whose skills are outmoded will be left behind.

Many companies have a history of effective partnerships with local schools to expand their talent pool, but these efforts are not designed to change overall systems of learning.

The Question We Must Answer

What will we do when digitization, automation, and artificial intelligence eject vast numbers of people from their current jobs, and they lack the skills needed to find new ones?

Solutions could include:

  • National and multinational adult education programs
  • Greater investment in technical and vocational schools
  • Increased emphasis on apprenticeships
  • Tax incentives for initiatives proven to close skills gaps

We need a broad, systemic approach that breaks businesses, schools, governments, and other organizations that target adult learners out of their silos so they can work together. Chief learning officers (CLOs) can spearhead this approach by working together to create goals, benchmarks, and strategy.

Advancing the field of learning will help every business compete in an increasingly global economy with a tight market for skills. More than this, it will mitigate the workplace risks and challenges inherent in the digital economy, thus positively influencing the future of business itself.

Download the executive brief Taking Learning Back to School.

Read the full article The Future of Learning – Keeping up With The Digital Economy


About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is the Global Lead of Digital Futures at SAP, which explores how organizations can anticipate the future impact of exponential technologies. Dan has extensive experience in technology marketing and business strategy, plus management, consulting, and sales.


Why Millennials Quit: Understanding A New Workforce

Shelly Kramer

Millennials are like mobile devices: they’re everywhere. You can’t visit a coffee shop without encountering both in large numbers. But after all, who doesn’t like a little caffeine with their connectivity? The point is that you should be paying attention to millennials now more than ever because they have surpassed Boomers and Gen-Xers as the largest generation.

Unfortunately for the workforce, they’re also the generation most likely to quit. Let’s examine a new report that sheds some light on exactly why that is—and what you can do to keep millennial employees working for you longer.

New workforce, new values

Deloitte found that two out of three millennials are expected to leave their current jobs by 2020. The survey also found that a staggering one in four would probably move on in the next year alone.

If you’re a business owner, consider putting four of your millennial employees in a room. Take a look around—one of them will be gone next year. Besides their skills and contributions, you’ve also lost time and resources spent by onboarding and training those employees—a very costly process. According to a new report from XYZ University, turnover costs U.S. companies a whopping $30.5 billion annually.

Let’s take a step back and look at this new workforce with new priorities and values.

Everything about millennials is different, from how to market to them as consumers to how you treat them as employees. The catalyst for this shift is the difference in what they value most. Millennials grew up with technology at their fingertips and are the most highly educated generation to date. Many have delayed marriage and/or parenthood in favor of pursuing their careers, which aren’t always about having a great paycheck (although that helps). Instead, it may be more that the core values of your business (like sustainability, for example) or its mission are the reasons that millennials stick around at the same job or look for opportunities elsewhere. Consider this: How invested are they in their work? Are they bored? What does their work/life balance look like? Do they have advancement opportunities?

Ping-pong tables and bringing your dog to work might be trendy, but they aren’t the solution to retaining a millennial workforce. So why exactly are they quitting? Let’s take a look at the data.

Millennials’ common reasons for quitting

In order to gain more insight into the problem of millennial turnover, XYZ University surveyed more than 500 respondents between the ages of 21 and 34 years old. There was a good mix of men and women, college grads versus high school grads, and entry-level employees versus managers. We’re all dying to know: Why did they quit? Here are the most popular reasons, some in their own words:

  • Millennials are risk-takers. XYZ University attributes this affection for risk taking with the fact that millennials essentially came of age during the recession. Surveyed millennials reported this experience made them wary of spending decades working at one company only to be potentially laid off.
  • They are focused on education. More than one-third of millennials hold college degrees. Those seeking advanced degrees can find themselves struggling to finish school while holding down a job, necessitating odd hours or more than one part-time gig. As a whole, this generation is entering the job market later, with higher degrees and higher debt.
  • They don’t want just any job—they want one that fits. In an age where both startups and seasoned companies are enjoying success, there is no shortage of job opportunities. As such, they’re often looking for one that suits their identity and their goals, not just the one that comes up first in an online search. Interestingly, job fit is often prioritized over job pay for millennials. Don’t forget, if they have to start their own company, they will—the average age for millennial entrepreneurs is 27.
  • They want skills that make them competitive. Many millennials enjoy the challenge that accompanies competition, so wearing many hats at a position is actually a good thing. One millennial journalist who used to work at Forbes reported that millennials want to learn by “being in the trenches, and doing it alongside the people who do it best.”
  • They want to do something that matters. Millennials have grown up with change, both good and bad, so they’re unafraid of making changes in their own lives to pursue careers that align with their desire to make a difference.
  • They prefer flexibility. Technology today means it’s possible to work from essentially anywhere that has an Internet connection, so many millennials expect at least some level of flexibility when it comes to their employer. Working remotely all of the time isn’t feasible for every situation, of course, but millennials expect companies to be flexible enough to allow them to occasionally dictate their own schedules. If they have no say in their workday, that’s a red flag.
  • They’ve got skills—and they want to use them. In the words of a 24-year-old designer, millennials “don’t need to print copies all day.” Many have paid (or are in the midst of paying) for their own education, and they’re ready and willing to put it to work. Most would prefer you leave the smaller tasks to the interns.
  • They got a better offer. Thirty-five percent of respondents to XYZ’s survey said they quit a previous job because they received a better opportunity. That makes sense, especially as recruiting is made simpler by technology. (Hello, LinkedIn.)
  • They seek mentors. Millennials are used to being supervised, as many were raised by what have been dubbed as “helicopter parents.” Receiving support from those in charge is the norm, not the anomaly, for this generation, and they expect that in the workplace, too.

Note that it’s not just XYZ University making this final point about the importance of mentoring. Consider Figures 1 and 2 from Deloitte, proving that millennials with worthwhile mentors report high satisfaction rates in other areas, such as personal development. As you can see, this can trickle down into employee satisfaction and ultimately result in higher retention numbers.

Millennials and Mentors
Figure 1. Source: Deloitte

Figure 2. Source: Deloitte

Failure to . . .

No, not communicate—I would say “engage.” On second thought, communication plays a role in that, too. (Who would have thought “Cool Hand Luke” would be applicable to this conversation?)

Data from a recent Gallup poll reiterates that millennials are “job-hoppers,” also pointing out that most of them—71 percent, to be exact—are either not engaged in or are actively disengaged from the workplace. That’s a striking number, but businesses aren’t without hope. That same Gallup poll found that millennials who reported they are engaged at work were 26 percent less likely than their disengaged counterparts to consider switching jobs, even with a raise of up to 20 percent. That’s huge. Furthermore, if the market improves in the next year, those engaged millennial employees are 64 percent less likely to job-hop than those who report feeling actively disengaged.

What’s next?

I’ve covered a lot in this discussion, but here’s what I hope you will take away: Millennials comprise a majority of the workforce, but they’re changing how you should look at hiring, recruiting, and retention as a whole. What matters to millennials matters to your other generations of employees, too. Mentoring, compensation, flexibility, and engagement have always been important, but thanks to the vocal millennial generation, we’re just now learning exactly how much.

What has been your experience with millennials and turnover? Are you a millennial who has recently left a job or are currently looking for a new position? If so, what are you missing from your current employer, and what are you looking for in a prospective one? Alternatively, if you’re reading this from a company perspective, how do you think your organization stacks up in the hearts and minds of your millennial employees? Do you have plans to do anything differently? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

For more insight on millennials and the workforce, see Multigenerational Workforce? Collaboration Tech Is The Key To Success.