Sometimes I imagine how fun it would be to grab someone from 1978 and bring them to 2018. I want to watch them react to the way diversity and technology has changed the landscape of business. For that matter, let’s just grab someone from 1998 and show them what life is like now!

Mind-blowing, right?

All the developments since then have allowed us to do sell and ship products to another continent from a phone. We are able to hold a video conference while sitting in a coffee shop. We can also visualize how a copy of the Mona Lisa might look in our living room with a tablet.

Online payment options and augmented reality were not even on the average consumer’s radar before the turn of the century. Now they are features that many consumers are growing to expect from the platforms they use to shop.

Consumers have learned to expect innovation from the businesses they frequent. They are also the same people who expect innovation from their employers. If I can video chat with a customer service representative, why can’t I attend my next meeting remotely as well?

New technologies give rise to lifestyle changes across the board. Which means that “how we’ve always done it” stops making sense.

The Old Ways Don’t Make Sense Anymore

Think about how typewriters stopped being practical once we had computers. Computers are faster, more efficient, and can do way more than any typewriter could hope to.

As computers became more affordable, they began showing up in more homes and businesses. It wasn’t long before we just expected to use computers when we came in to work. Using typewriters to conduct business would do more to raise eyebrows than it would productivity.

What about companies who still don’t have a website? We wouldn’t take them very seriously because so many people practically live online. It just doesn’t make sense for a company to not have a web presence today.

The same holds true for a company’s culture.

You now have access to education so that one can earn their degrees without ever stepping foot on a campus. Sure, you can take a more traditional route and go through a college or university. On the other hand, the amount of free content exceeds anything you could get in a classroom setting. And you can learn it when you want!

The gatekeepers of knowledge are becoming irrelevant.

How Millennials are Driving Innovation and Diversity

At the forefront of technology advancements in the workplace are the Millennials.

While we are often temped to criticize this generation for killing off things like long-adored condiments.  Millennials have gleefully embraced, if not outright demanded, the adoption of the new technologies in the workplace.

As consumers, they place demands on companies to adapt or lose market relevance. As employees, they bring the perspective needed for companies to be able to understand how their industry is changing. Companies take advantage of those changes in order to increase profits.

It’s not just new technology that Millennials are introducing into the workplace, either.  Millennials value the desire for personal growth, better work/life balance, and increased need for diversity in their environments. This is influencing the companies they work for.

In Thriving Millennials: The Next Generation of Industry Leaders, Mr. Scott Wheeler discusses this generation’s desire for more balance. They especially seek employment by citing industry specific surveys conducted in 2016-2017:

“…the participants overwhelmingly (89.4%) indicated life balance as an important or higher attribute in considering career choices. 59% ranked life balance as significantly important. Several interviewees indicated life balance as the number one influencer of workplace acceptability. They also voiced their observation that top employers are embracing more holistic work environments, which encourage family-work integration.

While compensation and titles play a role, they’re surprisingly low on the factors that create satisfaction for a person’s work. Personal growth opportunities and the values of an organization tend to score higher on a candidate’s list of needs. It can help resolve the issue of employee turnover.

Millennials are not only seeking jobs that feed their desires, but they also demand more diversity in the workplace.

Diversity Improves More than Just Profits

Cognitive diversity can be understood as the different ways and styles that people process information. This can be done by diversifying obvious traits like age, gender, and ethnicity. But according to Alison Reynolds and David Lewis, there is more to diversity than just what we see:

“Received wisdom is the more diverse the teams, the more productive they are likely to be. But after running the exercise more than 100 times over 12 years, we’ve found no correlation between diversity and performance.”

We gravitate toward the more visible diversity because it’s easier to see and prove. But it’s not always the most valuable kind of diversity when it comes to productivity. Diversity in learning styles, creativity, adaptability, and information processing are at least as, if not more important.

“We cannot easily detect cognitive diversity from the outside. It cannot be predicted or easily orchestrated. The very fact that it is an internal difference requires us to work hard to surface it and harness the benefits (Reynolds, Lewis).”

4 key benefits

So what are some of the benefits that diversity, cognitive or otherwise, can actually bring to a company? Here are four key benefits that increased diversity can bring to your business:

  • Better Problem Solving
    • People of diverse backgrounds have had to learn to solve problems in different ways. For example, a child in a low-income environment had to solve problems that a more affluent child never had too. Those lessons could easily be utilized when there is a scarcity of resources for specific projects.
  • Increased Innovation
    • Creativity is “a mental process in which two or more bits of information come together.” Getting creative is about mixing up your thinking process to open yourself to new ways of putting things together. Obviously, when you have a more diverse team of people doing this, you can get more creativity flowing.
  • Increased Productivity
    • As our culture itself becomes more diverse, people are becoming more comfortable in diverse environments. Diverse environments suggest an openness in thinking and an acceptance of diverse experiences. This, in turn, will encourage team members to feel safe in expressing ideas and getting involved in completing projects.
  • Higher Profit Margins
    • This is what we’re all after, isn’t it? Not putting all your eggs in one basket applies just as much to the culture that makes up your company. If you wouldn’t invest all your money in just one stock, why invest in just one type of person? Diversification is just more profitable.

Millennials may lack professional experience, but their desire to see increased diversity reveals a distinct maturity. They’re a catalyst for proactive efforts to create more diversity in the workforce. This rewards industry leaders with increased innovation and higher profits.

The equipment finance industry could benefit significantly by stoking the flames of potential within the youngest members of their team. These individuals are leading the way and are the heirs to the hypothetical throne that is our industry.

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