Anthony Newkirk, Ph.D. (above) discusses topics related to diversity in the workplace along with five other panelists at the Inaugural Generational Diversity Summit. The event was held at North Carolina Central University.
On Tuesday, June 24, the Triangle Area chapter of the National Diversity Council held an Inaugural Generational Diversity Summit in Durham, North Carolina. The summit, which was held at North Carolina Central University, was a half-day of training and facilitated discussion on generational differences in the workplace.
Today’s workforce is growing increasingly more diverse and complex. There are multiple generations that may exist in a single workplace environment. There are the “Baby Boomers”, born between 1946 and 1965, who are preparing to retire and possess a large amount of company knowledge and organizational memory. There are those who belong to “Generation X”-- born mid-1960s to early 1980s-- who are individuals that are transitioning into leadership positions while juggling the work-life balance. “Millennials”, born early 1980s to early 2000s, are currently entering the workforce with a desire to learn and a vast knowledge of technology.
Each generation has particular ideas and ways of behavior specific to the time period in which they were raised. With all of these different learning and communication styles, how do you effectively address each generation’s unique needs?
The Diversity Summit aimed to answer and expand on this question. It was an opportunity for business leaders, students, young professionals, and members of the community to come together and discuss how to create more inclusive and productive work environments.
The panelist discussion during the summit generated introspective and productive conversation. There were six business professionals that participated in the panel: Charelle Lewis (IT Project Manager at Glaxo SmithKline), James Miller (Executive Director of the LGBT Center of Raleigh), Scott McGregor (Program Manager II at Cisco), Bob Crouch (Assistant Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Duke University), Anthony Newkirk (Senior Manager for Diversity and Inclusion at AICPA), and Diana Hatch (Former Three-Term AARP State President). Each panelist had educational insight on the topic of generational differences and cultural awareness in their corporations. The panel was moderated by Sheila Forte-Trammel, who is on the Board of Directors for NDC Carolinas.
One of the first major discussion points that were touched on during this summit had to do strictly with the need for diversity in general. “More and more as the world is changing, where industry looks for its talent cannot be limited to one group,” said Bob Crouch. “Diversity really is the bottom line. We think about the business case regardless of where we are.”
The panelists also discussed the business case for diversity. Because the demographics of society are rapidly changing, it is necessary for the demographics of the workplace to change in parallel. More than one-third of the population belongs to a minority group, and companies with higher levels of diversity have been proven to bring in up to fifteen times more sales revenue. Each panelist agreed that diversity is imperative to the success of an organization.
“Naturally, [diversity] is a moral imperative—but it is a business imperative as well,” said Sheila Fort-Trammel.
During the summit, panelists were asked questions on various topics: the reputation of their companies, what they were doing as professionals to initiate change, the importance of diversity retention, and communication and leadership surrounding diversity.
Fort-Trammel also posed a question about the reasoning behind conflicts between the generations and how those could be solved.
“One major issue is related to unconscious bias,” said Anthony Newkirk. “This unconscious bias exists cross-generationally. It is the unintentional intolerance—the things that we don’t know that we think we know simply because we’ve encountered a certain type of dynamic before. This creates major conflict and we have to understand that those [thoughts] exist.”
Crouch agreed with this. “Unconscious biases are those things that operate outside of the threshold of our consciousness that impact our actions and our behaviors. The only way that [we] can do something about that is to become conscious of it.”
The panelists also discussed ways to transfer knowledge in an appropriate manner between the generations.
“At Cisco we have two programs. One is a ‘reverse-veteran program’,” said Scott McGregor. “A Traditionalist is paired with someone from the Millennial generation and does job shadowing over the course of a month. It encourages the two-way transfer of knowledge—the company knowledge is shared [by the more senior] person and the younger person suggests new ideas—rather than it being a teacher—pupil kind of thing.”
The summit closed with a “thank-you” from the Diversity Council and a few encouraging words from Sheila Fort-Trammel.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” she said, in the words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “We all have a part to play, and this is just the beginning. I hope that this [encourages you] to make a difference.”
To learn more about the NDC Carolinas Diversity Council and how you can get involved, you can visit the website here.
This story was written by Nia Doaks, Summer Intern for the Diversity and Inclusion team at AICPA. Nia is a rising sophomore majoring in Communication at North Carolina State University.