A Google search of the phrase “millennial workforce” produces nearly 600,000 references. Millennials, those between the ages of 17 and 35, are the most researched, written about and sought-after demographic group in America. In the U.S., there are a documented 92 million millennials, making them the largest generation. By comparison, there are 77 million baby boomers (ages 51 to 69) and 67 million Generation Xers (ages 35 to 50).
Many corporations target this sector of the population for employment opportunities, attributing to the 4.4 percent unemployment rate for millennials, the lowest of any group. The millennial workforce is not only highly sought after but also heavily catered to in the workplace. Technology companies like Facebook and Google meticulously designed their corporate headquarters equipped with all the bells and whistles to attract young tech savvy workers. Corporate leave policies have been adjusted, in many cases extending maternity leave to 16 weeks to accommodate work-life balance expectations of this group. The demographics of cities have changed because of an influx of young workers and entrepreneurs. The city of Atlanta formerly thought of as a traditional southern city is now primarily occupied by millennials. With young worker migration, the city is now overrun with urban development that caters to their lifestyles. Downtown Atlanta has no shortage of restaurants, bars, condominiums, mixed-use mega apartment complexes and shared office spaces to accommodate its newest residents.
While some millennials are flourishing in their highly sought-after status, there is a subset of this group that may not be getting the same level of attention from corporate recruiters. Minority millennials, especially African Americans, are not faring as well as their Caucasian counterparts in their quest for job opportunities with major corporations. The unemployment rate for this group is considerably higher than the general millennial population at 7.1 percent.
Amari Hanes earned a B.A. in Business Administration and a Masters in International Business from Georgia State University and said that he and many of his peers face challenges connecting to job opportunities with major corporations. “We are being left out of opportunities in many corporations, some right here in our city. We are being overlooked and passed over. We are checking the boxes, getting the education, following the blueprint to success, so I’m not sure why we’re being excluded,” he said. “We see our non-minority peers have access to more and better job opportunities. Even if we find jobs, it may not be what we desired or the best fit for our career aspirations. With my education, it was my goal to secure a job in Analytics at a major corporation. I am aware that some of the big corporations in Atlanta only recruit from Georgia Tech for these roles. They claim to have a diverse corporate culture, but if you only recruit from one college, I’m not sure that diversity is their true goal. I’ve had these conversations with my peers and it seems corporations only want a certain type, a cookie-cutter millennial. Not those of us who bring diversity of thought, which progressive corporate leadership considers a necessity in our diverse society.”
Hanes is not alone in his assessment of corporate recruiting and hiring practices. According to a 2014 Report published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, young people of color, especially African American millennials report experiencing higher rates of race discrimination while searching for work. One out of every five African American and Hispanic millennial reported experiencing discrimination while searching for employment or as employees.
Because the latest government data was nearly four years old, we conducted interviews and surveyed over 100 college students and recent graduates to determine if discriminatory activity in the workplace is still as prevalent in 2017. The results of the study indicate similar results. Many of the subjects in the survey agreed with the statement that Hanes made that “we are being excluded,” and shared similar experiences.
African Americans are not the only ones raising the issue of lack of inclusivity. A significant number of corporations and technology companies have publicly admitted to not having as many African Americans in their workforce as they would like. Many are implementing initiatives to attract more African Americans. Earlier this year, the president of PepsiCo’s Global Beverage Group fired a recruiter who claimed to not be able to find diverse candidates for an executive role. To address its lack of diversity, Google set up Howard University West, on its campus in Mountain View, California, in an effort to attract, train and retain African American coders. Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) professional hiring is at an all-time high. Almost every major corporation has implemented a diversity and inclusion leadership role and charged these individuals to develop inclusive corporate policies and recruiting strategies to ensure a more diverse workforce.
Louis Douglas, a career expert, shared his perspective on the impact of diversity and inclusion policies and industry trends. “I think the shift that we are seeing in the human capital industry will bring about the change that is needed to ensure more diversity and inclusion. D&I professionals will be challenged to deliver. They are accountable for the policies that support the metrics, and the numbers ultimately tell the story,” he said. “As a recruiting professional, I’m excited about some of the trends that I’ve observed and the impact that I believe they will have on diverse millennial employment in the future. One noted trend is the diverse workforce is coming prepared to compete. They have the education and the skills to be competitive and secure the jobs that they seek, particularly in the tech fields, which that has not always been the case. Another trend is the [Generation X] minorities are moving up in their corporate careers. They have been in the workplace for a number of years, they have demonstrated their value and are now being promoted to higher level management positions within their organizations and industries. These leaders will be the influencers of the corporate culture change. They are aware of the disparities and they will use their positions and influence to ensure doors are opened for other diverse employees.”
Stephanie Robinson an expert in millennial recruiting said, “The playing field is not leveled, but progress is being made. No one will argue that the best candidate should get the job, but the question is are all the best candidates being invited to the interview? We know that some corporations have gaps in this area that need to be addressed. A robust recruiting strategy that ensures that quality diverse candidates are engaged is a good place to start. Oftentimes, only corporate insiders, relatives and friends of employees are privy to internship, co-op and summer job opportunities. This practice of insider networking is not conducive to identifying diverse or best candidates. To achieve true diversity, everyone must have access and opportunity to compete., she said. “I always tell my clients that Strategic + Proactive Tactics = Goals accomplished. This works both ways, for corporations that are seeking diverse workers and for diverse applicants seeking corporate jobs. Corporations are too often reactive, they won’t implement a strong diversity policy until forced to do so. Proactively creating and implementing a diversity and inclusivity policy and ensuring the organization is compliant with industry standards is the best strategy advice that I can offer. Most D&I leaders are diverse, and their job is to ensure the playing field is leveled for diverse job seekers. The fact that these roles exist in record numbers is progress.”
We know that there are some gaps in corporate recruiting but Hanes and the experts shared some solutions for ethnic millennials seeking corporate positions.
“I think some of it is relationship building. Higher education institutions need to be more diligent in building relationships with corporations to ensure their students have access to the same internship, co-op and summer job opportunities as Georgia Tech. We know it’s not about smarts or skills, so why are we being excluded? That’s a question these companies must answer. The same way that corporations engage Georgia Tech, maybe they should consider casting a wider net to include more diverse schools to ensure more diversity in the workplace. If internships, co-ops, and summer jobs are pipelines to full-time job opportunities, and we’re excluded from those opportunities, how are we expected to compete for the jobs when they become available? Our counterparts already have a foot in the door, it’s a catch-22!” Hanes said.
“Networking to leverage family and friends to gain access to opportunities within their organizations may open some doors. But not all of my peers have those types of connections. That’s why it’s important for those that are in corporate roles to reach back, mentor and ensure doors are opened for other African- Americans. As a community, we don’t do enough of that. The mindset that I did it without help is counterproductive to our advancement in corporate America,” he added.
“My advice to millennial job seekers is three things: strategy, networking and branding. Corporate jobs are highly competitive. Getting a seat at the interview table requires strategy, a solid plan of action. Networking should be a priority in that strategy. Young job seekers who may not have a resume packed with experience may need an internal advocate. Seek out a mentor, preferably one who has a position related to the one that you seek or who works at a company that is on your list of top places to work. Leveraging relationships can be a way to navigate to the opportunities you seek. Finally, create your professional brand. What is it that you are good at and want others to recognize as your strength? Branding is key to standing out and getting noticed. Ensuring that your resume, presentations and marketing material highlight your skills and accomplishments. Competition is fierce so an applicant must come up with creative ways to set themselves apart,” said Robinson.
Do you feel that your Caucasion peers have access to more and better corporate job opportunities?
“Today’s millennials have the advantage of technology. Information and people are readily available at their fingertips. My advice to job seekers is to do your due diligence and create a strategy targeting key companies. Check out the companies that you want to pursue, visit their websites, look up their leadership, their board of directors, and if you don’t see anyone that looks like you, then that may not be the diverse and inclusive corporate culture you seek. LinkedIn is an excellent resource for building your professional network. Most professionals are happy to view your resume and provide insights into their organization, so reach out and start to build relationships. Find out where key people are scheduled to appear for speeches, etc., show up and introduce yourself. Reach out to the D&I lead and inquire about how to connect to internships, co-ops and entry level job opportunities. Attending recruiting events can be a way to connect to internal influencers. Gaining an advocate is sometimes all you need for that competitive edge,” said Douglas.
The experts shared some sound and practical advice for job seekers and they also agree that achieving a diverse culture and embracing diverse workers starts as an internal top-down strategy. African American millennials are consumer influencers, who play a key role in pop culture. Endorsements from African American millennial athletes and entertainers can make or break a consumer brand. Corporations spend billions of dollars to market to the multicultural consumer, but their hiring of this same demographic is lacking. Research is consistent with Hanes and his peers’ assessment of corporate recruiting and that is that African Americans are too often being excluded from corporate recruiting. Although survey responses varied by age, race and educational background, one question received the same answer by 100 percent of those surveyed—”Do you feel that your Caucasian peers have access to more and better corporate job opportunities?” If D&I hiring trends are indicative of a corporate culture change and a move towards recruiting, hiring and promoting more people of color, African American millennial job seekers should experience an increase in corporate job opportunities in the future.