As a large baby boomer generation gets set to retire, inclusion of millennials and younger generations in the workplace is becoming a critical focus for HR leaders in China.

China’s working population is projected to fall by 5% by 2030, and with a quarter of the population aged over 60 at that point, millennials will make up a much larger proportion of the future workforce.

At a recent series of recent ChapmanCG roundtable in Beijing and Shanghai, HR leaders shared how the diversity and inclusion agenda is focusing on ‘inclusion first’ to ensure a range of generations can have an impact on the business.

True inclusion means decision-making power

While historically business decisions are made by older, established executives at the top of an organisation, HR leaders were clear that it isn’t just enough for a range of generations’ voices to be heard – they also have to have a say in the final outcome.

Some examples included:

  • promoting younger people into leadership positions so there is a more balanced senior executive team and a diversity of thought and perspective at a decision-making level
  • inclusion of a range of generations on steering committees for projects that have the greatest impact on the organisation, such as business strategy
  • taking millennials’ communications preferences into account when designing employee engagement strategies
  • reverse mentoring, where older and more senior members of the organisation can learn from the perspective of younger employees
  • offering more tailored or individualised rewards and benefits. For example, younger employees may value subsidised gym or yoga memberships over health insurance plans.

This is particularly important to lend stability to executive leadership teams as a large number of senior-level baby boomers get set to retire, as well as in organisations where millennials and younger generations may be closer to the customer base and may have a better understanding of their needs and habits.

Beyond the hiring statistics

As well as traditional diversity measures including sex, age and ethnicity, organisations are now also considering diversity of social background, skill sets and thinking and operational styles.

This includes ensuring greater diversity within teams, rather than just looking at the broader organisation. For example, one HR leader noted that while corporate services may have a strong female presence, engineering teams within the same organisation often were often still largely male dominated.

Ways organisations were tackling this issue included:

  • hiring for softer skills and development potential, rather than technical skill sets
  • hiring from outside the traditional sector
  • regular rotation opportunities so that employees have an opportunity to experience a range of business areas, team dynamics and ways of operating
  • encouraging people to take up overseas placement opportunities to encourage a diversity in experience and understanding, and then ensuring this knowledge is shared and embedded back at international and regional headquarters
  • decentralising decision-making – for example having key senior executives based throughout the world, rather than just at the global headquarters.

A driving force for the business

For inclusion to be truly successful, it needs to be clearly tied to the business strategy and to be considered an organisation-wide objective, rather than just a HR one.

 The business imperatives for a diversity and inclusion strategy also need to be clear to provide a driving force for D&I activity, and may include:

  • positioning the organisation as an employer of choice, and broader reputation within the market
  • better employee engagement and retention
  • improving customer experience by having employees that have a broader understanding of their customers’ needs
  • diversity of thought to improve innovation and create a robust business strategy.

This clarity of purpose is critical in helping to drive diversity and inclusion programs in the business, and making it the responsibility of all business areas rather than a lone focus for HR.

The rapid evolution of the diversity and inclusion agenda in China is closely linked to the fast pace of change within the business environment, and we look forward to monitoring this space closely in the future and sharing further developments and best practice.

A big thank you to the HR teams at Amazon Web Services, EY and GSK for co-hosting such lively and engaging events.

Millennials in China