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When companies embrace diversity, everybody wins.

By Derrick Nelson
Manager of Inclusion and Diversity, Commerce Bank

Fact: Millennials are now the largest generation in the U.S. labor force and will account for half of U.S. workers within the next two years. By 2030, they and post-millennial Generation Z will make up nearly 75% of the workforce.1

The baby boomer generation’s influence in the workforce, meanwhile, is waning. The youngest Boomers will turn 55 in 2019, with more of their numbers retiring every year.

This generational shift is changing the composition of the nation’s workforce. How? For one thing, Millennials are the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in American history. While baby boomers were born in a period when immigration was low and consisted primarily of white Europeans, the Millennial generation benefits from waves of immigrants from Latin America and Asia in the 1980s and 1990s.

Millennials share other differences from earlier generations. Collectively, they are the most educated generation in history, with more than a third holding college degrees, compared to less than 30 percent in 2000 and under 25% in 1980. They are also more socially conscious and prefer to work for companies that share similar values. Because such employers can be elusive, Millennials tend to be less engaged in the workforce and change jobs more frequently.2

The implications of these generational differences are significant and affect the future of every company, including ours. In particular, they underscore the importance of creating a corporate culture that embraces diversity, encourages connections and supports personal and professional development.

For some companies, including Commerce Bank, that has meant implementing inclusion and diversity programs that support efforts to be more intentional about recruitment, talent development and employee retention.

The intentional workforce

Because of the diverse makeup of today’s labor force, it’s important for employers to be intentional with when recruiting new employees.

For example, Commerce has built purposeful relationships with chambers of commerce, universities and affinity groups to attract diverse talent.

Once team members are on board, Commerce offers a variety of resource groups, mentoring programs and networking opportunities to help employees feel connected to our bank and each other.

More than 800 women at Commerce, for example, participate in RISE, a business resource group created to support personal and professional growth. Another resource group, EMERGE, focuses on creating a culture that attracts, develops and engages young professionals. With chapters throughout the Commerce network, more than 450 EMERGE members participate in everything from webinars on internal resume management, to volunteer opportunities in the community. Through an internal mentorship program, minorities and women are paired with executive mentors for one-on-one mentoring and development.


Underrepresented employees aren’t the only ones who benefit from inclusion and diversity programs like these. Companies also win by recruiting, developing and retaining people who feel connected, eager to innovate and contribute to its long-term success.

In Commerce’s case, our employee effectiveness surveys show that our business resource group members are more highly engaged, on average, than other employees. Overall employee engagement and enablement at Commerce, in fact, well-exceed national averages.

To be effective, we know inclusion and diversity efforts can’t be confined simply to those participating in the resource groups and mentoring relationships. They should be embraced by the entire organization. That’s why we host regular learning conversations around inclusion and diversity topics for all team members.

In other words, we are preparing our entire workforce to adapt to the generational shifts. We know there is strength in our diversity, and when we embrace it, we all win.


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