The next generation of employees will be more diverse than ever before, and that’s a great thing for business. According to a McKinsey & Co. study, companies with greater ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have better financial returns than their peers, and companies with more gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to outperform their competitors.

Similarly, institutions of higher learning should consider the multicultural workforce of the future when planning for recruitment and programming; doing so will encourage a more creative learning environment, pushing the student body to experience different viewpoints and prepare for life after graduation—and increasing the values of their degrees.

According to a report by the U.S. Department of Education, student-body diversity in higher education is important not only for improving economic and educational opportunities for students of color, but also for the social, academic, and societal benefits it presents for all students and communities. Students report less discrimination and bias at institutions where they perceive a higher commitment to diversity. The report also found that higher education improves social mobility for minorities; on average, African Americans and Hispanics who completed four-year college degrees earn double compared to those who only earned a high school diploma.

Colleges and universities need to emphasize both diversity and inclusion. While “diversity” translates to minority representation, “inclusion” means striving for minority involvement post-enrollment by providing equal access to opportunities and encouraging representation across majors.

4 ways your institution can strengthen its commitment to diversity and inclusion

1. Be a strong advisor
Many minority students will need help planning for academic success. For example, in 2016 more than 57 percent of bachelor’s-degree recipients from California State University, Fullerton, were the first in their families to graduate. Lacking a family member who can show them how to successfully navigate college, students like these need strong guidance on course selection, study habits, and managing their finances. Enlisting well-versed counselors is a must, and advisory programs should continue past freshman year.

About the Author:

John Lenckos is responsible for Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s relationship with private higher-education clients in the Central Region. Joining Bank of America in 2006, Lenckos has more than 30 years of financial services-industry experience, including corporate and not-for-profit banking roles at super-regional banks. He was an analyst at a nationally recognized credit-rating agency, completed financial-consulting assignments in Germany and Hungary, and was a founding officer of a successful de novo banking institution in Michigan.