Diversity and inclusion are absolute necessities in today’s business market. They’re more than just trends – they help businesses to stay more competitive and reach out to parts of the market that might not otherwise be served. It’s important that the drive for diversity and inclusivity is not limited to the upper levels of a company. Instead, it must be shared across all levels of employment. If you’re looking to increase the buy-in for these topics, it’s a good idea to start looking at conducting diversity and inclusion activities in the workplace. Doing so can have a huge impact on the way your employees look at your business’ initiatives.
The best diversity and inclusion activities in the workplace
As an owner or manager, part of your job is to start discussions about the importance of inclusivity and diversity. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to get these conversations started. Many people tend to get defensive if they feel they are being called out and some of the basic concepts require a great deal of explanation. That’s why it’s often necessary to use specific activities in order to better demonstrate your point. Not only does it save your employees from a lecture, but it also allows employees to process the information in a new way.
Walk Apart, Walk Together
This activity will require two volunteers. The two volunteers will stand in front of the rest of the facing one another. Once the volunteers are in place, the rest of the group will call out things that might signify that one person is different from the other. They might call out items like where a person is from, an individual’s hair color, or even a person’s religion. When the two people have a difference, they take a step apart. When they have similarities, though, they will step back together. During most sessions, the employees will repeatedly move away from one another before moving back together.
This activity is an object lesson in how similarities can bring people back together no matter how different they may be. Even if two people have quite a bit different from one another, there will always be some kind of common ground on which they will be able to meet. The gap might be wider between some people than others, but there is always something that can be used to bridge that gap. Putting this lesson in motion is a good way to demonstrate the idea to employees.
The Respect Discussion
This is one of the diversity and inclusion activities in the workplace that is, at least logistically, fairly simple. Employees will begin by walking up to another employee (preferably those with whom they do not regularly communicate) and introducing themselves. Once introductions are made, the employees will talk for a bit about what respect means to them. Employees should both define respect and give examples of how it can be shown in the workplace. This is not a time for arguing, however – each employee should be heard out completely, with his or her contributions being acknowledged by his or her peer.
Once the conversation is over, the group can get back together. The various examples of respect should be shared with the entire group and discussed. This is a good time to determine the factors that your group finds common to their own experiences and those that they might not have considered before. Giving concrete examples is good, as is talking about one’s feelings when hearing about another’s definition of respect. The goal here is not only to think about the concept of respect from multiple angles, but also to consider how others might view a person’s actions through the lens of their own experiences. This is a great way to make your employees stop and think about how they interact with one another.
This can be a tricky activity to pull off for several reasons. First and foremost, it does require your employees to disclose personal information. It also requires that they have some modicum of decorum when it comes to hearing the personal information of others. If you trust your employees to treat the information with the seriousness it requires, though, this can be an incredibly worthwhile activity. If individuals don’t feel comfortable participating, though, you should do your best to find an alternative activity in which they can participate.
The basic construction of the activity is simple. You will either pair off employees or put them in small groups. During the activity, each member of the pair or group will share information about the five moments that most defined their lives. They can go into as much or as little detail as they like, within reason. When they are done sharing, the team-members can discuss the similarities that they have found between their own defining experiences. This can be very helpful in building bridges between employees who think that they might have very little in common.
Stepping Forward and Back
This activity will require nothing more than an empty space with a wall. Have all of your employees stand one pace away from the wall. The individual running the session will make a series of statements. If the employee can answer “Yes” to a positive statement, he or she will move a step forward. If the employee answers “Yes” to a negative statement, he or she will take a step back. Positive statements might include “People of my race have never been barred from voting.” Negative statements might include “I don’t see many people with my background at work.”
By the time the questions are done, the employees will see that they have found themselves at several different locations in the room. Some might have made it all the way to a “finish line”. Others might have their backs against the wall. This physical representation of privilege will help to show employees that the concept has nothing at all to do with their individual stories and much more to do with how they are perceived by society at large. When they can take a judgment free look, their perspectives on the concept might change.
Working Together Towards a Goal
The basic idea here is simple – if you want people to work together, make them work together towards a common goal. If you feel like you need to make an object lesson of this, you can always assign people to a group during a team-building task. There is no reason, however, why you could not simply make it a priority to ensure that the groups you assign to your various projects are already diverse in nature. This not would not only allow you to avoid taking up time creating outside projects, but it would allow your employees to work in a real-world situation.
It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on groups you put together for these purposes. While diverse groups typically breed a sense of camaraderie, this isn’t always the case. Make sure that your employees are actually working together in order to ensure that the proper lessons are being learned.
Each of these diversity and inclusion activities in the workplace can help your employees to further learn about their co-workers and the basic concepts behind making a business more diverse and more inclusive. While these activities will not change the minds of every employee, the activities will generally have a positive outcome for most of your employees. If you are looking to ensure that your business becomes better at embracing diversity and inclusivity, you might want to reach out to the experts for help. Make sure to contact PayTech for more information about how our HR software tools can help you to achieve your goals and for information on our pricing and packages.