Celebrating everyone's differences and seeing how age, race, religion, gender and cultural backgrounds all help to benefit the company is a good thing. Diversity is increasingly changing the face of companies. For instance, by the year 2020 there are expected to be more women in the workforce than men, something that would have been regarded as unheard of in the early 1950s. Diversity activities are an effective way for the workplace to not only celebrate but also understand and respect people's differences.
Celebrate observances such as Asian Pacific Heritage Month, Women's History Month, National Disability Awareness Month, and other events that highlight the different types of people that make up your workforce. Make sure that no one feels pressured to participate, but open the floor to everyone's ideas, particularly those who come from the group being observed so they can give input from a personal standpoint.
Diversity Scavenger Hunt
Gather everyone and give them sheets of paper with a list of items that includes things like, "knows a traditional dance" and "can speak another language." Have everyone go around the room asking questions to find the people who fit those categories, with a timer set. Once the timer goes off, have each person discuss what she has found. Some people may be surprised to find out that they work with such an interesting group of people, which can encourage a healthy group discussion.
Employee luncheons do not have to be set on the same month or time frame as observances, but can help through scheduling speakers. Having a guest speaker come out and educate the workplace on her race, culture, gender or other characteristic can be a good way for workers to find out more about another group. Posting pictures and biographies of the group being observed as well as serving traditional food of the particular race or culture being focused on can enhance the experience.
Have the workers form a circle and call out different things that they may have in common. For instance, "who has brown eyes" or "who has red hair." Then continue to break people up into groups by stating differences beyond race and background. These examples can go to the extent of "who is a parent" or "who is married," or beyond, until all individuals can see that they are more alike than they may have previously thought. For workers who may not be comfortable with the amount of information revealed in this activity, make sure that they do not feel pressured to reveal anything unless they are completely at ease. Seeing other people who share those same characteristics may even get them to open up because they feel a sense of belonging, rather than feeling that they are being singled out.
Christina Caldwell is a contributor for online publications such as Women's eNews and Little Pink Book. Her work has also been featured in the popular U.K. magazine "Black Heritage Today." Caldwell holds a bachelor's degree in marketing and communications.