These days, diversity and inclusion are more important than ever to the changing workforce. According to Deloitte’s 2017 Global trends report, 69% of executives surveyed said that diversity and inclusion are front-seat priorities.
A study by consulting giant McKinsey found that companies with a more gender-diverse workforce are 15% more likely to do better financially than their national industry median, while racially and ethnically diverse companies tend to outperform by 35%. But even in the face of hard evidence that different perspectives, experiences and skills are good for business, introducing training programs at work can be a challenge.
That’s where C-suite leadership comes in. Getting company leaders involved promotes a more inclusive company culture. What’s more, businesses that offer diversity training programs enjoy higher employee morale and lower turnover. And happy employees are usually productive ones, so that’s a win-win all around.
Just be sure you don’t leave employees with children out of the loop by scheduling all of your inclusion activities after work. Everyone on your team benefits when the whole team is able to participate, whether it’s a game, a meal or a roundtable discussion about potentially challenging work scenarios.
There are plenty of innovative training activities out there. It’s just a matter of finding those that strike the right chord and serve to move your employees and your organization forward. Here are some to consider. Start with these and see where they lead.
1. Set Diversity Goals
Want a more multicultural work environment? Ask diversity training participants at your company to set specific, measurable goals for themselves at the office. Here’s an example: If they overhear someone making disparaging comments about women or Latinos or African-Americans, for instance, the goal can be to publicly challenge the comments.
2. Different Perspectives
If you want to get your employees to see things from someone else’s perspective, this activity is a great way to start. Ask a group of employees to imagine the challenges that a specific group of people – racial minorities or transgender individuals, for example – might regularly face and then write a few sentences about it. The basic idea here is to encourage employees to put themselves in someone else’s place.
3. How to Communicate
Different skills and personalities can often lead to stressful communications at the team level. You can help your employees meet those challenges with an activity that involves both listening and communicating. Divide your team up into pairs and give each member an interesting, but not too controversial, topic. First one person talks about it while the other listens, then vice-versa. There’s a lot to be said not just for listening, but listening with an open mind.
4. Celebrate Holidays & Events
Christmas gets most of the love, but what about Chinese New Year, Black History Month or Gay Pride Week? Underrepresented minorities and cultures have their own special holidays and celebrations. Embrace inclusion at the office by encouraging your employees to learn about other cultures & people through food, music and traditions. Offer a movie night, a folk dancing lesson, even a lunchtime potluck.
5. Lunch & Learn
Engage your employees by offering diversity and inclusion workshops during the lunch hour. Tap some of your HR executives to lead these sessions, or get creative and bring in diverse speakers from across – or outside – the company. The point is to approach training from a different angle by making it interesting, rather than mandatory.
6. Diversity Jeopardy
Like the popular game show, this activity offers questions in specific categories. But instead of covering topics like the NFL or characters in Russian literature, the questions focus on diversity themes like Gender, Religion, or Famous People with Disabilities. Like the actual game, the team with the most points wins.
Mentoring programs offer companies an opportunity to promote understanding and collaboration between different cultures, races, generations and genders. Not only does mentoring improve employee engagement, it also makes learning an integral part of the company culture.
8. Tiny Teach
Learn something from one of your colleagues. First divide your team into pairs, then ask each to teach the other something new that they can learn quickly. It can be a something as simple as telling a joke or maybe something more challenging like counting to 10 in Japanese. Once everyone is finished, ask them to show the group what they’ve learned.
9. Offer Educational & Financial Benefits
With nearly 44 million Americans trying to pay off $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, is it any wonder that employer assistance in paying off student loans and no-strings-attached contributions to 529 college savings plans are among the hottest work perks these days? In fact, nearly 80 percent of workers with student loan debt want to work for a company that will help them pay it off. So what are you waiting for?
10. Introduce a New Perspective
This activity is designed to open your employees’ eyes and minds to the challenges faced by LGBT individuals and ethnic and racial minorities. Ask participants to write a few sentences about the challenges they think a marginalized minority – say, a gay Muslim man – faces on a regular basis. Walking a figurative mile in someone else’s shoes can really open your eyes.
In today’s business world, managing diversity and inclusion in your workplace is an essential step toward success. Offering innovative activities and programs makes your employees feel like a welcome part of the team and lets them know that diversity and inclusion are core company values.
Talk is easy; taking action with engaging activities is the way to make real change. It’s also an effective way to create an inclusive environment that encourages everyone to participate.