5 diversity training activities your team will actually enjoy

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Today’s biggest companies understand that recruiting a diverse workforce isn’t just a way to introduce new faces into the organization. It’s also good business! When employees reflect the experiences, culture, and perspective of their communities, they can offer fresh ideas to help companies provide better products and services. No wonder a 2018 report by research giant McKinsey found that companies with greater gender and ethnic diversity in their leadership ranks tended to outperform companies with more homogenous management.

However, simply recruiting employees from different backgrounds isn’t enough to reap the many benefits they can offer your team. Instead, companies need to take the next step to create an inclusive work environment, which includes implementing diversity and inclusion training activities.

Why inclusion matters

Creating an inclusive environment in your company can pay enormous dividends. In 2017, Salesforce released a report called “The Impact of Quality and Values Driven Business” which found that employees who felt their companies provided equal opportunities were 65% more likely to say they were proud to work there. Proud employees are also productive and loyal employees. Unfortunately, that same report found that nearly half of business professionals believed that their company doesn’t provide equal opportunities for employees.

How can business leaders improve the culture of inclusion within their company? Diversity training is a good place to start.

Why invest in diversity and inclusion training activities?

Diversity training, in the popular imagination, means forcing employees to sit through a few uncomfortable videos before they’re allowed to go back to work.

The truth, however, is that when done right, diversity training can have a profound impact on how your employees and your management team understand and work with each other. Diversity training is about increasing your team’s cultural awareness and sensitivity toward the different perspectives and experiences of their co-workers. This goes beyond race and includes a wide range of differences, including gender, gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, age, ability, and even educational attainment and political beliefs.

How to develop diversity and inclusion training

Diversity and inclusion training can be uncomfortable, especially when individuals confront difficult topics such as implicit bias, discrimination, and cultural competency. One of the best ways to help your team relax and let down their walls is to include diversity and inclusion training activities that allow employees to share their stories and listen to the stories of others.

As you begin to create your training course, consider including these five diversity and inclusion training activities to help your team members see each other in a new light.

1. “I am”

Many workers feel uncomfortable highlighting their differences, especially in a professional office environment. Start off your diversity training by creating a safe space where employees can open up about themselves and their experiences. This first activity is the perfect ice breaker.

Hand each participant a sheet of paper with the phrase “I Am” at the top. Ask the participants to list ten “I Am” statements about themselves. Encourage them to be open, honest, and vulnerable in creating these statements. Have participants read their statements as a way of introducing themselves to their team.

2. First impressions

As an alternative to the “I Am” activity, this ice breaker asks each person to write three unique facts about themselves on a slip of paper. All the slips of paper go into the bowl, and the facilitator reads them one at a time. The participants then have to try and guess who wrote each fact. Poll Everywhere allows you to showcase participants’ guesses in real-time. At the end of the exercise, the writers reveal themselves. This is another great way for a team to learn more about each other.

3. Facing stereotypes

Many people hold a variety of unconscious stereotypes that affect the way they see and act toward others even if we aren’t aware of it. This next activity confronts stereotypes head-on and is a great way to encourage discussions.

Ask each participant to write the phrase “I am _________ BUT I am not _________”. Ask them to fill in the blanks with common stereotypes related to them. Participants can write more then one if they please.

4. Walking in someone else’s shoes

Divide your participants into pairs who are different from one another and then ask each partner in the pair to try and think of challenges the other may face in their lives. This is a great way to build empathy and to spark one-on-one conversations about topics people may ordinarily feel uncomfortable approaching.

5. Speak your truth

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After performing the previous activities, the participants in your group are hopefully feeling ready to speak and listen. Now it’s time to dig a little deeper. Encourage (but don’t force) your participants to share stories of their experiences. Some great questions to ask are:

  • When was a time you felt you didn’t “fit in”?
  • Have you ever experienced discrimination?
  • Have you witnessed discrimination?
  • Have you ever felt excluded?

Sharing these stories is a powerful way to encourage hard-hitting discussions. It can also help team members bond and become more sensitive to the experiences and challenges of others.

Businesses can be a force for social change

Marc Benioff, Chairman and CEO of Salesforce wrote that “As business leaders, we have a responsibility to stand up to discrimination and make equality part of the fabric of our companies. We are better people, companies and communities when we commit to equal pay, equal opportunity, equal education and equal rights.”

Building more equality into your company starts with ensuring that your employees feel they are seen, heard, and respected in your organization. Instead of forcing your team to watch an uncomfortable diversity video or sit through a generic slideshow, create an interactive training program, complete with diversity and inclusion training activities. These activities will allow your team members to acknowledge and celebrate their differences while also learning about the unique challenges and experiences their co-workers have faced in life.

Poll Everywhere can help you increase the interactivity of your diversity training. Our real-time polls allow you to solicit instant feedback and answers from your team which can improve participation and customization of the training. For more tips on building a collaborative team and improving employee engagement, download our ebook.

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