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Diversity Group Activities for Employers

by Dr. Andrea S. Dauber

A diverse workforce that works well together can be a great resource for organizations. Thinking outside the box, challenging conventions and trying new approaches are tools for employees to make better use of their resources. No matter which activity an employer wants to implement, it’s important to debrief the group at the conclusion. Without debriefing, a participant might carry on unresolved emotions or unaddressed topics. Moreover activities should be designed to include all members of the organization.

Nature of Diversity Activities

Diversity group activities are designed to help group members become aware of stereotypical thinking, limitations in thinking or problem-resolution skills, and restrictions in interacting with colleagues of a different background. Activities typically focus on one of these aspects; there is no one size fits all. Therefore, an employer should consider what exactly the purpose of the group activity should be and choose the appropriate activities carefully. Consider aspects like group size, gender composition, represented races or ethnicities as well as age of group members.

Getting Participants Involved

Diversity activities will be more effective if employees understand the need for the activity and acknowledge its purpose. Because employees often have fixed ideas about diversity workshops, it’s important to group them in a way they wouldn’t naturally choose, for example, employees from different departments. The small groups should answer the following questions: What is their job and how does diversity affect that job? What might be a fear or concern about this type of workshop? Where would they like to see the organization go in the future? What are their hopes for the future development of diversity in the organization? Who benefits most? Assisting employees in reflecting the potential benefit of a diversity activity will help them appreciate this effort of the organization.

Activity for All Types of Diversity Criteria

Diversity issues aren’t restricted to ethnicity, race and gender. Different ages or generations in a workplace can also lead to lower productivity levels. People’s perception of different ages is often characterized by stereotypes. In an activity designed to help employees become aware of these, ask participants to write a characteristic they have heard or know about on sheets of paper on a wall. Each sheet has a label such as female teenagers, young adults and middle-aged men. After every participant has commented on every sheet, the group discusses the results. The group leader should ask where they have picked up their beliefs and work towards the awareness that they aren’t always true.

Diversity Activity to Challenge Problem-Solution Skills

When employees of different backgrounds, races and ages work together, they don’t always make full use of their potentials. In the activity, the thinking patterns of a group of employees will be challenged. Every participant is asked to connect all dots of a three-to-three dot square with four straight lines, without lifting the pencil off the paper and without retracing any line. Pennsylvania State University’s College of Agricultural Science has a template on its website. To solve the problem, employees have to think outside of the box, which is what they should do when interacting with colleagues who are different from them.

About the Author

Dr. Andrea S. Dauber has been writing since 2008. Her areas of expertise are personal and career development. She has published everything from scholarly articles to book chapters. She holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Mainz, Germany. As a certified professional and career coach, she coaches clients and conducts workshops at universities.

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