Businesses that embrace diversity activities in the workplace make more money, have happier employees and have a wider appeal to their target audience – particularly among millennials who value diversity.
“Weaving DEI activities into the fabric of your organization’s culture shows everyone you’re not just checking a box; you’re genuinely committed to building inclusion and belonging. Effective DEI initiatives increase engagement, satisfaction and psychological safety, leading to real bottom-line benefits for the business,” explained Rachel Goor, CEO of Workrowd, a tech platform that maximizes the ROI of employee initiatives.
In this article, we’re going to explore a range of diversity activities for the workplace.
If you’re looking for initiatives or actions you should take, check out our activities for promoting diversity in the workplace.
- Diversity activities while working from home
- 13 diversity activities for the workplace in 2023
- 1. Follow the diversity calendar
- 2. Hold diversity briefings and celebrate diverse holidays
- 3. Set up a diversity committee
- 4. Explain diverse concepts and hold diversity training
- 5. Host a DEI lunch and learn
- 6. Hold a storytelling workshop and share real-life stories
- 7. Start a DEI book club
- 8. Host happy hours/office networking
- 9. Hold an international potluck
- 10. Create snapshot boards or family photo albums
- 11. Do a privilege walk
- 12. Put money in the jar
- 13. Rotate meeting leads
- Keeping track of how employees feel
- Remember why you’re doing it
Diversity activities while working from home
It can feel more challenging to run DEI activities when employees work from home, but offering remote work is a DEI activity in itself.
Some disabled employees, for example, may struggle to travel to and from work, but they’re still capable of excelling in a role. That’s a large, diverse talent pool you get to embrace by allowing employees to work from home.
13 diversity activities for the workplace in 2023
All of the items on this list can work for office-based or remote work. So, whether you want to run them in person or virtually, there’s something for you.
1. Follow the diversity calendar
The diversity calendar is a list of events that are relevant to different communities, religions or backgrounds.
At the start of each month, you could email a list of diverse events and holidays, or publish a list on the intranet.
If you follow the diversity calendar, consider offering flexible leave, too. That way, employees can take off the holidays that matter most to them.
This means you can offer customer support during times your competitors may not, showing you’re an inclusive business and attracting a wider, more diverse customer base.
2. Hold diversity briefings and celebrate diverse holidays
A diversity briefing is when everyone shares the upcoming holidays that are relevant to them for that month. This could be a meeting on its own or held at the start of another recurring meeting.
What could you do to celebrate those diverse holidays? Ask your employees what they’d like to see and if they could help you organize something.
3. Set up a diversity committee
Since the pandemic, employees are more purpose-driven than ever. They’re also much more likely to stay in a role if their personal purpose aligns with their employer’s purpose, according to McKinsey.
Work is where 70% of employees find their purpose, so if they’re not finding it where they are now, they’re more likely to leave.
Since workplace diversity is so important to millennial and Gen Z employees, if you can find a way to connect their purpose to workplace diversity, you’re going to improve your employee engagement and retention rates.
A diversity committee is a group of employees who help you bring about the change required to make your business a more diverse and inclusive place to work. They could connect via an ERG or regular meetings/calls.
To set one up, reach out to employees and ask who might be interested. Explain the benefits of getting involved for them, as well as for the business.
You could also send out a questionnaire to find interested employees with relevant skills or experience. The key is to find people who are enthusiastic about getting involved. Skills can be taught; enthusiasm can’t.
4. Explain diverse concepts and hold diversity training
Knowledge is the first step to understanding and acceptance. It’s therefore important to share concepts that may be new to people, such as how food allergies and intolerances impact people, the way different religions view the world or the social model of disability.
Sometimes these explanations can result in mindset shifts that change how someone works with their colleagues for the better.
You could work with a diversity committee to create accessible guides around these concepts that are available for people to read, watch or listen to in their own time.
Another option is to hold inclusion training or implicit bias training to help employees spot red (and green) flags.
5. Host a DEI lunch and learn
Lunch and learns introduce employees to new concepts in easy-to-digest sessions. These are usually led by an outside expert and work well whether they’re hosted in person or virtually.
6. Hold a storytelling workshop and share real-life stories
Hosting a storytelling workshop, where employees share their own stories using the techniques they’ve learned, increases their speaking and writing confidence, introduces them to different backgrounds and promotes diversity in the workplace.
This can help create a more inclusive workplace where different backgrounds are embraced. As a result, unconscious bias may decrease while employee engagement goes up.
You could host this as a lunch and learn, led by an experienced practitioner or use it as a longer team-building exercise.
7. Start a DEI book club
Reading is a great way to reduce stress. Regular reading also exposes us to different backgrounds, increasing empathy, which can benefit the workplace.
Try to read books by authors from diverse backgrounds, whether they’re novels, memoirs, autobiographies or poetry collections. The more perspectives you can share, the bigger the difference you’ll notice in employees.
You could organize a book club through a monthly call, email round-up or an ERG.
If you have office-based employees, you could combine it with the next idea.
8. Host happy hours/office networking
Providing an office happy hour or networking session, allows employees to get to know their colleagues outside of working hours.
This works well when hosted in the office or at a local venue.
For an online version, you could hire an entertainer or hold activities to attract employees to the networking and set up discussion rooms where they can talk to their colleagues.
9. Hold an international potluck
From paella in Spain, to a Yorkshire Pudding in the UK, every country and culture has its own unique foods. Sometimes you only need to travel a few miles to find a new approach to cooking an old favorite.
An international potluck is a way for employees to spend time together, share stories and experience new foods.
If your team is virtual, you could get them to share recipes with each other, then pick a different option to cook each day/week.
10. Create snapshot boards or family photo albums
Photos allow us to capture and share memories. You could set up an in-person or virtual one where employees share their favorite photos and a sentence or two about what it shows.
Photos could include their loved ones, places they’ve traveled to, things they’ve learned, obstacles they’ve overcome or just something that means a lot to them.
11. Do a privilege walk
A privilege walk is a diversity game that can be an eye-opening way to show employees how much privilege they have.
Everyone starts by lining up alongside each other. Then, you read out a series of statements that show privilege.
For every statement that applies to them, employees take one step forward. In the end, everyone has a clear picture of how privileged their lives are based on how many steps ahead they are compared to their colleagues.
For a virtual version, employees could track the number of answers that apply to them, then tally up their score at the end.
12. Put money in the jar
Instead of putting money into a jar every time someone swears, when someone uses a term that excludes a particular group – like using “guys” to refer to a group of people who aren’t just male – they have to put money into a physical or virtual jar.
When the jar is full, you can donate it to charity.
13. Rotate meeting leads
Rotating who runs regular meetings keeps things fresh and introduces employees to different leadership styles.
It gives employees the opportunity to grow their leadership skills and gets everyone used to seeing different types of people in leadership roles.
Keeping track of how employees feel
Setting milestones and check-ins with employees and team leaders ensures you can tell how effective your diversity activities are.
You could track results with employee surveys, conduct focus groups or hold drop-in sessions for employees to share their thoughts.
Some of the things you should measure include:
- Awareness of areas like the social model of disability and microaggressions
- How many employees attend activities
- What employees think of the activities
- What types of activities employees would like in the future
It’s important to ask employees what they want, because the more engaged they are with workplace diversity and inclusion, the more they’re going to benefit from any diversity and inclusion activities. Plus, your business will benefit, too.
Remember why you’re doing it
There are many things you can do to put a new spin on something and turn it into fun diversity and inclusion activities. The key is to remember why you’re doing it and ensure all activities are inclusive for employees with accessibility needs or easily adaptable for home or office-based work.
The more DEI activities you hold, the bigger the difference it’ll make to team building, unconscious biases, employee experience, and the health of your company culture and employer brand.