Diversity Activities

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Diversity activities are organized in-house group interactions designed to define, catalyze and rationalize workplace diversity with respect to ethnic, gender, age, religious and other workforce differences. Among its chief objectives should be to prevent the creation of or to dismantle diversity-based workplace "ghettoes"-the de facto partitioning of organizational space and interactions along cultural and other diversity-defined fault lines.

Diversity is not achieved merely through the acceptance or fostering of coexisting ethnicities, nationalities, races or genders in the workplace. Such acceptance is a start, but not the culmination of diversity initiatives. True diversity require not only physical co-presence and acceptance. It also requires positive interaction and mutual enrichment if diversity objectives, programs and activities are to be deemed successful.

Activities, policies and a workplace atmosphere that serve to catalyze diverse interaction are a much better indicators and measures of diversity than a simple head-count could ever be.

Many employers across the world are making their employees undergo diversity training. This process helps employees form stronger team bonds and to work more productively. While some companies hire outside professionals to train their employees, others create their own diversity training programs to implement the many activities and methods that professional diversity trainers can include in a program.

An important point to remember is that tensions might be high due to the sensitive nature of the issues addressed. Diversity training in many circles has rankled some when seen as punishment for some infraction, rather than as a way to assist employees in understanding each other. For this reason, employers should consider starting off with a light introductory, un-threatening activity in order to break the ice. This activity will help lighten the mood and open people's minds to the main topic of the workshop, without making them feel as though they are being punished or coerced.

The bulk of the presentation follows the introductory activity. This could include guest speakers on various topics germane to diversity. It is important to not only teach diversity, but also to live it every day at the business. This is a top-down proposition, in that if the top management of the organization is not deeply committed to diversity, many others also will not. Activities, mixed with short videos or PowerPoint presentations are helpful, as they can help make the message clear and vivid. It is also important to follow up every few months and to have someone available to answer questions that might come up.

Ideally, the activities will be interactive and proactive, rather than primarily passive. Rather than presenting content as though its components are non-intersecting spokes on a wheel emanating from the hub presenter, a diversity program should attempt to weave a mosaic of intersecting, complementary and mutually enriching connections among the participants, who should do more than passively listen, ensconced within protective, insulated and non-interacting cultural cocoons.

Ironically, one of the best ways to promote diversity is to diminish it-by making diverse groups or "factions" so much more comfortable with each other that they experience mutual assimilation, e.g., of lunchtime menu preferences, phrases from native languages, attire, sports interests, and, most importantly, assimilation and diffusion of attitudes and values.
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