Diversity is a priority for, at minimum, 54% of business leaders. Yet when it comes to implementation, the numbers tell a different story. Only four percent of organizations have achieved tangible success in their Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) programming efforts.
So, how do we bridge the huge gap between intention and successful execution? One way is through diversity and inclusion activities in the workplace.
That means ongoing activities — and not one-off endeavors — that address biases, structural barriers, and cultural dynamics.
In this article, we’ll cover 19 impactful DEIB activities you can implement in the workplace today, with tips for making the most of them.
Why organize diversity and inclusion activities?
Organizing DEIB activities is not just a nod to modern workplace expectations — it's a catalyst for real growth. A robust DEIB approach improves employee morale, which in turn enhances productivity. In the eyes of 80% of young professionals, a company's commitment to diversity weighs heavily in job considerations. The benefits? A richer talent pool, a 37% higher retention rate from employees who feel seen and valued, and teams that function at 1.2-1.4x higher efficiency rates, as noted by the World Economic Forum. Moreover, there’s a direct link between DEIB efforts and profitability, too. Embrace diversity not just as an ethos, but as a strategic business move.
Now, let’s move from theory to action. Learn how to cultivate an environment that accepts differences and propels your organization to succeed.
19 Examples of Diversity and Inclusion Activities in the Workplace
1. Implementing unconscious bias training
Humans have unconscious biases that influence our perceptions and decisions about others. Left unchecked, these biases can undermine hiring practices, hinder teamwork, and negatively impact an organization’s overall culture. Unconscious bias training, in the form of things like personal reflection exercises and implicit bias tests, offers a proactive approach to addressing this problem.
What are the specific areas where unconscious bias may be influencing decision-making? Come up with training quiz activities addressing that, or reach expert DEIB trainers to bring depth and credibility to your sessions. You can also provide follow-up sessions or refresher modules to reinforce the concepts and embed the knowledge and behaviors learned over time.
2. Bringing folks together for Courageous Conversations
Bringing up the “undiscussable” at work isn’t always easy, but structured dialogue in the form of listening circles can help. At PowerToFly, we call these “Courageous Conversations.”
Listening circles, rooted in Indigenous traditions and often used in restorative justice processes, provide a safe and structured space for individuals to share their stories and feelings. In the context of DEIB, these circles can help understand the lived experiences of a marginalized group, address systemic issues, and foster empathy and understanding within teams. They encourage open dialogue, ensuring that every voice is heard and valued.
3. Organizing a diversity-geared book club
Host an office club to discuss books or films that present diverse viewpoints. Cost-effective and low-maintenance, this activity is one of the easiest ways to develop empathy and cultural awareness. Some books you can consider include Ijeoma Oluo’s “So You Want to Talk About Race” and Ibram Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist.”
Schedule a regular meeting that works for all participants. Bi-monthly or monthly sessions work well because they provide ample time for reading and reflection. Don’t forget to assign someone to facilitate discussions, pose questions, and keep the conversation respectful and engaging.
4. Hosting a film night
Nothing absorbs people’s attention like engaging video content. Optional movie nights can be a unique and engaging way for organizations to address DEIB goals. By showcasing films that delve into the histories, cultures, and experiences of diverse groups, companies can stimulate discussions on inclusivity, empathy, and cultural understanding. Such events promote appreciation for diversity and draw attention to historical contexts, prejudices, and the achievements of marginalized communities, leading to a richer, more informed perspective among employees.
Examples of films you can screen are “Hidden Figures” and “Dances With Wolves.”
To make the most of these events, round them off with discussions, and consider having a historian, cultural expert, or relevant community representative discuss the film's context, accuracy, and significance.
5. Holding an inclusive language workshop
Language plays a pivotal role in shaping thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors. Inclusive language recognizes and respects people, of all genders, races, ethnicities, abilities, and other identity markers. Inclusive Language Workshops (ILWs) aim to promote communication that avoids biases, stereotypes, or exclusions, fostering a workplace where everyone feels valued, respected, and represented.
To roll out the workshop, team up with diversity and communication experts. They’ll help you identify your organization’s communication challenges and remedy them effectively.
6. Offering accessibility training
Accessibility training is pivotal in creating an inclusive environment for individuals with disabilities. But organizations can go above and beyond merely meeting legal requirements by involving those with disabilities in planning and executing these workshops. This foundational change, combined with hands-on empathy exercises, real-world case studies, and continuous advocacy tools, can ensure a richer understanding of and genuine commitment to disability awareness. Be sure to include both physical and cognitive disabilities in the ambit of these workshops, too.
Pro-tip: Partner with local communities, NGOs, or institutions that work with people with disabilities. Such partnerships can offer continuous insights, potential collaborations, and a direct line to understanding real-world challenges and solutions.
7. Supporting underrepresented artists
Acquiring art from diverse creators for the workplace is a subtle yet powerful way to celebrate the richness of various cultures, histories, and perspectives. Get employees involved in choosing paintings and decor that support artists from marginalized backgrounds or celebrate their own ancestries and identities.
Consider quarterly themes. For instance, the months of January through March could be specially dedicated to women and non-binary artists, with an evening dedicated to a discussion of the theme.
Don’t limit acquisitions to just wall art. Explore a mix of mediums like tapestries, pottery, digital art, or Indigenous crafts, showcasing the breadth of artistic expression across cultures.
8. Holding a cross-cultural potluck
There’s no better way to explore different cultures than through the universal language of food. Host a one-day event in which employees bring dishes from their respective cultures.
Imagine the spread: savory Indian samosas, flavorful Mexican tacos, aromatic Thai curry, traditional Italian pasta, and more. That’s a tasty excuse to foster cultural exchange while celebrating your team’s vibrant diversity if you ask us. Set a date, send invitations, and create a sign-up sheet for dishes to plan and execute your potluck event smoothly.
Pro-tip: To make it more inclusive, ensure there are plenty of options for vegetarians, vegans, and those with special dietary needs.
9. Participate in a diversity hackathon
Teams unite to tackle real-world challenges in diversity hackathons, which includes topics like equitable opportunities, workplace accessibility, and microaggressions. In this activity, participants work together within a defined time frame to explore and develop actionable DEIB solutions.
A basic hackathon format can follow three steps: (1) Define problem statements, (2) form diverse teams, and (3) allocate time for brainstorming and solution development. All DEIB activities have their merits, but diversity hackathons are some of the best in terms of promoting swift collaboration and creative problem-solving.
10. Volunteer for social causes together
Workplace diversity and inclusion activities should resonate with your employees and the communities you serve. Through these initiatives, you can visibly demonstrate your corporate social responsibility while creating a shared sense of purpose among your team.
Ask your employees which social issues they value the most, while being sure to consider those that are important to both your workforce and community. Partner with local NGOs or community groups to work on your chosen social causes. After each volunteer event, gather participant feedback to understand what went well and what could be improved.
11. Do a cultural etiquette & awareness training
As remote teams get more global, cultural etiquette and awareness trainings can bridge knowledge gaps and reduce unintentional cultural misunderstandings or offenses.
This type of training emphasizes the importance of respecting all employees' backgrounds and experiences, ensuring everyone feels valued and understood. It champions the idea that embracing differences is not just a matter of political correctness, but is crucial for effective collaboration and mutual respect.
This training can be fun! Rather than just lectures, use role-playing, simulations, and real-world scenarios to make sessions engaging and impactful. This hands-on approach ensures that employees don’t just hear about cultural etiquette, but that they get to practice it, too.
12. Collaborate on art projects
Give employees a creative outlet to craft art that celebrates diversity. It's a therapeutic technique for channeling their emotions and bridging cultural gaps. Employees can collaborate, for example, to create a mural, each visually infusing their own story and background into the artwork.
Whether it’s painting, sculpture, or digital art, ensure that your chosen medium allows for meaningful expression. Allocate dedicated time for the creation process during work hours, or as part of a team-building event. During the project’s culmination, consider providing a platform for employees to briefly share the stories behind their contributions.
13. Put on diversity and inclusion awards
Celebrate your organization’s DEIB champions through annual or semi-annual diversity and inclusion awards. This activity acknowledges employees who exhibit outstanding dedication to all DEIB-related initiatives. They’re the ones who actively participate in employee resource groups, take initiatives in organizing diversity-related events, and show consistent support for underrepresented colleagues.
Involve employees by allowing them to nominate their peers for the awards. Create a confidential nomination platform to encourage genuine recognition via online platforms, email, or other preferred channels.
14. Join or host a lunch-and-learn session
Lunch-and-learn sessions are a relaxed setting for employees to learn about DEIB topics during lunch breaks. It allows them to learn DEIB-related fundamentals without the stress of formal workshops or training sessions.
Draft thought-provoking discussion questions that inspire reflection and encourage participants to share their viewpoints. Have you ever witnessed or experienced microaggressions at work? In what ways do you think unconscious bias affects our team’s decision-making and collaboration?
Alternatively, consider inviting subject matter experts to provide deeper insights on specific topics. With a hands-on approach, this little initiative can develop the practical knowledge and skills needed to foster a highly inclusive workplace.
15. Create a diverse speaker series
Incorporating a diverse speaker series serves as a concrete step towards amplifying voices that are often underrepresented or marginalized in professional and public spheres. By inviting speakers from a variety of backgrounds — be they racial, ethnic, gender, disability, age, or even different industries and socioeconomic statuses — an organization underscores its commitment to broadening perspectives, promoting mutual respect, and fostering continuous learning.
For example, you could consider having panel discussions with Black historians, artists, and social activists to speak during Black History Month, or host a series of talks themed on neurodivergence.
Collaborate with diverse professional associations, community groups, or academic institutions for an impactful series. This ensures a rich tapestry of perspectives and underscores the genuine intent behind such endeavors.
16. Put together a mentorship program in reverse
Reverse mentorship programs pair older employees (over 55) with more junior employees from a range of backgrounds for reciprocal learning. Senior leaders gain insights into the younger generations’ perspectives, while junior employees benefit from their mentors’ wisdom and guidance. Its ultimate goal is to bridge generational gaps while fostering cross-generational understanding.
Match mentors and mentees based on their complementary skills, interests, and cultural backgrounds. Supportive frameworks are crucial to sustaining reverse mentorship, so set clear guidelines, meeting schedules, expectations, and desired outcomes.
Pro-tip: Offer resources (like discussion topics, reading materials, and training sessions) for consistent, meaningful interactions.
17. Participate in an ASL class (or hold your own!)
For many people, sign language is one of those skills they may think they’ll never need — until they do. This initiative recognizes and values the unique modes of communication used by Deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals and their loved ones while showcasing the company's commitment to accessibility and inclusivity. Learning sign language benefits employees with hearing impairments and fosters a more inclusive environment where all forms of communication are valued.
Employ certified sign language instructors to ensure authenticity and accuracy. It's beneficial to hire instructors who are themselves Deaf or hard-of-hearing, as this offers an immersive learning experience and supports employment within the community.
18. Facilitate a mentorship circle
Employees form small groups to create a supportive environment for peer-to-peer guidance in mentorship circles. Unlike traditional mentoring, this only focuses on skill-sharing and advice rather than formal one-on-one interactions.
Diverse circle compositions can enhance cross-functional learning. So, organize employees into small groups of around five to eight members based on interests, cultures, or departments and organize regular meetups.
Some participants may hesitate to initiate conversations, particularly in a new or unfamiliar group. Provide discussion topics, around career goals or a book or article, for instance, to help break the ice and create a more comfortable environment for sharing.
19. Organize a group travel immersion experience
Visits to other countries offer some of the most immersive diversity and inclusion experiences, if budget permits. This firsthand experience fosters your team's global awareness and real-world cultural sensitivity. It also helps develop their empathy, adaptability, and communication skills — which are crucial in today’s interconnected world.
Conduct pre-trip workshops to help employees prepare culturally and mentally. Try to provide (but don’t overwhelm) participants with information about the destination, its history, customs, and etiquette.
Pro-tip: Collaborate with local organizations, NGOs, or cultural experts who can facilitate authentic cultural experiences and interactions.
Use diversity and inclusion activities to ignite conversations that matter.
The above 19 diversity and inclusion activities in the workplace can help ignite meaningful change within your workplace. Before implementing them, assess your organization’s DEIB gaps and identify the most suitable initiatives based on your resources and goals.
Workplace diversity isn’t a checkbox to tick off. It’s an ongoing journey of fostering an environment filled with inclusivity, empathy, and belonging for the whole team. And the 19 diversity and inclusion activities listed above represent just a few of the many ways to go about that.
To ensure your DEIB efforts are meeting your goals, bringing experts on board is not just prudent, but paramount. At PowerToFly, we offer a suite of services geared toward helping companies build and retain diverse teams, including through running DEIB activities.