I was a Motivational Speaker for the CUPA HR Southern Regional Conference this week. It was an amazing event evolving around the themes of engagement and diversity.
One of the sessions for the higher education HR professionals was a team of diversity speakers from Valencia Community College,Vicki Nelson and Joe Nunes.
Cutting edge, motivational and interesting speakers, the Circles of Belonging diversity workshop activities presented were exceptional, raising my awareness and understanding of diversity and its strengths.
The speakers presented the following Myths about Diversity:
- Diversity is a problem to fix
- Diversity is H.R.'s responsibility
- Diversity is only about race and gender
- Diversity is a passing trend
- Diversity is about labeling
The Valencia Community College diversity speakers offered several advantages to a diverse workplace such as innovative ideas, fresh perspectives, dynamic talent pool and expanded horizons. Today's changing global workforce needs to recognize a range of beliefs, perceptions, values and behaviors.
To help organizations do this, Valencia Community College has developed a 4 hour diversity workshop, Circles of Belonging. The speakers at the HR conference condensed this content into an hour and a half.
Below are 4 of the best Diversity workshop exercises I have seen:
1. The Silent Interview.
Hand out forms with questions like... What is your favorite hobby? Where did you spend your childhood? What is your favorite music and food? What position or department are you in? What do you value the most (ie work, travel,family)? What languages do you speak in addition to English? This interview happens with no words; you simply look at your partner and guess the answers. This activity forces you to be aware of stereotypes placing people in mental files. Compare your answers with your partner's legitimate responses and see how far off you are.
2. Find things in Common.
Pair up with someone you don't know and discover the similarities you have. This is a great activity because you realize how much in common you can have with a complete stranger.
3. Memory of First Difference.
Remember the first time you felt different from others. How did it make you feel? What did you do with that memory?
The diversity workshop leaves participants with an increased understanding of similarities and differences.
Another interesting, consciousness raising practice I took from the workshop was this: Before being hired by the college, every candidate is asked What is diversity?
Another idea is Diversity Bingo. You may want to consider it yourself the next time you want a motivational ice breaker! Here is how the game worked:
The guest speaker for the utility company handed out BINGO cards with questions about participants on each square (instead of the standard numbers on the photo above). The purpose of every question is to get to know the other person.
Some interesting questions the guest speaker used:
- Knows someone who is or has been homeless
- Has been to an ethnic wedding
- Has lived in Europe
- Has 4 or more children
- Is an only child
- Has had more than 10 jobs in their career
Participants mingle around the room to find others who can sign their cards when the criteria applies to them.
As in traditional BINGO, people are trying to get a full line signed off and call out first!
The guest speaker encouraged participants to only allow each person to sign off once on a card. This way people had to continue to mingle and get to know many people in the room.
Discussions were lively as people discovered the depth of their experience and commonalities.
Tolerating our differences can easily equate to ignoring them. For instance, children are taught not to point out diversity and people are encouraged to ignore differences that make us unique. By not saying anything, we tolerate instead of celebrate people, who are not like us. We don't have to grow in compassion and understanding of others, we can simply exist along side them.
To really understand tolerance, we have to face up to our own biases. Why is it most people create stories about others, before we even meet them, or know who they actually are? Yet, we can't really know someone until we drop this bias.
When I went for surgery, I was immediately uncomfortable when I was greeted by such a young surgeon. How could he know what he's doing? I thought,he can't possibly do this surgery on his own. Luckily, they quieted my tension with drugs and the surgery went well.
In this age where technology exposes everything, it is shocking how bias still exists. Why don't biases die- instead they keep moving from generation to generation? Because we are not speaking up, shining a light on faulty perceptions.
Diversity motivational speaker, Renee Myers, says we should talk about things that make us super uncomfortable, to break down barriers. When someone throws around racist comments, don't let it go unnoticed. Reminding people these are unhealthy perceptions and by ignoring them, they persist.
What makes us unique are our differences, we grow together in compassion when we see the world through others challenges and embrace diverse perspectives.
If we truly listen, we will be forced to shift our perceptions.
Many people embrace the familiar and resist the unknown, which is exactly what makes stereotypes grow.
The find out more about the Valencia Community College Diversity speakers and workshop click here.