Diversity training is a key part to ensuring a respectful and productive work environment that everyone enjoys working in. It is, however, sensitive by nature, as it forces you and your staff to address key issues such as race, gender, religion, sexual preference and politics. In a sense, training your employees to not be awkward around each other can be, well, awkward. Icebreakers are a valuable tension-easing tool for the training process.
Have everyone in the group form a circle. The object is to state your name and make up a gesture to go along with it. It can be anything you want -- for example, a hand wave or head nod -- so long as it's not to difficult to do. You start the game, and the person next to you has to not only do the same, but repeat the names and gestures of those who came before her.
Quick, simple puzzles that teach a lesson by mirroring real-life problem-solving scenarios is a good way to get people working together from the get-go. The dots game is an example. Pass out sheets of paper with 16 dots arranged in a square. Have everyone try to connect all of the dots with just four straight lines, without retracing or lifting their writing utensil off of the paper.
This is perhaps one of the most simple and obvious methods for getting acquainted in a group setting, but you can enhance the experience for diversity training by adding a twist here and there. For example, start by having everyone mention their name, along with something innocuous about them, such as how long they've been with the company. Then, have each person state something that they like about the person next to them. This may seem a bit "kumbaya" initially, but it forces the participants to look beyond color and gender.
This twist on an old game is good for getting everyone in the room to meet everyone once. Pass out bingo sheets to everyone, and have them sign their name in the middle. Every other square has characteristics of people in the room. For example, square two may say "black hair." A person has to go to the person with that hair, introduce himself, and have her sign it. Group members can't go up to the same person twice; keep going until the squares are finished.
Dave Stanley has covered sports, music and hard news since 2000. He has been published on CBSSports.com and various other websites. Stanley is also a feature writer for "WhatsUp!" magazine in Bellingham, Wash. He studied journalism at the University of Memphis.