Nurturing a workplace culture that promotes diversity and inclusivity is a great way to boost employee morale and engagement, but it's also an investment in your company's future.
For starters, the U.S. workforce is becoming more diverse. From 1980 to 2020, the percentage of workers in minority groups is projected to double (from 18 percent to 37 percent); the number of Hispanic/Latino workers alone is projected to almost triple (from 6 percent to 17 percent). This is to say that failing to recognize, embrace, and celebrate the diversity of your workforce creates a barrier between you, your employees, and the talent you need to attract. In today's competitive hiring landscape, is this something you can afford?
My company Dotcom Distribution employs a largely Spanish-speaking population, but our team hails from many countries. As such, we all celebrate our cultures, religions, and other aspects of life in myriad ways. Embracing this diversity is so important, and not just during major holidays like Christmas and Hanukkah, but year-round.
Accommodating, celebrating, and learning about each other's customs and traditions is not only a valuable part of the human experience, but it fosters a culture of inclusion that makes employees feel recognized and valued. Here are three ways you can do exactly that at your company:
1. Prepare a cultural celebration calendar.
Prior to the start of the year, assemble a team to create a calendar of culturally significant holidays, festivals and other events and observances. Appoint a committee of people with varied backgrounds to ensure the calendar is filled out with a comprehensive assortment of observances and to spearhead celebratory preparations.
These team members should serve as the point people, but all employees should be encouraged to make suggestions about existing or new activities. Creating a shared document that's accessible to all staff promotes internal communication and transparency--and it's fun.
This calendar of observances for 2020 serves as a great resource to use as a jumping off point to create your own calendar. It includes national and international holidays, as well as religious observations of the major faiths represented in the U.S.
A peripheral benefit of having advanced knowledge of when these dates fall is that employers can better anticipate and accommodate requests for days off.
2. Encourage participation.
Activities that take place in support of holidays and observances should be accessible to everyone--that means nothing that could be construed as exclusive or negative to any group or individual. Seeing corporate leadership excited about an initiative can have a ripple effect throughout the company, so make sure event details are publicly displayed and widely promoted.
Post the full calendar and details of any planned celebrations throughout shared spaces like kitchens and break rooms, talk about it in meetings, feature it in company newsletters, on bulletin boards, digital screens, and other communication platforms.
3. Create your own traditions.
Ensure your employees are able to share what's important to them. Celebrations don't have to surround a major event or holiday. One of the most popular ways to showcase a culture is with food. Host a "Culinary Culture" day where anyone who wants to can bring in a dish that reflects their culture.
You can also organize outings to sample various ethnic fares. This year, several Dotcom employees of Indian origin planned a dinner at a local restaurant to celebrate Diwali. Once word spread, everyone wanted to join. Most had never celebrated the holiday or didn't know anything about it. Sharing this meal created an opportunity for education and conversation that brought our people closer together.
At the end of the day, what this really comes down to is showing interest in, and respect for the people around us. This, of course, extends beyond holiday celebrations, but it's a great place to start.