The holidays are an exciting but stressful time. In the U.S., we’re getting ready to hit a string of events that are widely celebrated. But not by everyone. This is why it is important to create a culturally inclusive employee experience.
From October through December, businesses are juggling year-end business requirements and deadlines. Often, this can lead to holiday messaging and celebrations that leave some feeling left out, or worse, offended.
To help minimize a negative employee experience, open a dialogue between HR, the leadership team, internal communications and team members. When combined, you’ll be able to create experiences that invite cheer, respect, and cultural inclusion. Of course, inclusiveness should be the goal year-round, not just during the holidays, but the challenge can be more difficult during the holidays.
The diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) playbook is a great starting point, but can fail to hit on cultural nuances that may present themselves differently during the holidays.
Inclusive employee experience starts with fundamentals
Before hopping into some of the more holiday-focused HR tips, let’s first spend a little time talking about the core of your business and how you use that to build the foundation that better prepares you for inclusiveness for 365 days of the year.
Take a step back and look at your systems
A corporation foundation is the first thing to analyze. Words are powerful, but ultimately, they are just words. As a Black CEO who has been in the tech field for decades, I’ve seen both startups and established companies prop themselves up on mission statements.
That’s a great first step, but upon closer examination, it’s clear that these statements don’t reflect what actually happens in the workplace. Don’t let your business be part of that statistic.
Whether you are a CEO or Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO), it’s paramount that you invite a diverse group of people to weigh in on decisions that shape your company’s culture. Then, take that valuable knowledge and implement it.
You can even take it a step further by tracking these changes and reporting on them quarterly, which we’ll touch on below.
Look at your employee experience
CEOs and their leadership team need to work hand-in-hand with the CHRO and Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) to create an inclusive onboarding experience that is welcoming to everyone, regardless of race, gender or background.
Assess and take a look at each stage of the employee journey and continually ask if the organization at each step is inclusive. Data is a great starting point for this, but definitely not the only thing to consider. Remember, data can have biases. Get in the weeds and pull out any problems based on employee feedback.
Much like the first tip, use this time to find out what employees currently think of the onboarding and day-to-day experience with the company.
Data still has a place for HR professionals
Inclusiveness starts with people, but that doesn’t mean you should forgo using tools and measuring performance indicators.
Startups and established businesses love using key performance indicators (KPI) to measure the success of the business. That same passion should be placed into providing an inclusive space for employees.
Make plans, set goals and implement them. Revisit them monthly or quarterly and see if you are reaching those goals. Much of this starts with the leadership team and ensuring that they understand the importance of this in the organization. But there are ways to help get the picture across.
For example, Reframe provides tools such as Inclusive Experience Design Services and Software for HR professionals. These advisory and consulting engagements help foster knowledge and identify opportunities to build more inclusive experiences at scale.
Planning for inclusiveness during the holidays
Beyond those jump-off points, the holidays can present unique challenges. Here are a couple tips to help.
Ask employees for their input
One of the easiest things HR professionals can do is simply ask employees for their input. If you have fostered a healthy work environment, people will be more transparent and feel much more confident sharing their thoughts on a particular holiday.
By asking questions, you can better plan cultural and holiday-centric events, company messaging and more to create a workplace that supports people first and the holidays they celebrate second.
Of course, if you are going to ask questions, ensure you are pulling answers from a diverse group of employees. It’s not going to do much good if you only poll people from one specific group.
Float holidays when possible
Holiday vacations are a great way for people to recharge their batteries, but they fail to account for a diverse workforce. Just because one group celebrates a holiday and appreciates the time off doesn’t mean another will.
In fact, part of your team may celebrate a holiday that isn’t typically recognized when looking at “official” government holidays. Creating a system of floating holidays allows everyone to take the time off that is most important to them.
Include more cultural and heritage holidays
This is an easy change you can implement to bring more awareness to team members and help foster a more inclusive workplace.
If your company uses a company calendar to keep up with important cultural and heritage dates, spend time updating it. Make sure to include things like religious holidays but also important dates that might highlight awareness and inclusion.
It’s important to remember here, however, not to directly associate any of these days with a particular team member unless they give explicit permission.
Practice cultural inclusivity year-round
Don’t wait for a holiday to roll out the inclusiveness red carpet. Creating a culturally inclusive workplace requires work during holidays, events and normal work days. But that doesn’t mean it will happen overnight.
Build the strategy, plan and integrate systems early, then inclusiveness will follow. In 2022, there is simply no excuse not to provide a place of employment that is welcoming to all.