In common U.S. parlance “the holiday season” refers to Thanksgiving, Christmas and the weeks in between. But it’s important to consider that this isn’t the case for everyone. There are plenty of cultural and religious backgrounds that don’t celebrate Christmas, yet so much of our holiday and vacation time is dictated by these holidays.
It’s vital to be respectful and inclusive of employees from different religious and cultural backgrounds, and that extends to holiday celebrations. So how can you facilitate a work culture that acknowledges all of the holidays celebrated by your employees? Here are some strategies for creating inclusive holiday policies at your organization.
Give Employees a Voice
It’s impossible to acknowledge every holiday, but it’s important to have certain holidays that are celebrated by your staff on your radar. It’s imperative that employees are given a voice — anonymously. “Some minority populations may not feel very comfortable coming forward and advocating for their holiday needs,” says Kira Nurieli, CEO of Harmony Strategies Group. “But you can invite anonymous, survey-based feedback from employees regarding the holiday celebrations they’d like acknowledged by HR.”
This practice should be carried out frequently as your holiday policies evolve. “Always ask for feedback,” says Elise di Sabella, regional HR manager for Wyndham Destinations. “Employees are often happy to share their opinions on what they think is working and what could use improvement.”
Avoid Making Assumptions — Cater to Actual Needs
You might think you know how a Catholic employee celebrates Christmas, but you probably don’t. Even traditions surrounding commonly celebrated holidays vary by family and culture. “The idea in creating an inclusive culture is not to make assumptions,” Nurieli says. “Rather, it should include all the nuances of employee voices.”
In the interest of fairness, employees should help to develop PTO policies. Anonymous surveys should cover topics regarding the number of days or certain times of the year that employees need off. This will help HR to develop policies grounded in the authentic needs of the organization’s employee population. “Based on feedback from your workforce, your company protocols can be reflective of real voices at your organization,” Nurieli says.
Celebrate and Care for Your Employees
When it comes to celebrations in the workplace, consider celebrating not holidays but all of the accomplishments your employees have experienced throughout the year. “Ditch the traditional Christmas decorations and focus on celebrating your employees,” di Sabella says. “Make celebrations about thanking and showing appreciation for another year of success and prosperity.”
And as we move into a new year, take a moment to view your inclusive policies more holistically. “Inclusive holiday PTO is just one component in a whole matrix,” Nurieli says. “It’s about holistically creating a culture of care in the workplace.” A culture of care means that employees are mindful of one another’s differences. “If people are happy and feel that they can work in a dignified and honorable space, they will be so much more satisfied and engaged,” Nurieli says.