Human Capital Management Blog

Strategies for HCM Professionals

4 tips for staying respectful of diversity during the holiday season

holiday seasonBy Sara Hill, Chief Human Resources Officer at Ceridian.

A fundamental part of human capital management is being able to stay respectful of all groups of employees at all times. The moment you begin to disrespect or alienate members of your staff is the moment you start losing engagement, productivity and unity among co-workers. Inclusiveness is the key to a successful organization.

Unfortunately, things can get a little bit tricky on this front once the holiday season rolls around. Holiday parties are commonplace at offices everywhere, but it’s difficult for companies to determine just how religious, or how secular, they should be. No matter which direction you lean, you risk offending someone.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, this is an issue among workers everywhere. The news source cited a survey from Novations Group which found that about 10 percent of all employees have felt excluded during office holiday celebrations at some point.

Another SHRM report speculated about how exactly companies should handle this issue. The consensus – you’ve got to be careful. To avoid having any employees feel left out of office festivities (for instance, those who don’t celebrate during the holidays) SHRM suggests keeping celebrations more universally themed, for instance a Winter Party or a New Year Celebration. At the same time, as stated in the SHRM report, getting rid of festivities altogether would be a mistake. Many employees look forward to this time of year and their chance to celebrate with their colleagues and leaders.

There’s definitely a delicate balance to be struck, though. Last year, I discussed this topic in this piece from Little Pink Book. There are four key priorities you need to balance when it comes time for employees to celebrate the holiday season. Keep all four of them in mind, and you should be well on your way to a December that is festive while also inclusive.

Everyone has their own traditions when it comes to the holiday season, and your organization should be respectful of all of them. Acknowledge people who celebrate religious holidays, but also be mindful that some people celebrate nothing at all. Lead by example and show everyone the respect they deserve.

Celebrate with diversity in mind
When organizing parties and other holiday initiatives, try to build a planning committee that includes people with varying backgrounds and beliefs. You want to celebrate, but you should do so in a way that’s fair to everyone in the office.

The holiday season is a time to celebrate, but it’s also a time to learn more about other people’s holidays and traditions. If someone’s background is different from yours, consider taking a minute to sit down with them and listen to their story. You might pick up some valuable cultural wisdom.

Stay out of trouble
As every good HR professional should know, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on religion. As an employer, you cannot legally favor or exclude employees based on their religious beliefs. You have a responsibility to accommodate everyone, and the last thing you want this December is to have a lawsuit on your hands. Proceed with caution and consult with an expert if you are at all worried.

Sara HillSara Hill is the Chief Human Resources Officer for Ceridian. Sara has responsibility for enhancing the employee experience, increasing employee engagement, and developing people and talent management strategies to bring Ceridian to the next level. Follow her on Twitter @SaraHillHR. 

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