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HR Pros: Make Year-End Celebrations Inclusive
 

By SHRM Online Staff  12/6/2012
 

When HR Magazine asked readers how to thank employees with holiday festivities, HR professionals responded with plenty of good ideas. One theme emerged, however: Make sure everyone feels included.

It can be difficult to stay religiously neutral during year-end celebrations, according to Society for Human Resource Management member Melissa Fulwider of Augusta Iron & Steel Works Inc. in Augusta, Ga. Her advice was selected by HR Magazine staff as the winning response to the first HR Solutions Challenge, a monthly contest sponsored by SHRM.

Her response contained a variety of ideas that were echoed by other contest participants:

  • Thank employees for their work throughout the year.
  • Give everyone a small gift.
  • Share a meal with employees.

“Employers should never assume every employee celebrates holidays in the same way,” wrote Lyn Maylone, an HR manager from the Detroit, Mich., area, in her contest submission. She suggested employers allow employees to plan activities, such as a potluck luncheon or food drive, without tying either activity to a specific holiday.

Host a New Year’s Eve kind of celebration, suggested April L. Braun, an HR professional from Iowa. “Focus on thanking employees for a successful year and encouraging the same enthusiasm and dedication to the company for the approaching New Year,” she wrote in her HR Solutions Challenge entry.

“A small gift or token of the company’s appreciation for all the employees have done throughout the year goes a long way towards making them feel valued and appreciated,” wrote Lisa Kemph, an HR director from Jacksonville, Fla., in her entry.

“Celebrate ‘esprit de corps’ over religion,” suggested Howard Spiegel, a Houston-based HR consultant, in his contest submission. Avoid symbols or activities that could exclude employees or lead to legal trouble. Among his suggestions:

  • Don’t hang mistletoe.
  • If there is music, consider the playlist.
  • Limit religious symbols to cubicles or private offices.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol.
  • Watch the menu.
  • Remind staff about the organization’s policy on harassment and discrimination.

Others favored multicultural events that encourage employees to share their cultural background through food, dress, music and games. “Emphasize openness to inclusion and a strong desire for all to be accepting and open to learning about the other cultures,” wrote Susan Wilson, SPHR, an HR director from Arkansas, in her contest entry.

Teresa Bergan, an HR professional from Spokane, Wash., suggested employers provide employees with an interfaith calendar highlighting events each month. “This will allow employees of all faiths to learn and emphasize with others and create a sense of family,” she wrote to HR Magazine.

 

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