Category All, Best Practices Why is Celebrating Cultural Events the Cornerstone of DEI Initiatives Diversity, equity, and inclusion are foundational building blocks leading to a healthy company culture. They are a way of putting your money where your mouth is and delivering on promises by making them an HR priority. February 20, 2023 By Ivo Jurcic DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) initiatives represent an organization’s focus on creating a workspace where every employee, regardless of their gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability, feels included and welcome. One of the most impactful DEI initiatives is the celebration of cultural events. After reading this article, you’ll understand what cultural events are and why they are a critical part of DEI initiatives for companies with a large, global workforce. Let’s begin. Cultural Events Bring Cultures Together Cultural events are celebrations of special days relevant to a particular theme or culture. They may last for a day, or several weeks. In a corporate context, they are meaningful events used to raise awareness of a certain culture as part of the firm’s initiative to strengthen cultural diversity. Naturally, organizations with large workforces encompass many different cultures. For instance, Diwali is one of the most important festivals in Hinduism and it lasts five to six days, relative to some regions in India. If a part of a company’s workforce is Hindu, they should celebrate Diwali to include them and commemorate the diversity they bring to the company. The workspace culture has to make all employees feel welcome regardless of what culture they come from. Company culture is a reflection of the values, beliefs, and attitudes of the organization and its people. It has a profound influence on how employees behave, treat, and perceive their colleagues. When there’s an initiative from the top to recognize the value that other cultures bring to the organization, everybody can foster a sense of belonging. According to Deloitte, belonging is a top human capital issue companies are still struggling with. In their Human Capital Trends report, 73% of respondents said fostering a sense of belonging was important to their organization’s success and 93% said belonging drives organizational performance. Interestingly, another research from Deloitte found fostering belonging at the workspace improves business results all across the board, leading to a: 56% increase in job performance 50% reduction in turnover risk 167% increase in employer net promoter score 75% decrease in sick days All of these findings, along with the responses from the abovementioned report, suggest a powerful relationship between belonging and workplace success. In addition, a report from McKinsey & Company found that organizations in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity are 35% more likely to see financial returns above their industry median. How does celebrating cultural events contribute to a higher sense of belonging in a company? For starters, cultural events familiarize the culture of one segment of the workforce with other employees. Employees outside of the celebrated culture become more knowledgeable of its distinctive aspects and notice the similar values that act as a bridge between corporate and the celebrated culture. This is important because it aligns employees’ personal culture (for example, culture related to their ethical background) with the company culture. Then, employees can rally behind the values that are being celebrated, and become connected as individuals and co-workers. The most practical example of cultural bonding is office Christmas parties. Employees sync in the Christmas festivities, celebrate together, and strengthen their personal relationships at work. Today, organizations celebrate the cultural events of other minorities and previously underrepresented groups as part of their DEI strategy. DEI Benefits of Celebrating Culture Events DEI initiatives may be difficult to implement at first and it takes time for HR and employees to notice their impact. However, they are necessary because they address underlying barriers that contribute to inequality in the workspace. They require long-term commitment but are well worth the effort. According to Gartner, 7 out of 10 employees claim their organization is unsuccessful at informing them about opportunities to promote inclusion in their everyday work. There’s so much room for improvement. After positioning the celebration of cultural events as a bridge between personal and corporate culture, it’s time to talk about what are the DEI benefits of celebrating cultural events. Creating a More Inclusive and Diverse Environment Celebrating cultural events helps create a more inclusive and diverse work environment where employees feel their cultural intricacies are acknowledged and celebrated by their peers. The common misconception is that cultural events are relatively passive celebrations where employees get notified about a certain date and its cultural significance. If anything, this is a lesson on how not to celebrate cultural events. In reality, there are many cultural events that can promote diversity: Heritage months; cultural heritage months celebrate the customs, traditions, and values of employees hailing from different cultures, raise awareness of struggles tied to their specific community and affirm their cultural contributions Cultural fairs; cultural fairs are engaging and fun events where a large number of employees are educated about a certain culture with consideration for cost, time, and resource management Diversity workshops; training programs that educate employees, introduce diversity and inclusion and reduce prejudice about a certain group These events and celebrations encourage employees to share their own experiences with their colleagues, break down stereotypes together, and connect as individuals from different backgrounds. Unfortunately, there can be more disconnect between employees of different demographics than organizations would like to admit. SHRM researched how racial discrimination is perceived in the workspace, depending on the race of the person you talk to. According to their research, 49% of black HR professionals think race or ethnically-based discrimination exists at their workplaces. Only 13% of white HR professionals feel the same. Additionally, SHRM’s report found that 25% of organizations surveyed are creating new policies and systems to reduce systemic and structural bias. It’s encouraging to see that nearly one-third have modified, expanded, or plan to change their existing policies, with ambitions to provide training about bias. It’s certain that change is underway. Celebrating cultural events will become increasingly important in creating a more inclusive and diverse environment to work in. Attracting and Retaining more Diverse Talent Having a reputation as an inclusive and respectful employer is essential for attracting and retaining a talented, diverse workforce. It’s not an exaggeration to say companies are waging wars over talent. Despite two consecutive recessions caused by the global pandemic and the ongoing inflation, companies are still struggling to fill out missing vacancies. Let’s briefly look at the hiring situation with two opposing sectors; ICT and Manufacturing, starting with ICT. source: CompTIA In November, U.S. tech companies hired 14,400 workers, and tech jobs in all sectors grew by 137,000 positions, according to Tech Jobs Report published by CompTIA. From December 2020 to November 2022, the industry is still looking for skilled labor. When we look at employment data from the manufacturing industry, the situation is even direr. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, by 2025, U.S. companies will have two million empty job vacancies in manufacturing positions. Similarly, the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte published a skills gap study and determined that the cost of unfilled positions for U.S. companies will be around $2.5 trillion. Investing in DEI initiatives that attract and keep diverse workers is becoming increasingly strategic. According to a survey from Glassdoor, 76% of job seekers state that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. Additionally, employees and job seekers are paying attention to the state of DEI in companies and are interested in DEI insights, trends, and related data available. When companies make an effort to celebrate the cultural events of diverse employees, they light a signal flare that shows job seekers and workers that differences should be celebrated instead of discriminated against. Cultural heritage matters for employees as individuals. Recognizing it at the workplace shows genuine care. Bring Cross-cultural Learning and Collaboration to the Forefront It’s easy to imagine how companies, especially enterprises with facilities around the world, have workers coming from different cultures. Cultural events are here to consolidate different cultures under one roof. Every worker has unique personal experiences they can share to bring more understanding to multi-cultural workspaces. By doing so, they can help other employees notice the contributions and perspectives that other cultures bring to the work environment. In terms, this breaks down any cultural stereotypes and misconceptions. When employees feel like their culture is being recognized, accepted, and celebrated, and experience a certain cultural openness from their peers, they can bring their own authentic selves to work and feel a sense of community. The ability to effectively function and collaborate with individuals of other national, ethnic, or organizational cultures is called cultural intelligence (CQ). It’s absolutely necessary for today’s modern work environment. According to one study published in the International Journal of HR Management, cultural intelligence enables cross-cultural adjustment in the context of intra-national diversity. This study suggests that individuals with high levels of cultural intelligence are better able to adjust to and work effectively in a cross-cultural setting. In other words, cultural intelligence helps organizations overcome the challenges that arise from intra-national differences and within-country cultural variations in the workforce. For instance, imagine a US-based contracting organization that relies on blue-collar and manual workers coming from across the country, which often (or almost always) implies employees’ backgrounds hailing from different ethnic minorities and various cultures. Cross-cultural differences may get in the way of successful team performance, as different cultures approach problem-solving differently. Some cultures focus on teamwork and discussion to solve problems. In contrast, other cultures value individual initiative and decision-making on the go, and others might rely on top-to-bottom guidance. These can be successful approaches to tackling challenges. Still, employees must understand how cultural backgrounds lead to problem-solving to combine different approaches and align as co-workers. Celebrating cultural events as part of the DEI initiative builds cultural intelligence within the workforce and ultimately helps employees learn from each other and collaborate better to meet strong performance results. How Recognition Tech Helps Celebrate Cultural Events It’s impossible to manually keep tabs on the different cultures present in a workforce. After all, HR typically consists of only 1% of the company’s total headcount, which means they absolutely need an intelligent HR solution to help them carry out DEI initiatives, including the celebration of cultural events. Let’s first describe the celebration process and the surrounding processes it requires. First, HR needs a platform that can connect to the organization’s HCM or core HR system to import employee data relevant to cultural recognition. If an organization has a workforce dispersed around the globe, HR has to account for all the cultures under the roof. For example, if a company has employees in India, China, and the US, they need to be able to account for events like Diwali, Chinese New Year, and Thanksgiving. The success of data transfer depends on the depth of integration executed by the solution vendor. Quality, in-depth integration gives an organization a personalized version of the recognition and reward platform that is finely tailored for its recognition needs. On the other hand, shallow, rushed integration has limited capabilities that add little value to the celebration of cultural events and other DEI initiatives. Second, the organization needs a platform that enables the virtual celebration of cultural events. For obvious reasons, it’s not feasible to celebrate every single cultural event physically, but that doesn’t mean this DEI initiative should be dropped. In fact, a virtual celebration is cost-effective and offers a host of ways to celebrate other cultures regardless of geographical limitations. Third, and most important, outstanding R&R platforms have social feeds that encourage employees to participate in social sharing. By doing so, they can share their cultural experiences and celebrate the culture of their co-workers regardless if they’re in the same workspace or are located on the other side of the world. Employees can send eCards to their colleagues and express their best wishes during an important cultural moment. HR or managers can recognize the events and reward their employees who are celebrating. In terms of providing an enhanced cultural experience, cutting-edge platforms have experience reward capabilities, which actually enable the organization to reward employees with cultural rewards such as fine-dining experiences in a specific restaurant, or a trip experience to a location. Initiatives like these enable first-hand cultural immersion that can be added to the existing R&R practices. By doing so, HR is at the threshold of combining DEI initiatives with employee rewards. On a similar note, HR can define values relevant to diversity and inclusion and reward employees whose behavior reciprocates those values. Then, they can track which culture-relevant values are trending among departments, groups of employees, or individuals. JobPts, our flagship R&R solution, empowers organizations to define these values and access culture analytics, thanks to the Culture Profiles feature. The inclusive nature of our solution makes it the perfect staging ground for DEI initiatives. Conclusion Creating an inclusive and diverse workforce is at the top of HR priority lists for many companies. In this blog post, we singled out 3 reasons why celebrating cultural events is a crucial DEI initiative: They make workplaces more inclusive They help attract and retain a diverse workforce They enable cross-cultural learning and improve collaboration in the workspace Workforce dynamics are changing. Older employees are moving closer to retirement, and new junior employees coming from different cultures are filling the ranks. Organizations have to find new ways of embracing different cultures and making all employees feel welcome among each other. Celebrating their cultural events plays a huge role in this journey.