Are you looking to infuse some more camaraderie into your multicultural workforce? Need fresh ideas on how to celebrate your company’s diversity? Well, you have come to the right place! Let’s travel beyond traditional holidays to create fun, unique experiences that celebrate workplace culture.
First, find new holidays and daily traditions. We often recognize Christmas, Hanukah, even the Winer Solstice, but what about other holidays throughout the year? If you ask your employees to make a list of holidays from their cultures, you may find some interesting ideas. For example, in Asia, the Lunar New Year marks the beginning of a year whose months are coordinated by the cycles of the moon. Its traditions vary from culture to culture. Some people exchange red envelopes or silk pouches containing money, play games, hold parades and set off fireworks. While we don’t condone fireworks in the office, we do condone wearing red or decorating individual offices or celebrating with a feast. And Bosses, you may want to give out those silk pouches with money in them. Just sayin’.
How about commemorating the Hindu Spring Festival, Holi, where people celebrate the coming of spring by dressing in green and spraying each other with water pistols filled with yellow or red-colored liquid? Well, maybe the water pistols shouldn’t make it into the office, but drinks that are yellow and red can be served to people wearing their finest green shirts, surrounded by flowers while noshing on springtime fare.
What we are trying to say is adding new holidays to the company calendar celebrates diversity, yes, but it also injects some fun into the office year-round. Employees have more to look forward to and might become more productive because of it.
And it doesn’t need to be a holiday. Why not add a bit of Scandinavian inspired ritual to your daily routine? In Sweden, fika is celebrated every day, no matter where you are. Fika is the simple Swedish coffee break. And more than just a coffee break, there is one rule you must abide. You are not allowed to grab a cup of coffee and run off in different directions. For it to truly be fika, it MUST include slowing down. Take a true break. Sit and contemplate with coworkers. Savor a snack, some coffee and the moment. And do it every day. Set a time limit, but allow this. No doubt your employees will be lapping this idea up. No pun intended. Well, maybe it was…
Hold Diversity Days Take an hour once a month and celebrate a few cultures or highlight just one. Enjoy a potluck where everyone shares traditional food from their cultures. Even if everyone eats lunch at different times, you can set up a buffet which includes information on each dish. You could have a contest to name the “best dish.” Maybe the winning employee would be willing to give examples on how to make it.
If you have a reluctant employees, cater a meal using local businesses that represent your employee base. With enough variety to appease everyone, it’s sure to be a hit.
If you would rather not have a buffet in-house, maybe you can go to local restaurants to enjoy new dishes while learning about the food from your employees. Try something new. Ostrich, anyone?
If food isn’t your thing, maybe take some time to do something as a group or small groups. Visit museums or go to specialty stores. Encourage interaction among your employees.
Decorate differently. Why do we only decorate during December? Why not add some culture and display it year-round? It doesn’t need to be a flashy, vibrantly-colored Mardi Gras decorated room, unless that is your thing. It can be something subtle, like adding lucky bamboo or interesting furniture from different parts of the world. Any display can be permanent or changed throughout the year. It can be as simple as a world maps that allow employees to pinpoint their native countries. These maps may encourage new workplace interactions. Maybe also have a list of all the languages your employees speak. This could help when you have foreign visitors. You’ll have your very own impromptu interpreters!
Redefine “party.” Change up the seasonal holidays and create an End of Year party. Celebrate your company, its achievements, successes, employees, and goals. Make someone employee of the month. Celebrate the people who had the best ideas or the most productive year. Make everyone feel as though they contributed to the whole. Make it fun and memorable.
Of course, never use coercion. If employees are reticent to join in, don’t force it. It will happen naturally. As long as your focus is on community, inclusion and honoring each other’s cultures, that is always a good thing for everyone. Enjoy!
By Ilona Knudson