By Sheryl Smolkin
Read this article and comments at Moneyville.ca
Holiday parties are an employee perk that employers trifle with at their peril. However, close to 70 per cent of employees surveyed said their workplace does not acknowledge holy days of other faiths besides Christianity, and almost two-thirds agreed that holiday celebrations should be more inclusive of all cultures and faiths.
I found the results of this recent poll conducted by the Canadian HRReporter somewhat surprising. When I was growing up in small town Ontario as one of the only Jewish children in my school, Christmas carols, pageants and parties didn’t reflect my reality. But over the last few years, it has become more common for December parties in many schools and workplaces to incorporate a wide spectrum of religious and cultural traditions.
When survey participants were asked how employers can add more diversity to holiday events, sharing cultural holiday traditions and a party that celebrates winter came out on top. Although almost one-quarter said that holidays for all faiths should be recognized, seven per cent suggested that no holidays at all should be observed at work.
Because the majority of survey respondents (80 per cent) believe the holiday party is important to the morale of their organization, few organizations ignore the festive season altogether. However where cost is an issue, some employers are considering less expensive venues, holding the party on company premises, not inviting significant others and requiring employees to buy tickets.
Cancelling holiday parties or permitting only sanitized winter celebrations are missed opportunities to educate employees and foster workplace harmony. Whether they observe Christmas, Chanukah, Diwali or Kwanza, co-workers typically love to share their customs and experiences
In a multi-ethnic company, one cost-effective way to both promote organizational diversity and ensure great food is to plan an international pot-luck lunch. Willing employees bring a traditional dish and explain how it forms part of their family’s holiday tradition. Company-paid team lunches were an option when I was a manager. But when given the choice, my staff always preferred a self-catered smorgasboard to a more generic meal in a busy restaurant.