Did you know that from September 15th to October 15th, we recognize Hispanic / Latinx Heritage Month? During this month, we celebrate the many cultures, achievements, histories and contributions that Hispanic and Latinx people have made. Wondering what your organization can do to honor and support the Hispanic and Latine, this includes Indigenous, communities this month? Keep reading!
Now, more than ever, employees are willing to exit a workplace environment that does not make them feel valued and supported. With the shadow of The Great Resignation hanging overhead, organizations need to pivot to a truly people-centric work environment, or risk suffering continued staffing shortages, burnout, stress and exhaustion. Recognizing this heritage month in the workplace is important for fostering belonging and can be a great step in ensuring your people feel appreciated and welcome to embrace their full identities.
Why does honoring Hispanic / Latinx Heritage Month promote belonging in the workplace?
When an organization makes the effort to genuinely recognize a heritage month, they help build awareness within the company. This in turn helps promote allyship and solidarity among employees. Exposing people to new traditions and cultural insights can help reduce bias by addressing stereotypes. This also helps others foster an appreciation for cultures outside of their own. Doing so often leads to the finding of similarities and promotes a newfound understanding and acceptance between people.
This month is an excellent opportunity to showcase the importance of cultural diversity in the workplace, and can serve as a good reminder that every culture can bring different perspectives and approaches to the table. When we allow different points of view to be taken into consideration, this can increase employee innovation and engagement. When employees are feeling included and valued, this can then lead to unlimited growth and development opportunities. In short, inclusivity can help establish a culture of empowerment, belonging and safety, which in turn reduces stress and anxiety in the workplace.
What to be mindful of this month.
If you are taking the time to brainstorm how to celebrate this month, that’s an excellent first step. However, here are some items to keep at the forefront of your mind, in order to make sure your organization is celebrating in a thoughtful way.
- Yes, this time is known as Hispanic Heritage Month, however, not every culture that celebrates this month identifies as hispanic. Some people prefer the term Latino, Latine, Latinx, or by country of origin. When in doubt, ask people for their preference.
- Try to be specific and do not generalize. Oftentimes, decorations, ways of celebrating and information can tend to try and encompass “all” of a demographic group. It is important to keep in mind that although people who identify as Hispanic, Latine, Latinx, or Latino are grouped together, however, they all originate from different countries and have their own cultural traditions, or their own variations of similar traditions. This is where trying to be inclusive can often result in perpetuating stereotypes and misinformation.
- Approach your recognition of this month holistically. During this month, a great way to create true inclusion and awareness is to develop a program that gives 360° exposure to this community. This means uplifting Hispanic, or however they choose to identify, owned businesses, donating to charities and organizations that directly impact this community, scheduling free webinars and events for all to take part in, cooking and giving exposure to cultural foods, learning about the history of those who encompass this community, showcasing the music and dances, creating space for stories from your own employees, executing a dedicated social media campaign and so much more. In short, create a thoughtful program, be detailed when doing so and make sure this is budgeted for.
- Utilize your ERGs, but do not rely on them to do all of the work. Celebrating a heritage month requires planning, budget and time. Consult your Employee Resource Groups and ask if anyone would like to be part of the planning, however, do not require it for there to be thoughtful execution. Be considerate that this is a group of people who may be from marginalized identities that may be too exhausted and fearful of being retriggered if they participate. It is also important to note that marginalized groups are often forced into the burden of educating others, which can result in burnout, so be mindful of adding extra workload to their plate.
- If you are considering asking people to share their experiences or stories, ensure it is voluntary. Recounting experiences can be traumatic, especially around topics such as racism and mental health. While it is necessary to create space for folks, remember that people do not have to fill that space or utilize it. People of marginalized identities can often be afraid of retaliation, and therefore choose not to share or take part. That is okay. Safety should be the number one priority.
- Do not just be mindful during this month, do it all year round. What often happens with heritage months is that the specific demographic group is highlighted, then once the month is over, they may not be focused on publicly again until the next time this month arrives. This can be very triggering to the community, which can in turn, lead to the belief that your program is performative. Allyship and solidarity is built on a consistent foundation. If your organization has been guilty of this in the past, consider engaging with your ERGs and take stock of how people are feeling. If you acknowledge past mistakes, it is much easier to take steps forward and to increase awareness.
These are just some examples of what to be mindful of this month in order to ensure you are celebrating in a truly inclusive way. Make sure to talk with your ERG members to check that your program ideas are not offensive and are truly educational. Again, you can encourage them to participate but also let them know that it is not mandatory or expected. Doing so can help remove people’s resistance and also get them excited for the month ahead.
How to celebrate this month.
We have gone over how to be inclusive when creating your Hispanic / Latinx Heritage Month program and why you should recognize it, here’s a list of 10 ideas on what you can include.
- Discuss the history of how this month came to be and be sure to highlight all of the countries that encompass this demographic. This is a great way to introduce the heritage month and educate folks.
- Discuss the different ways this group can identify and why. Remind people to be inclusive and to ask people for their preference when referring to them. Refrain from having a debate and playing “devil’s advocate” around identity and the reasoning for it, everyone identifies differently and has a right to do so.
- Support Latine and Hispanic causes and organizations. Be sure to do thorough research to make sure you are able to speak to who is being impacted and why.
- Create a resource list of movies, TV Shows, podcasts and books that people can access to understand a different perspective. Invite people to have a discussion around what they have learned. You can even try to create an office book club that continues all year round.
- Support small businesses. Research local businesses to help uplift and patronize throughout the month, also encourage folks to continue frequenting them even when it is not Hispanic Heritage Month.
- Cook and share cultural foods. Food brings everyone together, and it is a great way for people to gain insight into some of their favorite dishes that they might not have known the background of.
- Create virtual events that everyone can participate in. These events can feature speakers, tutorials, workshops and vary in length. They are a great way to educate and create affinity as well.
- Share stories. Story-telling is an excellent way to promote cultural diversity and build relationships. They can also be very inspiring and help others find commonalities between one another.
- Promote your Hispanic or Latine ERG. Some employees may not be aware of this ERG and could benefit from the networking, mentorship, development and the safe space that these groups provide.
- Educate on common symbolism, mythology and traditions. People are much more mindful of their usage of stereotypical imagery when they know better. This month is an excellent month to share which symbols originated from which country and what they represent. You can also share about common misconceptions that exist as well.
This month is an excellent time to help promote inclusivity and belonging in the workplace, something that we are well aware that employees are yearning for. Remember to plan ahead and research, educate, support, amplify and be mindful not to add additional workload and burden to Hispanic and Latine people.
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