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'CULTURAL AWARENESS DAYS ARE A GREAT WAY TO BETTER UNDERSTAND COLLEAGUES'

Andre Charles, product manager at programmatic media company Xaxis, has been instrumental in leading the company’s Black History Month initiatives over the past few years. Here, he shares how internal communications can play its part in cultural holiday celebrations.

23rd September 2020

Celebrating cultural holidays in the workplace should be about inclusion across all groups and at all levels.

ANDRE CHARLES, XAXIS


Recognising and celebrating cultural awareness days and months is a positive, fun way to show colleagues that your organisation champions diversity, equity and inclusion, and wants to make it a part of the culture.

They’re also a great way for us to understand our colleagues better and are often a chance to highlight the contribution of ethnic minority groups to the make-up of our country and society.

Empower your networks

If you’re looking to celebrate cultural holidays in your organisation for the first time, begin by leaning in to relevant BAME networks or employee resource groups available, and consider what it is you’re trying to get out of celebrating for the first time. Having a strong focus on awareness and education is a good start – this could involve hosting informative sessions that bring awareness to the holiday, what it means and why it’s celebrated. 

Each time you celebrate it, empower your BAME networks to lead on the comms with your support. They are likely to have plenty of ideas and will be able to help you communicate in an authentic way.

If there are no race or culture groups established in the organisation, or if you want more input alongside that, don’t shy away from putting out comms asking for employee input.

You can also reach out to other organisations that have done celebrations well, specifically those within your industry. They may be able to help you set an agenda and recognise what might land well.


Inclusion means incuding everyone

Celebrating cultural holidays in the workplace should be about inclusion across all groups and at all levels, so put in place activities or events that will involve everyone. Previously, for Black History Month, Xaxis has done external trips, such as visiting the migration museum to highlight Britain’s make-up.

We’ve also held panels on what it is like to be Black in the workplace, to give non-Black colleagues first-hand perspectives through powerful storytelling.

There are so many ways to be creative and engaging with it – you could do a company hackathon to create something specifically for your industry, or you could use the opportunity to better help marginalised groups or charities. In this way, you’re not just using your words, but you’re also putting action behind them and contributing to helping the communities you’re celebrating.


Turn to your talent

Using the talent of your workforce is also a powerful way to recognise and celebrate holidays. When I worked at media group Oath (now Verizon Media) we used our resources and skillset to sponsor a Black artist and help him get his portraits and series of work into the National Portrait Gallery.

Our internal technical team created an AR experience that enabled people to download an app and hold it up to the artist’s pictures, which then told a story: who the people depicted were and why they were featured. The National Portrait Gallery had never done this before, and it was really impactful as it allowed children to see the faces of and learn about Black people previously not shown.

Using the resources and talent you have in your organisation to empower a cultural shift is a great way to make an impact and also bring people together – it’s sure to resonate across your workforce, as well as externally.

Celebrating cultural holidays in the workplace should be about inclusion across all groups and at all levels.

ANDRE CHARLES, XAXIS

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