Excerpted from The SHRM Blog By Julie Develin

Walk into a retail store, and you’ve already seen the evidence.
Each year it seems to arrive faster, and the holiday season is upon us yet again. For employees, this has many implications both in and out of the workplace. For HR, we need to be strategic with our holiday workplace happenings.

Here are simple, yet important things for HR professionals to remember for a positive employee experience during the holiday season.

Inclusive Messaging

Human resources departments need to keep a pulse on diversity and inclusion initiatives throughout the year, but especially during the holiday season.

Let’s first discuss Thanksgiving. Some celebrate this holiday with football, family, and food. But did you know that there are other things recognized on Thanksgiving Day each year? The National Day of Mourning is held on the fourth Thursday of November as well, and this day was organized beginning in 1970 to remind people of the history of Thanksgiving; a day remembered by many Native Americans to be one of genocide, theft of land, and eradication of culture. Be cognizant that you might have employees who do not celebrate Thanksgiving, and therefore may not want to participate in company events surrounding it.

Does your CEO or senior leadership leave companywide messages on your HCM system wishing employees a Merry Christmas? If so, do they do this for Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, and other holidays that fall around this time? There is a risk of making groups of employees feel excluded if your leadership messaging is not inclusive for employees of all cultures. In fact, it can be argued that simply excluding one employee with messaging that is not inclusive can result in a negative cultural impact. An easy way to ensure cultural exclusion doesn’t occur is for HR to coach management on inclusive messaging regarding both importance and process. In this case, don’t single out one holiday. Simply encourage leaders and managers to wish employees a happy holiday season, however they celebrate—or not.

Happy(?) Holidays

Many people enjoy the holidays, and everything surrounding them. However, the holiday season is not a joyous time for all. For some, the holidays bring about thoughts of hustle and bustle, expenses, and hardship. Some families struggle to buy gifts for their children, and others struggle to put food on the table. Be aware of this when having company-sponsored gift exchanges, potluck meals, and holiday parties. Furthermore, family dynamics are another stressor for some employees during this time of year, and for others, the holiday season brings on feelings of loneliness and loss. Some see the approaching New Year with an optimistic lens, yet others see it as daunting, stressful, and a continuation of their hardship.

HR’s Important Role

HR can help by encouraging managers and employees to be gentle with each other during this time of heightened emotion. It’s also vital that if your company provides an EAP, employees are aware and know how to easily access its benefits.

Company culture and traditions dictate how holidays are recognized, however keeping an inclusive mindset while maintaining those unique company norms remains possible. Company leaders and employees can celebrate the holidays while still being inclusive and respectful to all cultures, and HR can—and should, educate them on how to do that.

This is not a message suggesting to not celebrate the holiday season at work and revel in the events surrounding it. Rather, it’s a call to action to bring to light simple things we as HR professionals might not think about in the chaos and uncertainty that each day in our field brings.

It’s easy to think that a company-sponsored holiday event will bring about fun for employees and enhance their experience at your company. It’s also easy to forget that it might do the opposite.

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