Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
Latinos today continue to advance communities across the country as small business owners, veterans, teachers, and public servants, among many other professions. Hispanic Heritage Month allows us to recognize their achievements and contributions to our national story.
Hispanic and Latino people make up approximately 19% of the U.S. population. And with an estimated $1.9 trillion in buying power, it’s important for companies and organizations to get it right with their messaging. Hispanic Heritage Month should be a time of reckoning and reflection, not just a month for businesses to capitalize on Latino spending.
When companies downplay demographic differences, this increases underrepresented employees’ perception of bias from their white colleagues and reduces engagement in their work.
Your employees should be able to openly discuss, embrace, and be proud of their cultural and ethnic backgrounds. It’s about time we acknowledge the rich histories of our colleagues. Embrace your differences and be open to learning! Here are a few best practices to keep in mind as you celebrate cultural occasions in the workplace:
Get community input. If you have Hispanic/Latinx employees, be sure to get them involved! You’re celebrating them, after all! This is a great time to talk about family history, personal experiences, and learning opportunities.
Don’t overburden anyone. On the flip side, don’t assume that just because someone is Hispanic/Latinx, that they’d want to take on the work to plan an event for the organization. That places the burden of responsibility on them, and if they’re a visible minority at your workplace, they might feel tokenized about their role at your workplace—especially if this initiative is a new thing at your company. Remember to acknowledge those who do choose to participate by recognizing them publicly.
Make it a party. In the spirit of inclusivity, you should encourage everyone at your company to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month! Chances are that your fellow team members will appreciate and welcome your efforts.
Engage your leaders. Consider engaging your organization’s leadership. If you have Hispanic and Latino leaders, consider requesting that they discuss their respective journeys and career achievements. Otherwise, simply requesting that senior leadership speak on the significance of honoring the contributions of the Hispanic community can be quite powerful.
Share a DE&I update. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) should be top of mind for all organizations. This is not only due to its many benefits, but also because it just makes sense. Nonetheless, Hispanic Heritage Month is a great time to offer a DE&I update. Consider talking about where your organization has started, major milestone achievements, and where you plan to go in the future.
Recognize efforts. We believe that employee recognition is crucial to building inclusive and high-performing workplaces. We recently highlighted the best practices for employee recognition. Consider implementing some of those best practices to leave your workforce feeling recognized and valued.
Eat together. As with many cultures, food plays an integral role within the Hispanic and Latino communities. As a fun idea, consider ideas for integrating food. One such idea is to offer a cooking lesson wherein some of your Hispanic and Latino employees could teach how to prepare tasty dishes. If this is logistically challenging, another alternative is to host a Hispanic and Latin-themed potluck. Beyond deepening one’s cultural understanding, another benefit would be the opportunity to chat informally and establish stronger ties with your colleagues.
Read together. One of the most powerful ways of understanding new perspectives is to read a piece of Hispanic nonfiction or fiction. There is an abundance of Hispanic and Latino authors. Consider forming a book club for the month, selecting a piece to read, and engaging in dialogue with your fellow colleagues to gain new insights.
Hispanic Heritage Month is a great time to celebrate the contributions of Latinos across all areas of American culture, and the workplace should be a key part of that. But those contributions should also be celebrated year-round. By using this month to jumpstart — or improve — your diversity initiatives, you can ensure that you’re creating an environment where your team members feel that their efforts are rewarded and that they can truly be themselves.