Christmas and New Year work parties are big events in the UK work calendar. But that doesn’t mean the celebrations are over until next December. In multicultural teams, your staff will be celebrating many other festivals throughout the year. The question is, how can managers ensure their diverse teams are given equal time and space to mark their own significant holidays?
This is a challenge that Ellie Dawes, now acting CEO of the Aplastic Anaemia Trust, is very familiar with from her time as a communications and fundraising manager at Child.org, where she managed two international teams across Nairobi and London. Ellie was careful to ensure that one culture didn’t dominate the other – which, in the context of Christmas holidays and new year celebrations, was vital. “It was never about English culture being the default culture and expecting everyone to celebrate Christmas,” she says.
As part of the charity’s wider strategy, it was about presenting cultural differences as equally alien to each other. This included inviting people to give presentations about any aspect of their lives or share a favourite recipe, provided they were happy to do so.
“There was an Iranian guy on my team who was keen to share his Iranian culture and food,” Ellie recalls. “We ended up going out for Nowruz – Iranian New Year – which falls in March, and he gave a talk to the Nairobi office about Nowruz celebrations and customs.”
A clear business case
As Ellie explains, there is a very clear business case for fostering a diverse and inclusive work culture: not only from an attraction and retention perspective but due to diversity of thought.
“Managers can and should make this case,” she insists. “They might say, ‘we want to attract people from different cultures, so we’re going to invest in and celebrate everybody’s culture’ – whether that’s celebrating Chinese New Year or giving people time off for Ramadan.”
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