Every February we celebrate the contributions, achievements, history and culture of African Americans as part of Black History Month. Originally a weeklong celebration planned to correlate with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass (February 12th and 14th), what was known as “Negro History Week” grew over time into today’s Black History Month.
Why is Black History Month Important in the Workplace?
Talking about race can be complicated and you may hesitate to celebrate Black History Month at work for fear of “getting it wrong.” But downplaying our differences doesn’t make them go away. It’s up to HR and company leaders to set the standard of how to encourage the inclusion of all employees and eliminate bias (conscious and unconscious) in the workplace.
When planning Black History Month activities, there are some best practices to keep in mind:
- Don’t single anyone out. You can’t assume someone wants to be involved in your planning process simply because of their ethnic background.
- Make sure it’s a company-wide effort. Encourage everyone to participate. It shouldn’t be incumbent on Black employees to organize everything.
- Don’t limit your learning to February. Schedule events and activities throughout the year that honor different backgrounds and cultures.
Black History Month Activities
Diversity and inclusion should be considered and incorporated into the workplace year-round. Use February, and Black History, as a starting point for creating a calendar that celebrates a culturally diverse workforce. Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Support Black-Owned Businesses and Artists
Whether it’s choosing a new sculpture for the office lobby or selecting a customer appreciation gift, use the opportunity seek out black artists and invest your money in black-owned businesses.
- Plan a Workshop
What are some top-of-mind DE&I topics that could benefit employees with a group discussion or activity? Create groups, designate a moderator, and encourage participants to be hands-on and think critically about the issue at hand.
- Donate Your Time and/or Money
Volunteer with local nonprofits to help the community and bond with your teammates. Check out Black Girls CODE, Common Ground Foundation, The Trayvon Martin Foundation and My Brother’s Keeper Alliance
- Show Commitment
Use your company email or intranet to provide a Black History Month overview, links for additional resources and charitable sites that directly serve Black communities. Organize a thought-provoking and engaging panel discussion with guest speakers and thought leaders (authors, activists, historians, business owners, community leaders, etc.) to drive a meaningful conversation with employees.
- Visit Local Landmarks
Oftentimes inspiration comes from outside the office walls. Organize a work “field trip” or set aside some time on a weekend to patronize museums and exhibits dedicated to Black culture and art. Visit the landmarks commemorated by our National Park Service that reflect on Black history in parks and communities across the country.
At the end of the day, your diversity and inclusion efforts to make the work environment a better place while encouraging ideas and feedback between employees and leadership will help with collaboration and engagement. Your employees should feel safe to talk about their ideas, experiences and cultural background.
For more free resources and tools that promote DE&I best practices in the workplace, visit Perspectives+. It’s Paycor’s online knowledge library designed to help our partner network drive change, empower colleagues, and foster new leaders.