I grew up in a Catholic family, which meant I used to go to church every Sunday, and attended Mass during every important religious event (for Catholics). As a child, I also attended the local Sunday school at my parish, and during a holiday season, I remember the words of Sr. Maryellen Ryan clearly and distinctly, even to this day. Sr. Maryellen, was describing the Christmas holiday to a group of young learners (like myself), and she said to us: Christmas isn’t a holiday…it’s a Holy Day. The context of Sr. Maryellen’s words were meant to help us distinguish between the secular meaning of Christmas and the more traditional religious version of Christmas.
So what do words of a nun have to do with HR or business in general? Everything. Employees do not leave their faith at the door when they come to work. Whether they’re Christians, Jews, Muslims, or identify with any other religious affiliation, their beliefs are an important part of who they are. With the holiday season in full swing, many of your employees will be partaking in religious events according to their individual beliefs and as employer’s it’s important to keep in mind any upcoming date with religious significance. What can employers do during the holiday season to meet both the needs of their business while serving the religious needs of their employees? For starters:
- Gain some insights on the religious events that some of your employees associate with.
- You can reach out to your local religious leaders for more concise explanations of certain holidays and their significance to a particular faith group.
- Keep in mind dates of religious holidays when scheduling company events. Having a multi-faith calendar can be especially useful.
- Provide guidance to your managers on how to handle religious accommodation requests as they arise.
- Let your employees know of their right to request a religious accommodation as well.
Now, depending on your organizational culture, you may even want to include some activities that will help your employees learn about the various religious holidays celebrated by your employees (Diversity 2.0!). Office decorations highlighting the various multi-faith groups in your office might be a nice place to start.
Religion can be a touchy subject, especially in the workplace, and there may some employees who do not celebrate the holidays religiously, and that’s ok too. Keeping these employees’ needs and sensitivities in mind is important also.
How is your org celebrating the holidays?