Fifteen years or so ago, just about the only special days/events that were communicated with employees in the UK were Christian festivals and the occasional thing related to the organisation's charity of choice. Things have certainly changed.
The Queen's funeral rightly dominated proceedings on Monday (19 September) - which may have disappointed those who celebrate talking like a pirate and butterscotch pudding, as the date was also their 'day'. Did you know it's also Hispanic Heritage Month, International Week of Happiness at Work, National Suicide Prevention Month, Read a New Book Month, National Piano Month, Sepsis Awareness Month, Sourdough September, Friendship Month, National Honey Month, National Chicken Month, National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, National Mushroom Month, Chiari Awareness Month, National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, National Sewing Month, Happy Cat Month, National Preparedness Month, National Library Card Sign-up Month, Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month, Shake Month, and Hunger Action Month?
Selecting which days/events to communicate with colleagues is becoming increasingly difficult and oftentimes political.
There's concern about causing upset/offence, proven by Marketing teams contacting people around Mother's/Father's Day asking if they want to opt out of receiving notifications relating to these days.
There’s also the 'you marked that, so why not this?' argument. Many organisations mark Black History Month, so there's an argument they should give the same attention to Hispanic Heritage Month too.
There are several events related to cancer and LGBTQI+, for example, so how do you decide which to mark – or do you mark them all?
Events such as Happy Cat Month may upon first reading to be ‘cutesy’ but there is the rise of comfort pets and cats can help to combat loneliness, so it could be said that these animals deserve to be recognised.
Tips on deciding which days/events to mark
- Don’t simply believe the loudest voice. If someone states that ‘everyone’ feels a certain way, where is the evidence? If unsure, tap into your internal networks.
- Don’t just go with the wishes of senior leaders. They may have a personal reason for supporting an event or a cause, but will this be something many employees would get behind?
- Prioritise your corporate charity. This should have more airtime than any other event or cause.
- Corporate charities should be a democratic choice. Have employees nominate and then vote on which charity/charities your organisation should support. This way, if challenged, it can be stated that it’s the will of the majority of the people to support this cause rather than others.
- Leverage your in-house groups and forums. Towards the end of each year, when you’re devising your comms calendar, meet with these groups and ask which days are the most important. Explain that you can’t celebrate every day, and ask your EDI group to help you to prioritise. If you then receive criticism for not marking a certain day, you can reply that you consulted these groups and if the person criticising wants to influence, then they should join a group/forum.
- Limit your corporate posts on days/events. It’s difficult to be too prescriptive, but one cause a month is probably enough, in addition to posts about your corporate charity. Granted that there may be a month when two established days/events may be on. Never forget that people are at work to work and important organisational messaging must be the number one priority.
- Give employees their own channel. Internal Social Media channels such as Workplace and Teams allow for different channels so a suggestion is to set up a blogs channel where any employee can post about a topic of their choice. This means that all employees can have a voice.
Employee Advocacy is important, but workplaces are, well, workplaces, and it’s not an organisation’s responsibility to react to every single issue. You definitely won’t be able to please all of the people all of the time, but by following the tips above, it should make the causes that are most important to your employees get good airtime without overloading people with too many disparate messages.