To mark Black History Month, we’ve called upon the insights of North Highland’s Black Employee Network (B.E.N.) to explore how to engage the workforce around the subject.
As organizations push strategic initiatives to become diverse and inclusive, we have an immediate need to take up thoughtful, intentional approaches to learning and dialogue. Black History Month offers that chance: to rally around and act upon an important topic.
Following our first installment, here’s a few more tips to consider:
1. Avoid singling out employees
To maintain an environment of support and trust, black employees should never feel coerced to share their experiences. Demanding participation can be perceived as tokenizing, offensive, and result in unwanted pressure or visibility to sensitive issues. A better approach? Welcome and encourage feedback from all willing participants.
2. Spotlight multiple perspectives
Although Black History Month aims to honor black experiences, this can’t be defined as a single entity. The black community—like any other—is rich in its diversity, with varying perspectives and histories stemming from a variety of cultures and subcultures. Acknowledge this by avoiding stereotypes or assumptions, and instead make a stage for different narratives that unite the black voice.
3. Plan meaningful content
Material that’s informative, honest, and entertaining keeps true to the message, while expressing it with sincerity.
4. Pay special attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion
After centuries of exclusion and under-representation in mainstream and popular culture, we reach a pivotal point in our nation's history where black culture is more respected. But we still have a long way to go. To truly grow and thrive, we must stay focused on the present and better our experiences for the future. Consider implementing mentorship programs or training that nurture diversity for the long haul.
5. Observe the values of the occasion year-round
Love isn’t exclusive to Valentine's Day, and neither is gratitude to Thanksgiving. So why should we limit the celebration of black excellence to February? Black History Month is a great time to both champion diversity and focus on inclusion, while setting the bar to continue this all year round. We leverage February to spotlight these values, and it’s up to organizations and their people to promote and embody this with no ceiling. Demonstrating a constant commitment to empowering black employees will make your February celebrations more sincere. As a result, your colleagues will thrive on the job, showing greater levels of productivity, creativity, and passion.