National Hispanic Heritage Month starts on September 15 and ends on October 15 every year — but are you prepared? If not, there’s still time for last-minute preparations for office activities. But it’s about more than good food and learning a few words in Spanish.
Cultural heritage months, in general, can be an excellent time to improve your organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts.
But before we dig deep into how you can both celebrate Hispanic heritage while making progress in the workplace, let’s go over why it’s so important to celebrate.
Why you should celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month at work
The fact is that the workforce is more diverse than ever — but until recently, discussing diversity or inclusion wasn’t an organizational priority.
The United States Census Bureau reported that there were nearly 60.5 million people with Hispanic heritage living in the United States in 2019 alone. Over half of these individuals can trace their roots back to Mexico, but millions more come from Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and the many vibrant countries in South America.
In addition, Hispanic professionals make up 1 in every 5 workers. And since many Hispanic workers are fairly young, this community is a significant driver of labor force growth.
All of this is to say that most organizations have employees with Hispanic backgrounds. And this month is a great way to show that your organization cares about your Hispanic workers, their families, and that they are valued.
There were nearly 60.5 million people with Hispanic heritage living in the United States in 2019 alone. Over half of these individuals can trace their roots back to Mexico, but millions more come from Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and the many vibrant countries in South America.
Do heritage months really help DEI?
While putting heritage months on the map is important, many executives wonder how effective these times are for improving inclusion efforts.
After all, does watching a Hispanic movie or listening to some amazing music actually improve inclusion?
To truly leverage heritage months in the workplace, it’s important to include them as a part of a long-term strategy. Integrating these time periods into a cohesive, consistent effort toward fostering inclusion can translate into a successful event that educates and honors diversity.
Otherwise, the opportunity can devolve into a fun but largely ineffective office party.
For a successful Hispanic Heritage month drive, consider:
- Getting Hispanic employee feedback and input on what they would like to see.
- How celebrating different heritage months can play into the larger goal of inclusion.
- Planning ahead so events aren’t rushed.
- Creating events around the smaller goals, such as appreciation, education, and empowerment.
8 high-value activities for Hispanic Heritage Month
Hispanic heritage is so varied that there are probably more than a hundred different things you could do to celebrate. But if we want to improve diversity and inclusion, there must be a balance between fun and education.
So for this list, we’ll focus on high-value activities to help inform and empower your employees.
1. Potluck, luncheons, and live presentations
Everyone loves food — and it’s a great way to kickstart any celebration. Plus, depending on your time and budget, there are a few ways you can use this activity. First, let’s talk about sourcing the food:
- Potluck: Have each employee bring a Hispanic dish they made. If possible, consider creating a list of potential recipes and where to buy international ingredients ahead of time. This is ideal since this activity has several benefits. Not only are employees learning a new skill, but they are interacting with the community through buying produce from international groceries.
- Catered luncheon: If you have some spare budget, ordering food can still be effective. In this case, you may be focused more on the presentation since employees will get minimum exposure from choosing what they want to eat.
Ideally, you’ll want to have something planned for your employees. This can be a brief presentation about the scope of Hispanic heritage, a trivia competition, or a guest speaker.
2. DEI and ally workshops
It may be worth it to schedule diversity training or an ally workshop during this month. An ally workshop usually covers a number of topics, including:
- Identifying microaggressions and unconscious biases
- How to be an ally as an individual
- How to be an ally within the company
- What privilege means (and doesn’t mean)
While this isn’t Hispanic heritage-specific, bringing in an outside expert for this workshop can take the burden of educating colleagues off of your Hispanic and minority employees. At the same time, it can help workers better understand the importance of inclusion and why these events are celebrated in the first place.
3. Invite guest speakers
A great way to celebrate Hispanic culture and talent is to bring in guest speakers from Hispanic backgrounds within the industry. They don’t necessarily have to talk about diversity or inclusion. In fact, it’s often better to let your guest speakers focus on sharing their expertise.
Bringing in guest speakers from different backgrounds does two things. First, it gives your Hispanic colleagues the chance to meet professionals from their community. And second, you show your entire workforce that professionalism and talent is diversified.
4. Trivia and fact-finding games
For many employees, they may not remember much about the Hispanic world from school — if they studied it at all. But many love trivia competitions.
Trivia and fact-finding games are a great way to educate the larger workforce about Hispanic cultures. No matter your industry or business, there are bound to be major contributors from Hispanic backgrounds throughout history. Not to mention all the talent in films, books, business, and government.
A fun, interactive trivia game can widen your employee’s worldview without it feeling like a mandatory test.
5. Highlight Spanish-based programs
The U.S. has the second largest Spanish-speaking population in the world, with 13% of its residents speaking Spanish at home.
The U.S. has the second largest Spanish-speaking population in the world, with 13% of its residents speaking Spanish at home. While it’s impossible for employees to master a new language in a month — and many may not be interested in doing so — bilingualism can be a part of your heritage month events.
If your organization works with Spanish-speaking customers or vendors, either locally or abroad, you can explain how speaking Spanish can benefit the individual employee and the company. You can then provide a list of resources where employees can learn or improve their Spanish skills.
But what about your Hispanic employees?
If you have many Hispanic employees, you can offer a “heritage learning” stipend for selected employees to reconnect with Spanish or an indigenous language. Not every multicultural person knows their parents’ language, which can be a great way to build trust and inclusion with your Hispanic employees. And this stipend can go towards whatever language-learning tools or programs fit your benefits budget.
6. Partner with Hispanic-owned businesses
Another great way to celebrate Hispanic Heritage month is to partner with and support Hispanic businesses. There are dozens of ways to do this, but some include:
- Catering breakfast or lunch once a week from a Hispanic-owned bakery or restaurant.
- Work with Hispanic-owned and operated suppliers, manufacturers, or vendors.
- Contribute to Hispanic-led charities and non-profits.
- Include Hispanic brands and businesses at corporate events.
Not sure where to start? The League of United Latin American Citizens is a great place to start. They offer several resources related to Hispanic businesses and organizations.
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7. Review your hiring and inclusion practices
This month doesn’t have to be entirely focused on events. It can also be a time of introspection. During this time, reviewing your hiring, onboarding, and retention numbers as they relate to Hispanic employees can be helpful.
Some questions to ask include:
- Are all of our job descriptions inclusive and identity-neutral?
- How many Hispanic employees do we have, and are they staying?
- What does the promotion ladder look like for our Hispanic employees? Is there a clear career path?
- If discrimination incidents have occurred, were they dealt with appropriately?
Something is amiss if numbers are low or turnover is higher than with other employee groups.
8. Create a Hispanic pop culture list
Everyone loves a good movie, book, or soundtrack. Why not create a resource that shares Hispanic-origin creators with your team?
These lists are usually easy to compile since services like Spotify or YouTube already have extensive, user-curated lists. There is even a Hispanic Heritage Award program. Ideally, you’ll want to separate this resource into “mini-lists,” such as organizing materials by country. You may also want a separate section for “diaspora” works or entertainment created by the descendants of immigrants.
You can also choose your favorites to host a showing, book club, or music break if you want to create a work-specific event. If this turns out well, you might consider creating a full-time perk program that continues throughout the year.
Support your workforce with meaningful DEI activities
Diversity, equality, and inclusion programs aren’t just for a show. Almost 70% of job seekers want to work in a diverse workplace. And this can only be accomplished through meaningful programs that support all employees in their careers.
The first step? Defining your organization’s Diversity and Inclusion statement. If you haven’t written one yet, or if it needs a major refresh, start this Hispanic Heritage month off on the right foot and craft an effective statement with this guide.