While February — observed as Black History Month — is long over and March is wrapping up, it's essential to recognize that celebrating Black heritage should not be confined to just one month or just one culture. As many brands, companies and associations have found new ways to celebrate, many struggle to find their place in the discussion.

This topic best serves as a springboard to address broader issues of diversity, inclusivity, and equity in the workplace throughout the year for all. Moving forward, let's reflect on how to continue to foster a culture of appreciation and acknowledgment for all cultures and their contributions to American history, every day.

What are some heritage months in the United States?

When discussing cultural appreciation in the workspace this year, evaluate your tactics. Make a goal to bring about a culture in the work environment for your employees and partners to feel appreciated and acknowledged. Here are some examples of national heritage months observed in the United States. Note: These are just examples as there are many not listed below.

  • February: Black History Month
  • March: Women's History Month, Irish American Heritage Month and Afro-Latinx Heritage Month
  • April: Sikh American Heritage Month, Arab Heritage Month
  • May: Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Haitian Heritage Month and Jewish American Heritage Month
  • June: LGBTQ+ Pride Month, Caribbean American Heritage Month
  • July: French American Heritage Month
  • September: National Native American Heritage Month and National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15)
  • October: Italian American Heritage Month, Polish American Heritage Month and Disability Employment Awareness Month
  • November: Native American Heritage Month and German American Heritage Month
  • December: Muslim American Heritage Month

Strategies to enhance cultural appreciation in the workplace

Whether it's an entire month or an international day of celebration, here are some strategies to enhance your approach to cultural appreciation in the workplace, recognizing that the commitment to acknowledging multicultural communities extends and can encompass all cultures year-round.

Cultural appreciation vs. appropriation

Educate yourself on the difference between cultural appreciation and appropriation. As you want to be compassionate to other cultures, you can also appear offensive if you don't acknowledge there is a difference in cultures. Often, trying to find a similarity and highlighting that isn't the best approach. Every culture is different and should be acknowledged for that. Be aware of sensitive buzzwords like "we are all the same", "don't see color" or "color blind" as these are seen as an act of adopting elements of a culture without proper understanding or acknowledgment, often resulting in the erasure or distortion of the culture's identity or significance. In some cases, you may want to work with a cultural sensitivity team to make sure you're not being offensive. For example, consider leveraging the insights of an African American team member during Black History Month.

When discussing these topics in a professional setting, it's important to use language that is respectful and accurate while addressing the underlying issues. Continue to allow an open forum when discussing, allow those impacted to give feedback on the reception of your tactics.

Highlight leaders

Often there are usually 2-3 common leaders addressed from various cultural backgrounds that are overly highlighted for awareness. This term is seen as selective commemoration or tokenistic recognition. As the cultural leaders are appreciated for their service, employees and clientele tend to see this as a bare minimum act. This action can appear insincere because of the lack of fully highlighting diverse perspectives and contributions to their culture. For example, only highlighting during Black History Month popular leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. Go the extra mile and highlight a leader that's rarely acknowledged.

An easy way to make sure you are acknowledging different trailblazers is by showcasing bulletin boards, newsletters, or emails on them. Find a cultural leader that is relevant to your industry. Reference the cultural leader's journey and how they've impacted the industry. Highlight past and/or present decision makers in your company that have achieved new heights. It'd be great to give them a platform to speak on their experience within the company and the hopes they have.

Highlight cultural-owned businesses

It can be great to use your company's platform to bring awareness to culturally-owned businesses. For many businesses it's a struggle to receive the necessary exposure. This is great to give the clientele a platform and align support with your company. It doesn't just have to be local restaurants but could be businesses in other industries like Medical or Construction industries. As your company, may build further long-lasting partnerships within your community.

For example, you can achieve this by having food catered by a local business for your company. Another suggestion would be to host an event or festival in which many culturally-owned businesses could come and be vendors.

Supporting cultural issues

Align your company with local civil issues that impact the multicultural communities. Don't hesitate as you would like to appear unaffiliated in political issues. These civil issues could be human rights issues as well and have non-party affiliation. Often, there's clubs and organizations that could use your help with funding or bringing awareness to their work.

Explore ways that your company could be supporting local schools and issues in your community. Host open town halls to see how your staff could be directly impacted by what's going on in the community. Participate in fundraisers, events or make donations company wide. Fully educate on the issues to make sure they align with your companies' policies.

How to educate staff

Allow a continuous safe space for those in your company. Address sensitive topics through training, staff meetings and town halls. Raise awareness with lecturers and motivational speakers on the different cultural topics especially if they are of time relevance. Address Human Resources issues that involve diversity and inclusivity concerns in your workspace as there may be instances where employees may not feel safe or heard.

Highlight heritage and celebrate diversity

Whether it's an awareness month, a heritage month or even an international day, the goal is always the same: To highlight and bring attention to the importance of each culture's history and heritage.

As mentioned, cultural appreciation should not just be a checklist number on your calendar but be practiced year-round for all. As you appreciate your employees, you take time to appreciate their cultural heritage. By doing this, you continue to ensure a safe work environment, create a great work culture, and spread the diversity of your business standings.