3 ways to make important calendar events more meaningful

How can HR turn events & celebrations into something more meaningful?

Organisations often encourage their staff to participate in meaningful events and celebrations – but how does HR turn these initiatives into something more meaningful – and not a one-off PR event or CSR initiative, asks Purnima Nandy

HR leaders strive to create an organisational culture where the employees feel motivated, engaged and proud of being part of a workplace that sees and works beyond profit margins and market growth. We as HR leaders also have a responsibility to be sensitive to the society in which the organisation lives and grows and to give back to this society periodically.

To enable such a human-oriented culture, a calendar of events and celebrations is put together annually and days such as Women’s Day, Diversity Week, Mental Health Awareness week, R U OK days, cancer support days, World Health day, Earth Hour, to name a few are celebrated and acknowledged at the workplace.

For example, the world celebrated Women’s Day on March 8th where, as a global community, we recognised and celebrated the women in our lives and pledged for a more gender equal society. Workplaces celebrated this day in many different ways such as talks, seminars, breakfasts, gifts and recognition to women leaders and staff to name a few. It has now been well over a month since that celebrated day and the question arises; has anything really changed since then?

“It has now been well over a month since that celebrated day and the question arises; has anything really changed since then?”

More often than not, once the day is over and the event-related activities are done, the organisation and the employees go back to their lives as usual and work carries on just as before till the next event arises. What this has done is that over time, the importance of such events and days have been purely reduced to a PR event or a CSR initiative which makes employees not really value the efforts put in to celebrate such days and the meaning is diluted or lost.

What is worse is that many employees look at these events as no more than a birthday cake cutting or a quarterly potluck event which is simply fun and a way to get away from the desk for a couple of hours.

Here are 3 things that as HR leaders of an organisation we can do to truly make a difference with such events and days.

1. Include these iconic days as a part of the HR strategy
The HR strategy of any organisation includes actions and plans and strategic directions for the entire organisation from a recruitment, engagement and performance point of view. These strategic directions are put together to ensure that all major decisions that are taken in the organisation comply with the overall direction and goal for that annual year or for the next couple of years.

By including event days such as women’s day/diversity week/health days etc a clear path of what can be achieved through these initiatives can be drawn. Budgets for such events can be put together along with a course of progressive action which can compare what was done previously and what more can be done. Having a clear path will enable the team to communicate the same to all staff which would make these days more than just a break from the workday.

2. Organise an action plan or a goal as a resultant of the event
Another great way to strategise these events would be to tie up a goal or an action plan as a derative. For example, on women’s day an initiative could be launched to ensure that all staff are paid equally irrespective of their gender and that would be included in the recruitment policy of the organisation and during annual reporting it could be shared with all key stakeholders.

“As HR leaders we need to constantly innovate and go beyond to reinforce the culture we want to bring in”

Another example would be to tie with NGOs and hospitals on Health Days or Mental Health week and launch a health assessment as a part of yearly appraisals to ensure that staff are not comprising their health over goals. Action plans such as these would make the event more realistic and would encourage more participation from the teams.

3. Involve the employees and show them the larger picture
Instead of the employees just being on the receiving side of things, it would be a good idea to let them organise the day of the event by involving other staff and even looking in the industry for renowned persons working in the field. By keeping the employees actively involved they would not learn the significance of these days but also be able to spread positive messages and feedback to others of the importance and relevance. Success stories can also be shared by employees who have been positively benefitted from such events to reinforce to all that these events are much more than just a PR or a CSR activity.

A positive and a strong work culture defines the health and the performance of the organisation so as HR leaders we need to constantly innovate and go beyond to reinforce the culture we want to bring in.

Image source: iStock