Best Practices for Creating an Inclusive Workplace During the Holiday Season

December is rich with diverse traditions, holidays, heritages, and religious observances celebrated in various cultures across the U.S. and abroad. The county has a diverse workforce, and we each bring unique backgrounds, lived experiences, and cultures that influence how we celebrate and connect with others. As we prepare for the holiday season, it is crucial to create an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere for all employees to foster respect and belonging in the workplace. Below are best practices to create an inclusive workplace to support all employees during the holiday season and throughout the calendar year:  

 

  1. Invite feedback and input from all employees. To identify ways to be inclusive when hosting events throughout the year, ask employees from various backgrounds, identities, cultures, and who hold different religious beliefs for feedback on how they wish to celebrate the holidays. Allow teams to guide the planning and encourage employees to think inclusively about essential details such as holiday decorations, food, activities, and music selections to ensure that no one feels excluded and that events are culturally appropriate for the workplace.   

 

  1. Make participation in holiday functions optional. The holiday season can be stressful for employees who are not religious or hold religious beliefs that fall outside of traditional holidays observed in the United States. Some employees may not celebrate anything at all. In addition, employees who have experienced loss may find it challenging to navigate the holidays or participate in activities that remind them of loved ones. To model inclusion for all employees, make participation in workplace holiday functions optional so that employees do not feel obligated to partake if they choose not to. Consider scheduling functions during times of the year that do not overlap with specific holidays or cause scheduling conflicts for team members. 

 

  1. Acknowledge and show appreciation for different cultures and beliefs.Encourage your team members to share how they celebrate the holiday seasons, especially those whose cultural backgrounds may differ from yours. Be open and curious to learn by inviting questions about their native cuisines, traditions, and customs to expand your knowledge and learn something new. 

 

  1. Explore different cultures, traditions, and religions. The world is diverse and filled with opportunities to learn about other cultures, practices, and holiday celebrations. Encourage employees to research holidays that differ from their own or participate in community events to gain a deeper understanding of the rich cultures and communities in Henrico County and the Richmond region. For Henrico County employees, you can start your inclusion journey by exploring the county’s DEI resource page or the Multicultural Community Engagement page for year-round community events and celebrations.  

 

This year, we are highlighting the following holidays in December:

  • Las Posadas: December 16 – 24
  • Hanukkah (Chanukah): December 18-26
  • Kwanzaa: December 26-January 1

A complete list of December 2022 Holidays, Celebrations, Heritages, and Observances can be found on the DEI Resource Page.

 

  1. Be open and flexible. The holiday season can be a challenging time for employees to navigate, especially as we close out year-end responsibilities and plan for time away from the office. Extend grace to your team members during the holiday season, and be open to differing thoughts, perspectives, and feedback about whatever may be coming up for them. Be open and listen to understand how you can create a positive experience where employees feel included, valued, and heard.  

 

If you have ideas for inclusive ways that Henrico can highlight different holidays and cultures, please contact our DEI Division at 501-4425 or HR-DEI@henrico.us.

Read More

Henrico’s New Capability Model: The Customer Engagement Capability

As we enter the new fiscal year, Henrico County has introduced a new Capability Model that replaces the County Competencies. This model is designed to help all employees focus on and develop the knowledge and skills to successfully lead and serve in a rapidly evolving workplace and community. View the model below or learn more about the seven capabilities on our resource page.

To help you better understand each of the seven capabilities integral to the model, the County Connection will feature a series of articles, each focusing on a different capability. This article focuses on Customer Engagement.

Providing exceptional service and positive interactions is at the heart of Henrico County’s mission and is a significant component of The Henrico Way. The Customer Engagement capability complements these initiatives and is defined as “Cultivating positive relationships with internal and external customers by proactively seeking customized solutions to increase satisfaction and build rapport.”

Our County employees have consistently modeled the Customer Engagement capability. While it’s always been a priority, customer engagement took on new meaning and importance with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some examples of this exceptional customer engagement before and during COVID-19 include:

  • County Departments automated and converted processes to electronic for citizens to continue to do business during COVID-19.
  • The IT Department converted systems and increased bandwidth within weeks to accommodate remote work due to COVID-19 restrictions while communicating with and educating employees on best practices for working remotely.
  • The creation of a call center to support citizens during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Nourish Henrico program was created to support local restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic by purchasing meals for first responders and other eligible frontline employees.
  • James River Juvenile Detention employees created a food pantry to help coworkers who lost income during COVID-19.
  • A DPU employee assisted a customer at the landfill even though he arrived before the dump was open for business. 
  • A Police officer responded to a citizen whose car broke down, pushed the car to safety, and stayed with her until the vehicle was repaired.
  • A Social Services employee reached out to multiple contacts beyond traditional resources to help a citizen in crisis.
  • Library employees implemented virtual story times for children during COVID-19.
  • DPU employees repaired a broken water service line even though the damage was in the customer-maintained portion of the water line. 
  • The Advocate for the Aging coordinated the removal of a rotten tree from a citizen’s property, even though it was outside the scope of her duties.
  • An Animal Protection officer spent multiple hours searching for a lost dog and continuously communicating with the dog’s owners until it was found and returned.

These examples show how County employees anticipated customers’ needs, both external and internal, and worked creatively to meet them. They went above and beyond expectations through transparent communication, making decisions, and, at times, adapting processes and procedures to ensure the best outcomes for their customers. 

Excellent customer engagement boosts our citizens’ confidence in our county government, enhances productivity, improves processes, expands services, and significantly contributes to our being a high-performing organization. To find more examples of exceptional customer engagement, view our “Who We Are: Leadership Lessons from COVID 19” video series on our OLTD YouTube page and the County’s Henrico Way web page.

For more information on the Capabilities, visit our resource page.

Read More

Employee Focus Groups: Reflections on Well-Being & Inclusion

As part of the County’s ongoing commitment to providing an inclusive workplace for all, we hosted seven virtual well-being focus groups in March 2021 to provide an opportunity for open dialogue, to strengthen connections across the county, assess employee needs, and offer support and partnership. With the establishment of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Specialist role, we also welcomed conversations on how the county is growing as an organization and solicited feedback to achieve an inclusive workforce.  Fifty-three employees from across the organization attended the sessions where they openly expressed thoughts in a safe environment and offered supportive conversations with peers on the global pandemic, mental health, wellness, and inclusion topics.  Employees also shared recommendations to guide the county forward in county-wide DEI efforts.

The key findings from the focus groups were centered around two major themes: COVID-19 and DEI.   Participants reported experiencing challenges with mental health and wellness due to the global pandemic, and challenges in moving forward through the pandemic. The County’s virtual Employee Town Hall meeting on May 13, addressed several of these concerns to help employees understand how the County is responding to their needs in these areas. Leaders at all levels were also encouraged to have conversations about their well-being and concerns related to the global pandemic.

Participants also openly expressed their thoughts and feelings on current events, race, equity, and inclusion. The major themes centered around national politics and civil unrest associated with violence towards people of color and marginalized communities; the desire for employees to have open dialogue with colleagues on topics of race and inclusion in the workplace; a need for psychological safety to be able to speak up and openly express their thoughts and ideas on any topic; a need for inclusive skillsets and behaviors across the organization.

We met with County leadership to share a high-level overview of the groups, including the following recommendations for the next steps:

  1. Establish a DEI organizational strategy.
  2. Continue professional development for all staff to focus on equity, skill-building, and development around inclusion.
  3. Engage the organization at all levels on DEI, mental health, and wellness topics.
  4. Potentially add additional check-in sessions with employees to assess well-being and needs.

As we look ahead, we will continue to create opportunities to have open conversations and invite diverse voices and perspectives to help the county be strategic and intentional about countywide DEI efforts and goals. If you have questions or feedback regarding DEI and the County, please contact our DEI Specialist, Shanone Sport at spo001@henrico.us.

Read More