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Honoring Juneteenth as an Employer

BY Julie Calli / June 14th, 2022 / 5 MIN READ

Juneteenth

Juneteenth is a federal holiday celebrated on June 19th (observed Monday, June 20th, 2022). The day is set aside to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. Juneteenth celebrations originated in Galveston, TX, but recognition of this day has become more widespread. 

This will be the second year Juneteenth is considered to be a federal holiday. Many employers are also choosing to honor this day as part of their DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging) initiatives. This article explores the ways employers can authentically communicate their values to job seekers, and underscores the incredible impact of being loud about the things you care about

Talent Acquisition and DEIB

As companies work to create their recruitment marketing strategies, they face many challenges. The Great Resignation has left organizations struggling to maintain the teams they need. Workers are more selective than ever, and corporate values are a key factor. 

People want to work for companies that share their values, and that includes diversity. Job seekers see the holidays we celebrate, the benefits we offer, and the way we treat our team members, as expressions of our values. For example, when a job-seeker sees a holiday schedule that does not include Juneteenth, it could easily be interpreted that this Federal Holiday is not valued by the employer. It’s not customary to think about holidays as a demonstration of values, but aligning the days that your company celebrates, with your values, could be a great way to create a welcoming workplace for all.

If you’re trying to attract diverse talent and encourage greater equity and inclusion for your existing workforce, you also have to take action to demonstrate authentic, committed support for marginalized and underrepresented communities, as well as sharing the actions you’re taking with the world and making sure your commitment to inclusivity extends year-round, beyond any one-off holidays or celebrations. 

Brands that do this successfully may find themselves ahead of their competitors when it comes to talent acquisition and presenting a better employee value proposition.

Will Celebrating Juneteenth Really Help with Talent Acquisition

Honoring Juneteenth will only help with talent acquisition if it is part of a meaningful, multi-pronged strategy to demonstrate your values to your candidates, employees, and clients. Celebrating the holiday cannot be a stand-alone action.

It must be part of a meaningful effort to celebrate and encourage workplace diversity. This can create a meaningful sense of belonging for existing workers and assure them of your commitment to diversity. 

At the same time, the education, conversations, and celebrations that come with a workplace recognition of Juneteenth, can be a powerful starting point for meaningful discussions about identity, belonging and community at work.

As you consider aligning your holiday schedule with your values, consider the following as well:

  • Reflect on your diversity goals and your progress or lack of it towards them
  • Make a clear commitment to begin celebrating diversity throughout the year
  • Offer educational resources and opportunities to take action
  • Encourage managers at all levels to examine diversity in their teams

Finally, create forums for including the identities you’re celebrating, so that everyone has a voice in how you’re recognizing their identities and lived experiences at your company. Embarking on a diversity journey without everyone at the table, can lead to people feeling tokenized. Likewise, leaving the work to a small number of interested people, can result in burnout of those valued folks due to the high levels of emotional labor that these events and celebrations require.

Candidates and an Intensified Focus on Diversity

More than 86% of job-seekers indicate that they view diversity as an important factor. This reflects a broader shift towards valuing an organization’s overall commitment to values and social responsibility. 

Additionally, 92% of employees state that it’s important to work for employers who have a strong sense of purpose. Unfortunately, only 46% of managers believe their companies truly do operate with that strong sense of purpose.

Why Does Diversity and Corporate Social Responsibility Matter?

Job seekers want to work with organizations with values that align with their own, and are more likely to want to work for companies who are progressive on social and environmental issues. Also, many candidates care about DE&I efforts and believe that businesses have obligations to add value to the community. 

Further, these candidates also associate values with company culture. To them, a business that makes diversity a priority is more likely to provide the kind of welcoming work environment they seek. 

By showcasing your values to the world, it can increase loyalty, help companies understand their communities, help build authentic relationships, and boost employee morale in the workplace and increase productivity – to name a few benefits.

Finally, there’s a matter of prestige. Organizations that commit to diversity and social responsibility tend to be more successful. They earn better reputations and are much better at retaining valuable talent. Naturally, people want to be associated with companies like this.

Reflecting DEIB Commitment in Recruitment Marketing 

There may have been a time during which an employer could simply state they cared about diversity, and that was accepted as truth. However, that’s no longer the case. Job seekers have access to a breadth of information about prospective employers, including:

  • Recruitment marketing materials
  • Reviews from current and past employees
  • Publicly available data on the diversity of your executive team
  • Values publicly expressed by company leaders on social media
  • Hiring data
  • Community outreach and support efforts

Take all of these into consideration when building a recruitment marketing strategy that centers on diversity. This will help you to take meaningful actions that prove to prospective employees that you are committed to DEIB through your actions. This might include:

  • Using inclusive language in job postings
  • Acknowledging and taking action to fill diversity gaps
  • Removing unintentional bias in recruiting and screening
  • Sharing your values on diversity publicly
  • Publishing diversity data to your recruiting website

Job seekers don’t expect perfection. What they want to see are efforts that are consistent and meaningful and that involve the entire organization.

How Top Organizations Are Celebrating Juneteenth

It’s clear that companies whose actions align with their values are viewed as employers of choice in today’s market. If you’re considering the celebration of Juneteenth as a first step on your journey, but you’re not sure how to start, check out how these top organizations have created meaningful Juneteenth celebrations that lead to better work culture and improve their recruiting efforts.

Apple

In 2021, Apple gave all corporate employees in the United States the day off. While this may seem like a low-effort way to commemorate such a meaningful holiday, this was actually a very important step. 

By doing this, Apple demonstrated that they view Juneteenth as being on par with other federal holidays that the company recognizes with a paid day off work.

Citi

Last year, Citi honored Juneteenth with a social media takeover. They allowed Thurgood Marshall College Fund students to take over the Instagram account of the Company’s Citi Foundation. 

Additionally, the company implemented Heritage Day. This gives workers an opportunity to take off any day with pay that is culturally meaningful to them – including Juneteenth.

General Motors

GM recognized Juneteenth by treating it as a day of service. Their efforts combined volunteering, storytelling, and reflection. Additionally, the company sponsored the Juneteenth Foundation’s Freedom Festival. This was a virtual celebration that included several online panels and was concluded by a concert.

The Smithsonian Channel

To celebrate Juneteenth 2021, The Smithsonian Channel published a series of video essays addressing the meaning of this holiday. These were created by teachers, community leaders, activists, and others. Some of these were broadcast on the Smithsonian television channel, while others were made available through the company’s social media channels. 

They also aired a documentary series called “Boiling Point.” This explored systemic racism and police brutality in America.

Verizon

Verizon offered workers who wanted one a paid day off work on Juneteenth. Workers who did choose to come into the office were able to participate in several events to celebrate and learn more about this holiday. 

This included panels hosted by company leaders, celebrating businesses owned by black women, and exploring the impact of slavery and recent societal progress on racial issues. The latter event, called Soul of America, also honored food as part of black culture.

Lyft

Notably, Lyft celebrated Juneteenth last year for the second time. This means the organization chose to commemorate this day even before it was officially recognized as a federal holiday. 

The company offered workers a paid day off. Additionally, executives in the company took part in roundtable discussions about the issues of voting rights, the meaning of Juneteenth, and how people can be effective allies. These were held in partnership with the NAACP and the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.

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