Ready to Party?
So, you’re hosting a workplace holiday party… Do you know why?
Get clear on your intent and avoid common pitfalls.
Holiday party season is quickly approaching, and for workplaces this can lead to much anxiety – not only about planning and preparing, but also about managing them. While surveys indicate that 80% of workplaces host an annual holiday event, an even higher percentage of employees indicate they’d rather have a bonus or extra vacation day. So if your holiday event causes you stress and your employees don’t love them, should you even bother?
It’s important to consider first the intention behind your event. Are you doing it specifically because of “Christmas”, or because it’s the festive holiday season, or the end of the year? Are you doing it because you think you have to, that your employees expect it? Is it because you’ve always done it, and it’s part of the company tradition? Or is it because you want to provide a genuine and meaningful opportunity to thank your employees for their contributions? Many employers state that their annual holiday party is one of the ways the company gives back to employees. But is it really?
Upon reflection, if you’re confident you’re hosting your event with the right intentions – and it’s carefully planned and managed in line with the points below – it can be successful and appreciated by your employees.
- Don’t just go through the motions. While you may have hosted a dinner or party at the same restaurant or hotel for the past 10 years, do your employees want to go back year after year to the same place, and do the same thing?
- Accordingly, don’t go grandiose if you’ve just made major cutbacks, restructured and/or dismissed a number of employees.
- Consider surveying employees on what they’d most appreciate – within realistic parameters.
- Ensure the location is central and easy for employees to get to by various means, including transit (unless you’re providing transportation).
- Unless it’s on company time, don’t make it mandatory and if employees opt out, don’t ask for reasons or treat them differently as a result.
- For after-business hours events, consider whether to include spouses/partners. While it can add complexity regarding budget, mingling and guest conduct, it can also increase the likelihood that employees will want to go, as well as facilitate a stronger link to the culture of the company.
- Communicate expectations in advance – about transportation, alcohol/cannabis consumption, driving, conduct, posting pictures on social media, etc.
- Ensure Leaders lead by example, keeping in mind that it doesn’t take much to undermine a management role.
- Don’t hang mistletoe. Enough said.
- If you have a pre-set seating arrangement, do not put leaders and management all together (either at a head table or otherwise), serve them first, or have them go first to the buffet. This sends a strong message to your staff that they’re less important.
- While you can use it as an opportunity to reward and recognize employees, don’t turn it into a company meeting (e.g. it’s not a good time to roll out the 2019 handbook, or talk about operational changes). If you do intend to reward employees, ensure it’s inclusive.
- Limit availability of alcohol; consider providing one or two drink tickets, or a set amount of wine per table, for example.
- While you definitely do not have to make cannabis available just because it’s legal and you’re providing alcohol, if your event is after-hours and your employees choose to smoke it (outside, observing smoking by-law regulations), remember that it’s legal for them to do so. As for alcohol, the important point is that they’re conducting themselves appropriately.
- If alcohol (and/or cannabis) will be served or available, provide taxi vouchers or another safe way to get home. Transportation should be a clear line item in your party budget.
- Manage inappropriate conduct discreetly and immediately (e.g. inappropriate behaviour or excessive consumption of alcohol, cannabis, or any other substance).
While there are many important dos and don’ts to consider, careful planning will help you avoid common pitfalls – and allow both you and your employees to enjoy and appreciate your holiday event. That is, after all, the intent.