Planning a Work Holiday Party? 3 Considerations Before Getting Started

Tis the season for holiday parties and festivities.

You and your team have worked hard this year and in return you think a party with you and their peers will be a welcome token of appreciation. Your enthusiasm could be misguided.

SHRM surveyed HR professionals in 2015 about their intentions as it pertains to holiday parties. Only 65% of respondents indicated they would be holding holiday parties to end fiscal year 2015. 30% of respondents indicated that they do not have holiday parties.

My personal experience has been holiday parties are fun and a great way to build camaraderie, but you should investigate if your employees feel like attending is more of a burden than a nice night out.

Culture may be an indicator

If your employees don’t like their jobs, the leaders or their co-workers, how likely do you think it is that they will feel a sense of excitement and euphoria attending your soiree? It has been my experience that the companies where culture was terrible experienced the lowest attendance rates where holiday parties are concerned. There are of course the employees that hate everything about your company, but do a drive-by appearance to appear to be a “team player”.

On the other hand, your employees might like you, the company and their co-workers just fine, but they would much rather spend that time after work or on a weekend with their family. Remember all of that hard work you want to reward? Those hours spent in the confines of your company are precious hours spent away from their family and friends. Even in companies I have loved, it was hard for me justify additional time away from the family in the name of gathering with co-workers.

Need convincing that you could be cutting into personal time? The same SHRM survey shows 42% of businesses in 2015 indicated that holiday parties would be kept during “non-business hours and would not be closing early”. That sounds like personal time to me.


What is the solution to all of this?

This is not a manifesto to throw out all celebrations, but rather a wake-up call to take a better look at what you do and what may be preferred by your employees. Here are some things you can do to get closer to understanding how your employees feel about your yearly holiday parties:

  • Crowdsource ideas for how you can best spend the holiday party budget. You may end up with some great ideas. Perhaps, your team would rather a more intimate gathering with just your team. Either way, allowing them a say in the process will not only be energizing, but potentially budget-friendly should you find out your parties aren’t crowd favorites.
  • Consider taking the money and reallocating it into a holiday bonus or additional time off. If there is anything a person needs around the holidays – it is extra cash and time to prepare for the holidays. If your team isn’t over-the-moon about a party allocate holiday time off for shopping or consider giving them some extra dollars for a job well done.
  • Improve the morale in your company. You will have to accept and respect that some people on your team will only be interested in doing the work and resuming their life with the people they love. There is nothing wrong with this. However, if you want a chance of getting to know your team outside of normal business hours, you will need to convince them that this endeavor is worth their time. Take the time to improve the things that need improvement in your culture. It could not only benefit your team, but also improve your chances of building better rapport with your employees.
  • The holidays are meant to be fun and joyful. Be sure you are connecting with your employees during this time in a hassle-free, respectful manner.