It may seem too soon to start planning a company holiday party; after all, didn’t we just finish with our kids’ “Back to School” rush? The fact is, if you wish to have a holiday party, now is the time to start your planning. As we look forward to the usual excitement of the holiday season, our thoughts should turn to how to celebrate our employees during this joyous season. You are not alone if you are intending to hold a holiday celebration for your business. A recent survey by outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas, Inc. revealed that 80% of companies polled host holiday parties of some sort.
Where to begin and what to do to make the season special become the important questions. The primary objective of the holiday party must be to show employees how much you care about and appreciate all their efforts and hard work throughout the year. Making a decision now is advisable, as time is passing quickly for the necessary preparations.
It is important to consider the following 10 steps in planning your event:
1. Put in place a team or an individual at your company to coordinate all the necessary planning. Alternately, you might consider retaining a professional party-planner.
2. Select a date and time. Most companies have their parties during the second or third week of December. Possibilities include lunch, dinner and dessert buffet. Lunches are usually less expensive than dinners. Friday is a popular day, as it precedes the weekend off.
3. Develop a budget for the event. Centerpieces made of fresh fruit served as part of the buffet, limiting alcohol consumption (host or no-host bar, do you even want to serve liquor?), and selecting a location that is already decorated for the holidays are all great ways to save money while giving your employees a top-notch event.
4. Develop the guest list. Including spouses and significant others adds to the social ambiance of the party, gives them more familiarity with your business and pleases your employees.
5. Before you begin, think about theme, venue, caterer, food/beverage selections and décor. The party could be at your place of business, a restaurant, hotel, country club or private home. Decide if you want a sit-down plated event or a buffet. Choose the menu that will be served.
6. Send out invitations, usually done three weeks to a month in advance. Emails, fliers and/or printed invitations all are fine. Choose one that suits the tone of the event. Using your company colors or brand on the invitation enhances the feeling of company unity.
7. It is generous to offer onsite child-care for families to allow full participation in the celebration.
8. Decide on appropriate entertainment, if any. You may want to consider engaging a pianist, disc jockey or magician. Photo booths are a fun idea.
9. You may plan to give a cash bonus or other special gift to each (or certain) employee during the party, either publicly or privately.
10. It is important to consider your own role in the event. Will you say “a few words” as well as be the one to distribute gifts? This is an excellent time to offer a positive message about your company’s successes during the last year, as well as to recognize your staff and how much you appreciate their diligent work and contributions over the past year.
Fundraising and etiquette at a holiday party are something to think about. Rob Hard, Staff Writer @ TheBalance, suggests the following: “Consider carefully if fundraising is right for your organization. Food, clothing and toy drives are part of the culture in many organizations, while some encourage cash-donation drives. This does not necessarily mean that your company-wide employee holiday party is the right venue for a fundraising opportunity. While it is very useful to associate a particular cause with the holiday party, it may be helpful to encourage only noncash gifts and in-kind donations to benefit a particular charity; this way, everyone is allowed the option to offer a gift at a value that fits their personal budget.”
Hard continues with this advice: “Etiquette is important to insure everyone enjoys the evening. Laying down ground rules in a company-wide memo or e-mail before the event is a perfectly acceptable way to make sure your employee guests have the best experience they can. Etiquette mistakes to avoid at the holiday party include: excessive drinking, complaining, arriving too early or leaving too late, wearing improper attire and bringing excessive guests—all of which can not only impact others’ experiences at the event but also company costs. Although an annual company holiday party is meant to bring the team together and lower inhibitions commonly found in the workplace, remind your guests that they still represent the company, even when attending this after-work event, and are therefore expected to behave in a manner suitable for the workplace.”
SurePayroll Company in a recent article suggested that “It is important to keep in mind that – legally speaking – an office party may be construed as a work-related event. Therefore, the sexual-harassment rules that apply during the workweek continue to apply at the party, even if it is not held on company property. Also, do yourself a favor and spring for a cab if an employee appears to be too impaired to drive home safely.”
Everyone has a favorite venue and some companies have created a real feeling of nostalgia annually, which their employees look forward to each year. The following Tuchman Advisory Group members offer their company holiday party ideas:
Sharlene Thum, Vice-President @ Five Star Cleaners in San Antonio, Texas: “We do different holiday Christmas parties each year. We have the managers decide what they would like to do for their staff. The favorite party that has been popular and enjoyed by all for the last three years has been a Sunday afternoon at the movies for the entire family. We have some very nice Santikos movie theaters in San Antonio, which offer “dine-in” options with electric recliners and a bowling alley. In advance, our employees choose the movie they want to see. At the Santikos theater, the holiday party begins with bowling, during which appetizers are served, followed by a festive buffet lunch and then we all watch the movie with popcorn and dessert of their choice.”
Keith Houston, Vice-President @ Crest Cleaners in Cocoa, Florida: “Crest Cleaners has a company party at an outdoor restaurant along the beautiful St. John’s River. It is a family get-together of employees, spouses and kids. Everyone is invited to partake in free Airboat rides, a unique boating opportunity along the river. Boat-riders often see birds, cows and horses along the way, with the local collection of alligators. The event begins at 4:00 pm and upon arrival we serve appetizers that include: gator bites, jalapeno poppers and shrimp poppers. Dinner includes grilled and fried fish, along with gator and chicken and all the fixings. The kids have a ball and many family members really enjoy the airboat, especially those who have never had the opportunity to ride in one.”
Lee Makepeace, Vice-President @ Medlin-Davis Cleaners in Raleigh, North Carolina: “Our holidays start with a Thanksgiving lunch. We provide the main course and our employees contibute the sides and desserts to complete the menu. At Christmas time, we give them the option of lunch being catered or bringing in dishes to share. We treat our employees to quarterly lunches, so usually at Christmas people want to reciprocate with a potluck-style lunch, which can include appetizers, fried chicken and desserts for all to enjoy. In addition, at Christmas we used to take all of our managers out for a nice dinner, although this was recently switched to lunch – which they prefer as to not take time away from their families during the holiday season. Another fun thing we do is our employees arrange an optional Secret Santa with each other. The week leading up to Christmas, I can assure you, there is never a shortage of food in our stores! It may not sound exciting, but it works for us and creates a festive holiday spirit for one and all!”
Let the excitement of planning for the holiday season inspire you to celebrate your employees, and have fun!