The new comedy “Office Christmas Party” is every HR team’s nightmare of a workplace holiday party gone bad. The movie has every poor-taste cliché going: drunken debauchery, regrettable social choices with bosses and coworkers, and a big mess of property damage to clean up the next morning. It’s enough to make any HR department want to cancel the workplace holiday party, immediately.
At the same time, we’re reading a lot about the trend of continuous feedback and how once-a-year parties aren’t enough anymore to truly engage employees. But don’t be deterred from celebrating the holidays with employees — as long as you have employee appreciation top-of-mind, it’s a great idea to host a holiday party.
In fact, celebrations that honor popular holidays and company achievements should be an integral part of year-round employee engagement. In this post, you’ll learn how to plan a workplace holiday party that works for your company and sets the foundation for a more engaged workforce in 2017.
Throw the Workplace Holiday Party Employees Really Want
The workplace-gone-wild scenario depicted the movie “Christmas Office Party” makes for good comedy, but in the end, it’s not what employees actually want at the holidays.
Bottom line: employees want your heartfelt appreciation. If your workplace holiday party doesn’t communicate genuine gratitude, you’re in trouble.
A workplace holiday party typically goes one of two ways — something the employer has to do, or wants to do, according to writer Jake Kilroy’s Entrepreneur article, “The Nicest Party I’ve Ever Been To: A Christmas Story.”
Kilroy reflects on a Christmas party he attended years ago while working for J&M Promotions, a uniform and screen-printing company in California.
It was a formal affair at an upscale restaurant. The lavish presentation, expensive dinner and generous open bar totally wowed Kilroy and his coworkers, most of whom were young and used to a casual environment.
But what stood out most to Kilroy was how much his employer wanted to throw the party.
The company owners “welcomed us like family” at the door and asked employees to write down their favorite holiday memory on a piece of paper.
Later, after dessert, employees took turns reading aloud a coworker’s name and favorite memory. As an employee’s favorite memory was shared, the company owners invited the employee to get up and choose a wrapped present underneath the Christmas tree in the dining room, in addition to a $50 gift card.
The J&M Promotions owners worked hard to make it a special party, and it was effective.
“I had never had such warmth and respect at a job before,” Kilroy writes.
What makes for a great workplace holiday party? Read on for the three elements of a truly engaging workplace holiday party — keep them in mind and your party is sure to be a welcomed event!
The 3 Elements of a Truly Engaging Workplace Holiday Party
A workplace holiday party like the one Kilroy describes creates a lasting, positive memory for employees.
It doesn’t let you off the hook for year-round engagement. But it sends an important message of gratitude at a time of year when gratitude is on everyone’s mind.
The parties that truly engage employees are as unique as the companies that throw them. However, there are important common elements:
1. A Celebratory Atmosphere that Fits Company Culture
Choose to celebrate in a way that feels special and out of the ordinary. A formal sit-down dinner could feel special to employees who spend their workdays dressed-down or in uniforms, but stifling and business-as-usual to the office crowd.
Think creatively, and always with employees in mind. Looking for inspiration? Check out these real-life examples from Inc. of “Office Holiday Parties Your Employees Want to Attend.”
2. Company Leaders Celebrating Alongside Employees
Your workplace holiday party is a chance for everyone to reflect on and celebrate company successes of the past year. Senior management needs to be present and involved! If nobody from leadership shows up, the party will feel like another after-hour happy hour with coworkers — and you’ll be missing a key opportunity to engage and show appreciation to employees.
3. A Focus on Gratitude
Go ahead and book the open bar, gourmet buffet and world-class entertainment if your budget allows for it …but unless employee appreciation is at the core of your workplace holiday party, it won’t leave a lasting impression on employees.
The easiest way to put gratitude at the core? Make time for it! A short speech of appreciation and encouragement from the CEO before dinner is a great way to start. For inspired holiday messages to employees, check out our eBook with real examples from several workplace leaders.
Even a party on a shoestring budget will be effective if gratitude is at the heart.
This year, take it up a notch. Recognize individual and team excellence in 2016 with meaningful, affordable and crowd-pleasing employee gifts, too.
Kick-Start Your Employee Recognition Planning for the New Year
Make your workplace holiday party your first step toward better engagement in 2017! Download our just-released 2017 “how-to” planning guide to building an everyday culture of appreciation.
Our Day-to-Day Employee Celebration Calendar gives you the tools and inspiration to build an everyday culture of appreciation. Download yours today, absolutely free, and get your planning started for the New Year!
“In life, one has a choice to take one of two paths: to wait for some special day — or to celebrate each special day.” – Rasheed Ogunlaru, coach and author
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