There’s a lot to be said about company culture. It keeps employees happy, makes them want to stick around, and helps attract new talent.
In fact, 46% of job seekers say that company culture is very important when choosing where to work. And 88% say it’s at least relatively important.
Holiday parties, of course, contribute significantly to company culture. When done well, they’re an effective perk of the job, and they prove to employees that they’re valued.
When you’re planning a party for any size business, whether virtual or in-person, a lot of thought and effort needs to go into the event.
So in this guide, you’ll learn the secrets behind successful holiday parties and find helpful strategies that you can easily implement.
Why Do Holiday Parties Matter?
A holiday party can be an important bonding exercise for your workforce that lifts their spirits and overall morale. And holiday parties can even lead to greater employee engagement, loyalty, and better performance.
What Does Success Look Like?
A Morale Boost
People need to feel like it’s not all pencil-pushing all of the time. Holiday parties give employees a chance to relax and enjoy themselves.
They’re a way to collectively celebrate the hard work employees put in. And all of this is mood-boosting.
Of course, it’s essential to care for the well-being of your employees. As an added bonus, it benefits the business, too. Happy employees are 13% more productive.
Any rewards or bonuses you give to employees show that you value them. You also have the opportunity to personally recognize individual employees or teams at holiday parties through things like awards ceremonies, bonuses, and speeches.
When you show staff that their work matters, they’re more likely to be engaged at work—in other words, invested in and committed to what they do.
Holiday parties allow co-workers who may not usually interact at work to get to know each other. Furthermore, they can incorporate team-building activities in a more casual and fun way.
This will make it easier for employees to collaborate in the future across departments. And when teams and departments work well together, they can easily align their processes to meet common goals.
Reinforced Company Culture
Whether it’s a large event or a small get-together, holiday parties provide an opportunity to show what the company is all about. You can put together an event that showcases your company values, from the atmosphere you create to the activities you host.
Case Study: PayPal’s Virtual Holiday Party
In 2020, PayPal held an epic 29-hour long virtual holiday party for its employees across the globe. The party featured a wide range of fun activities that staff could drop in and out of as they pleased.
These ranged from drag performances to origami classes to virtual dance floors. Thus, they were able to cater to the tastes of a diverse global workforce.
The virtual holiday party also gave PayPal’s staff an opportunity to rub shoulders with their international colleagues. This had never happened previously, as PayPal usually hosts 60 separate holiday parties at their different offices.
PayPal also sent gifts from local businesses to all employees. This was an excellent way to add a personal touch to the employee experience, plus demonstrate their company values in supporting local ventures.
Given the global pandemic, many companies were forced to go virtual or scrap holiday parties altogether in 2020. But PayPal still managed to come up with creative ideas and put on an engaging event.
It’s certainly worth keeping virtual parties in mind for years to come. More companies than ever have remote and flexible workers. Plus, international companies may wish to hold events on an international scale rather than separate, localized parties.
One Secret Weapon to Master Holiday Parties
There’s a ton of boxes to tick when it comes to planning a holiday party.
But perhaps you don’t have the organizational skills of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Amy Santiago. Or maybe you’re just looking for a way to lighten the load.
In this case, you’ll no doubt benefit from using an employee management tool.
Tools such as Zenefits provide an up-to-date employee directory. It gives you lots of handy information you can filter through to get the precise data you need.
For example, how many employees are in X location, how many are remote, how many are in each department, etc. These are the kinds of things you need easy access to when planning an event.
You also have all of the current personal information of employees, meaning you don’t have to sift through spreadsheets to gather the correct contact details for invitations.
Perhaps the most exciting feature is that you can even set up custom automated emails to send out key information about the event and reminders. This will save you time and ensure no one misses any important updates or milestones leading up to your event.
5 Essential Strategies for Holiday Parties
1. Represent Your Company
Though baking may be one of your fabulous party activities, you shouldn’t plan a cookie-cutter party. A party should fit the atmosphere and ethos of your company.
Consider the company culture you want to promote, what your workforce cares about, and what makes sense for your brand early on in the planning process. These elements should influence all of the decisions you make.
For instance, if your office has a cool, relaxed vibe, you may want to choose a non-traditional venue or theme, e.g., a bohemian festival with food trucks. Or if the company stands for community and altruism, you could have a charity fundraising or giving part of the event, and so on.
A party that reflects the company will make it a more enjoyable experience and reinforce why your company is a great place to work.
2. Celebrate Achievements
Awards, rewards, and celebrations are a staple of company holiday parties for good reason. They show staff their achievements aren’t going unnoticed. Plus, they build an atmosphere of optimism among employees and provide an incentive to succeed.
One way to give employees recognition is by celebrating work anniversaries. Use your HR tool to dig into the details of company employees and find out who is celebrating their fifth, tenth, etc., year with the company.
If you make an awards ceremony part of your agenda, you can use it to express what the company values most. For instance, awards may not be about who made the company the most money in the last quarter. Instead, you might celebrate the “innovator of the year,” “most supportive colleague,” or whatever is relevant and important to the business.
3. Add Personal Touches
One of the main goals of a holiday party is to engage employees. Make them feel happy to be a part of the event, and more importantly, the company, by adding personal touches. You don’t want the holiday party to seem like another characterless corporate event, after all.
One way to make the event more personalized is to get employees involved in the planning of the party. This can be as simple as asking them to vote for their preferred venue. Or you can ask employees to form a planning committee that’ll have more input on the overall event.
Gift-giving is another easy way to add a personal touch to your event. As seen in the PayPal example above, you can source gifts from local small businesses to show your commitment to local communities.
Or hand out personalized gifts to employees. These must be something they would genuinely appreciate given your knowledge of the company culture and, of course, non-promotional. If you’re struggling to provide personalized gifts at scale, you might consider gifts with employee names or initials printed on them.
4. Encourage Connections
At a holiday party, you should actively encourage conversations and put on activities where employees must collaborate. This will help break the ice between employees who aren’t familiar with one another. Moreover, it’s a team-building opportunity, and this sense of a joint effort will hopefully spill over into the workplace after the event.
Here are some examples of activities that foster teamwork and interesting conversations:
- Have some nostalgic fun with retro board games and/or kids’ party games.
- Each guest brings a potluck dish that means something to them. The other guests must guess who the chef is.
- Have employees team up and compete in a scavenger hunt around the office or venue.
- Hold a fancy dress sporting competition in honor of a local charity, e.g., an annual office Olympics/Paralympics or field day.
- Guests receive cards with a statement, such as “has visited every continent.” They must find the person that matches the statement.
Remember, it doesn’t have to be a formal thing. Any kind of interactive activity or game will help the conversation flow and make connections naturally.
5. Boost Attendance
You should never make holiday parties mandatory. But, of course, you want as many employees to attend as possible. How else are you going to reap all of the benefits that holiday parties bring?
The first thing to do is to ensure clear communication. As mentioned above, you can even use an HR tool to automate notifications and reminders so that everybody is clear on the event’s details. You can also send out surveys before officially booking a venue with potential dates and have the employees vote on the best day/time for the event.
Furthermore, you should make it as easy as possible for employees to attend. Consider any roadblocks that might prevent a staff member from attending and solve them before they even occur.
For example, in 2019, Microsoft and PayPal organized childcare for their holiday party attendees. If you don’t have the resources for a big move like that, you could arrange free transport for everybody.
It’s also a good idea to generate buzz around any company event. For instance, you might create a unique hashtag for staff to use or encourage them to take photos and share them on company pages. The latter will make the event more memorable, and you can even use those photos to generate excitement for the next holiday party.
Most Common Holiday Party Mistakes
Some HR professionals love nothing more than organizing a company-wide event. For others, understandably, it’s a bit of a headache. But as long as you avoid the following common mistakes, your holiday party should be smooth sailing.
The party is not inclusive. A holiday party shouldn’t focus on a specific holiday. It’s a celebration that includes every single employee. That’s why it should be a “holiday” or “winter” party and not a Christmas party.
Also, you need to make sure you understand and anticipate the needs and circumstances of your workforce. That way, you can make the party accessible and enjoyable for every attendee.
Be sure to include your remote and flexible workers in the festivities.
There are badly behaved employees. Many holiday parties involve a cocktail or two. Of course, you want workers to have fun, but it’s still a work-related event and should be treated as such.
Minimize the negative effects of alcohol by serving food at the event and organizing transport to ensure everybody has a safe trip home. You may even wish to send out a reminder before the event that contains your HR policies on appropriate behavior and alcohol.
The party is too focused on the business. Naturally, there’s going to be some talk about the company at the holiday party. But do it the right way.
Any speeches should recognize the work of employees and provide positive encouragement. But the event isn’t another staff meeting in disguise, so you don’t need to go into too much detail.
Keep shop talk to a minimum and encourage employees to do the same. It should be a fun and relaxed atmosphere.
Overall, organizing a company holiday party isn’t all doom and gloom. These are just a few things to keep in mind.
Make use of the strategies outlined above, and you’ll be able to start putting on holiday parties that employees look forward to every year. And you’ll no doubt see the positive effects trickling into the workplace.