Somehow, our small Cooperstown farm does an amazing number of office holiday parties – and business and other functions throughout the year. This year, while we’re booking more than ever, we’re also talking more carefully and thoughtfully with the people doing the planning.
These are some of the chief concerns that have come up, and ways you can handle them before they become issues. Remember, plan your holiday party for all of your people and they’ll all be truly festive when they get back to work.
1.) Venue. This one is wildly important, and as a venue, we’re very sure of what kind of party we can host. For one big team parties, we put everyone in a room and let them go at it. But most companies segregate themselves, usually by department and often the IT people are quiet and personable, while the sales team wants to dance and cut loose. We make a few different spaces available for all kinds of people so that they can organize themselves as they wish. One of the reasons we recommend a party with us is that an office party in someone’s home obligates your guests to bring a gift for the host or hostess.
2.) Transportation. This can be a very important consideration if you’re asking people who normally take public transportation or who walk to work to travel. A few vans are also a terrific place for management to speak personally with employees they don’t know well on the way too or from any event. It’s also vital if people are going to be drinking and celebrating and re-affirms your commitment to their well-being.
3.) Hours. Remember, lots of your people have kids and families and are not going to enjoy being trapped “at work” long after normal working hours. Plan accordingly. We do a lot of holiday lunches that stretch long after lunch-time and that let those who want to stay – to stay. Often, the company will schedule a van to pick up employees who want to depart early at 5 or 5:30 and one or more for later in the evening.
4.) Child Care. We actually sometimes arrange for child care so that people who might leave earlier can actually stay a bit longer. Again, as a work-life balance issue, you’ll reap the rewards for this one for the next year at least.
5.) Food. Whether its going to be lunch or dinner, have a long conversation with the chef or the restaurant manager. Variety is an absolute necessity, but you should also know your people pretty well. Offer a wide variety of foods, including vegetarian, gluten free, Halal and Kosher, if possible. This will make employees and guests with special dietary needs more comfortable.
6.) Talent Management and Retention. This one actually frequently surprises us. Just as we said above about sidling up to people in the vans, or a car, or where ever, there are a remarkable number of managers who don’t really know the people they’re employing. If you have valuable people that you want to hold on to, they expect to be treated like adults. That means, your senior people need to speak to them and a party like this one is a very good opportunity to do it. Prepare your top people – and especially the ones hurting for personnel – and make them do it.
7.) Drop the gift exchanges. They smack of false generosity and no matter how high you set the limit, there’s not really much good that comes from these things. Make the focus into a singular act of generosity between employer and employees. Beyond thatm a Charity that reinforces the company’s commitment to it’s own core corporate values is another great way to share the spirit of the season.
8.) Preparation. Some of your employees will particularly enjoy helping out with the set up and decorating. We sometimes do all the decorating, but some advice and a hand from your people really makes it into “your party.” We’ll work with anyone on your team, but consider rewarding your most engaged or enthusiastic employees and make sure they’re going to enjoy doing it.
9.) Booze. As mentioned above, your better people, and hopefully all of your people, want to be treated like adults. That means offering them lots of non-alcoholic options, but it also means directing the focus of your party away from the booze and towards entertainment and some kind of organized fun. If you do find yourself employing a lot of boozey people, just make sure there are lots of options for getting home safely.
10.) An End Time. This is another important thing that is too often overlooked. Just make sure it’s clear on your invites, whether it’s a flyer in the office or an email or a printed invite. It’s not just to control the booze intake, but to really let employees know when it’s OK to leave. It’s considerate and makes for much more graceful exits. Even if you really do have mostly revelers on your team, some of them will appreciate the green light to head home.
We’re planning probably a dozen parties right now, and we’re hoping every one goes as smooth as the one described above. Remember, folks at the venue and right on your own staff will be happy to talk through every detail of your holiday party, so make sure you get the right people talking and planning.
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