Ing + McKee

Do’s and Don’ts for a Successful Holiday Party

December 6, 2023

A successful holiday party brings your employees together to celebrate the year. It increases employee connections across the business and improves morale. It also takes careful planning.

Host a memorable holiday party by following these tips.

Do: Get employee feedback

What did your employees like — or not like — about previous celebrations? What do they think could be done to make the next party better?

Every office is different. The workers in your office may prefer a more intimate potluck. Or they might want to get out of the office for an activity or meal. You can seek employee feedback by sending out an anonymous email survey. Ask five questions or fewer to make it easy for your employees to give feedback. Depending on your budget, these questions can include:

  • Do you prefer having dinner or light appetizers?
  • Would you prefer to bring a guest or leave it to employees only?
  • Set times or open house style?
  • Music or mingling?
  • Gift exchange, white elephant or neither?

Don’t: Make employees organize the event

A holiday party should be fun, not an extra responsibility. While employee feedback is encouraged, don’t make your employees take on additional duties related to the event. Handle all the organization and planning yourself or use a volunteer committee so your employees can focus on their jobs and have fun at the celebration.

Likewise, avoid making activities like gift exchanges mandatory. This may add to employee stress, which is not your goal.

Do: Celebrate employees

No matter what you do for your party, find a way to include employee appreciation. You may want to give out awards, gifts or holiday bonuses. While parties are fun, they won’t achieve their goals of improving employee morale and engagement without some form of employee appreciation.

One free way to celebrate employees is a slideshow of the year’s successes. You can showcase companywide and individual employee success. But don’t leave anyone out of your presentation.

Don’t: Spur separation or competition

During a holiday party, you have a unique chance to bring together different departments, as well as leaders and employees. Allow everyone to mingle and get to know one another.

Likewise, when celebrating employees, don’t highlight one group over another. If you plan activities, make sure they are cooperative, not competitive. This is an opportunity for all employees to get closer and develop a new respect for one another.

Along these lines, don’t make your party about one specific holiday, such as Christmas. Some employees may not celebrate Christmas, or they may observe other holidays. Be thoughtful and inclusive during the planning process.

Do: Focus on the details

It’s important to understand the overarching goal of your holiday party, but don’t miss the details! You’ll need to make a lot of small decisions about your party to get it right, including:

  • A date and time that work for all or most employees
  • A location your employees will love
  • A tasty menu that accommodates dietary restrictions
  • Whether to serve alcohol
  • Fun gifts or activities to make the party memorable
  • Whether to invite employees’ partners or families

Start with important decisions like the date, location and menu a few months before your party. You can decide on gifts and activities later, depending on your budget.

Don’t: Start planning in December

Holiday parties take a lot of thought and consideration. Start planning in September at the latest to lock in your venue, caterer and other vendors. That will also give your employees plenty of time to clear their calendars.

Do: Take special care if you plan to serve alcohol

If you are serving alcohol at your party:

  • Prevent employees (and their guests, if applicable) from drinking too much.
  • Prevent tipsy partygoers from driving home.
  • Inform your employees that applicable workplace policies relating to a respectful, harassment-free workplace remain in effect during your holiday party.
  • Be prepared to respond if an employee alleges harassment by a coworker, supervisor or vendor during the party.

Meet with your legal counsel to ensure you have considered all legal issues relating to alcohol consumption at your event.

Plan ahead and have fun!

A year-end celebration can be fun and motivating for employees. Keep these tips in mind to ensure a positive experience for everyone.

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