As first appeared in the Nashville Business Journal on November 3, 2014: http://www.bizjournals.com/nashville/blog/2014/11/halloweens-over-start-planning-your-holiday-party.html?page=all.
Pumpkins are out, college football is in full swing and there's a chill in the air. And if you wait a minute longer to plan your holiday work party, the best venues will all be booked and your organization will be stuck with a pizza party in the breakroom.
To Party or Not To Party
With improvements in the economy during the last few years, the vast majority of companies have returned to an "Eat, Drink and Be Merry" state of mind.
The top reason companies choose to have a holiday party is not to celebrate the holidays, but to boost employee morale. The next most popular reason is to celebrate the company having a good year, per this 2013 survey by recruiting agency Battalia Winston.
If you're on the fence about whether your organization needs a holiday party, ask yourself: How's morale?
Art of the RSVP
The most popular time slot for a company party is lunchtime on a Friday in the second or third week of December (according to this survey of holiday practices from human resources organization ERC).
Ordering lunch for your employees in the office is a nice gesture, but hosting an event off-site will let them know the holiday get-together is extra special and not to be missed.
Keep your budget in mind when setting the time (luncheons tend to be less pricey) and make sure the venue is available before notifying employees. Your venue's event planner will ensure that all the details fall into place, working with you to find the perfect caterer and to iron out logistical details.
Many companies like to include a little light programming, such as taking advantage of the jovial get-together to recognize year-end employee achievements.
Evening parties are also common. Having a function outside of business hours and the office shows you put in extra effort to celebrate your employees' hard work this year.
Try to pick a location convenient for most people, and allow them to bring their spouse, partner or friend! This helps show you care about their outside personal life, and not just business.
When you send out the company invite (e-mail is fine), be specific about whether other guests are also invited, what food and/or drink will be provided and what time the event begins and ends. Make sure to give people plenty of notice -- don't wait until after Thanksgiving!
The Gift that Keeps On Giving
Part of your holiday work budget may need to include gifts. Research shows most organizations do give their employees holiday gifts. The most popular item is a gift card, followed by employees' real favorite: cold, hard cash.
It can also be fun to suggest employees bring an item for a "white elephant" gift exchange. Make sure everyone knows in advance and set a low price limit to encourage creativity. Encourage participation, but be sure to let employees know that the activity is voluntary.
Happy employees lead to a happy bottom line -- if your company is in a position to celebrate this season, a well-executed holiday party will boost morale and let your team know just how much they are appreciated.
Olivia Tomlin is the vice president of development and operations at Envision Conference Center in Brentwood, Tenn.