This song "You Gotta Fight for Your Right, to Party!" made popular by the Beastie Boys in 1986 has really been running through my head lately!
As we draw near the holidays, I’ve noticed that company parties and celebrations continue to be an ever-increasing topic as companies evaluate what should or should not be done.
Common Questions Asked as it pertains to Company Parties:
1) Should we have a company party? It really depends on a variety of factors outlined below.
Is it a tradition?
If you have not made it a tradition to host one, then what would be the reason for launching a new event with your team? If you have cause to celebrate, then yes please! If you don’t have a reason to celebrate, then what would be the end goal of having a gathering? If you are doing it just to get everyone together hoping to increase camaraderie, without careful planning, activities, and follow through, it could just backfire on you and be a regret inside your overall strategic plan.
If you have made it a tradition to host one, then I would say yes! As a business owner or HR Professional, you must be very careful in removing or skipping the event. Parties, just like all other benefits, can become an expectation or an entitlement matter with your employees and/or family. I know I have one group that I work with who has an annual picnic every year and my children have now come to expect we are going every year. If for some reason they stopped providing that, I would hope that there would be a significant business reason for the cancellation which I could easily convey to my kids.
Consider the financial healthiness of your organization.
If it has been a good year and the company can afford a gathering of some sort, then yes!
If it has been a difficult year and you are picking between a company party and potential layoffs in the first or second quarter of next year, then I would recommend really considering cancelling the party and use those funds to possible retention strategies for the first quarter of the next year. Explain it well through proper communication methods and your employees/their families will understand.
2) How do we decide what to celebrate?
While I enjoy food for any reason, I encourage my clients to keep it to good/significant reasons to celebrate. Company anniversaries are good reasons, a generic Holiday party near the end of the year or beginning of the year is a good reason, if you met a significant goal such as ISO Certification or a planned sales goal, etc. are all great reasons to celebrate!
ASK your Team! I know many employers are hesitant to ask because they feel it creates an expectation, but you would really be surprised with the number of great ideas I have obtained from employees over the years! Many of them have/create wonderful win/win scenarios that really impact your organization.
3) Should we serve alcohol?? Again, it really …. (you will see a pattern in my responses 😊)
Make sure you know your local laws as it pertains to alcohol. I always encourage having alternative beverages available for those who do not drink or to provide something after limits have been reached.
Confirm with the venue what their requirements are and if it is permitted. I’ve seen some facilities that do not have an alcohol permit, so they have limitations. In addition, I have seen other facilities that have a requirement for an off-duty officer to be present during the party to address any improper behavior. Know these things ahead of time.
Does your company general liability insurance cover host liquor liability? If not, this may be a significant consideration. In addition, what potential Worker’s Compensation liability exists? Make sure you have someone who is properly trained in how to serve alcohol before allowing employees or family members to become your bartenders.
Do you want to limit what may be consumed? If so, find a way that cannot be manipulated by your employees to get more. I have seen too many times where if given an option to drink, employees who do not drink will still get the tickets and then give them to others, sometimes even sharing them with underage attendees.
Do we want to have the bar be a cash bar? This may deter some employees from going overboard but remember it does not wholly remove all liability.
Make sure to have some alternate transportation options for those who do overindulge if you decide to offer it. I also recommend communicating this in advance so that employees will know if they are required to pay for the alternative transportation themselves or if the company will cover the charge.
4) Should company parties or events be mandatory?
Unless you want to pay everyone in attendance for their hours spent, I always respond with “No.” Besides who wants to spend time with Pouty Patty who was forced to attend and doesn’t want to be there. (Instead, spend time figuring out why Pouty Patty doesn’t want to be there and work on that issue. It may be a family matter that is completely out of your hands and you as the leader cannot fix it no matter what you do.)
5) Do we need a gift for everyone at the company party?
That’s really decided by your overall budget and financial health as an organization. Just know that a gift is not required. You could raffle off a few things as an alternative. What if you saved that $10 per person gift and just upgraded their steak option from a Sirloin to a New York Strip. That might be more appreciated by your team.
At Employers Advantage, we are always here for our clients to assist in navigating the waters of celebrating! If I have created additional questions for you that you would like to talk through, reach out to us! As your thought partners that is what we are here for.
Cheers to a fun and uneventful Holiday Season!