The Role of HR In The Office Holiday Party

by Srikant Chellappa Dec 13,2019

The People Strategy Leaders Podcast

with Srikant Chellappa, CEO

The nature of work is such that most organizations these days have employees who are not only diverse, but also far-flung.

As such, it is a little hard to drum up employee engagement or workplace togetherness and sustain it. However, one way to bring people together, more often than not, is a celebration. And office holiday parties do just exactly that.

Organizations do not host office holiday parties with the intent of celebrating religious holidays. Rather, they use the holidays as an excuse to bring together their employees and promote the concept of teamwork and togetherness.

As the years have passed, office holiday parties have become something of a rite of passage and it is normal for employees to attend (mandatorily, in fact). Therefore, it is not uncommon to find articles that detail how to navigate an office holiday party like a boss, the rules for gift-giving within the workplace, etc.

In the broadest sense, office holiday parties are a great way to foster employee engagement. But sometimes, when these office holiday parties become more about the spectacle rather than the purpose, the meaning behind them gets lost. So instead of fostering employee engagement and the spirit of togetherness, they end up doing the opposite. And this is where HR can seize the day and make a difference, so to speak!

Here are 4 tips to ensure an enjoyable office holiday party. And remember, holiday parties don’t need to be lavish affairs. An office party could be any organized event. The idea is to create a memorable event that everyone in the organization looks back upon fondly.

Make It Inclusive

More and more, it is important to be conscious of all the people who are a part of your organization. An inclusive office holiday party invites everyone in an organization to take part. But when an office holiday party becomes something that is open to only a select few or is rigidly denomination, it still brings some people joy, but this joy comes at the expense of others.

You can have a holiday party that uses some of the trappings of the season and tweak it to better suit your organization, or alternatively, you completely do away with Christmas trappings and instead call it an office get-together, that simply is happening around the holiday times. Treat employees to a good lunch or dinner, a bowling event, individual gift cards, a short trip away, an office potluck, etc. There are so many options when it comes to celebrating employees being together and all of them are distinctive from the holiday.

Also read: 6 Meaningful Alternatives to the Annual Holiday Party

Set Clear Expectations

The unfortunate part of being HR is that you will occasionally come up against employees who think that just because a rule is not mentioned, that means it’s a-ok to do whatever the rule says not to do. In order to have an office holiday party that does not devolve into a disaster that people will talk about in the years to come, establish a few rules in place.

This means taking yourself back to school and setting a dress code, explicitly detailing what is expected of employees and what will happen if employees engage in inappropriate behavior. You might assume that adults are knowledgeable and well-mannered enough to not cause problems, but this isn’t always the case. There are always going to be a few bad apples in a basket. It would also be a good idea to have someone who can impartially monitor the room to ensure that things don’t get out of hand.

P.S – If you are going to have an open bar, it makes sense to have bartenders who can cut off people after a certain number of drinks.

Also read: How To Navigate The Annual Holiday Party

Volunteer A Day/ Give Back

If most of the employees at your organization are not feeling absolutely enthused about hosting and attending a party, it then makes sense to involve them in something that they would enjoy doing. Volunteering is one of those things that most people do enjoy, or are at least game for giving it a shot once. Therefore, this makes volunteering a wonderful alternative to the office party idea.

Volunteering could either involve volunteering at shelters/non-profits or collecting matching donations to a charity of your employee’s choice or even hosting an event to raise funds for a charity.

The one thing you need to make sure of when it comes to volunteering events is to ensure that people are not forced into donating or giving back or participating if they cannot. Budgets are stretched tighter than usual during the holidays and it is unfair to expect everyone in an organization to donate generously. Let employees figure out how much they’d like to donate or help them figure out how else they can contribute. You never know, sometimes, the act of giving back could even be about helping someone in your own organization!

Also read: 5 Fun Employee Engagement Ideas For This Holiday Season

Small, Cozy Get Together

Sometimes you might want to host a holiday party, but unfortunately, the organization’s budget is stretched tight as well. In this case, it is totally okay to have a small, cozy get together. Small, intimate get-togethers are a great way to bring everyone together without having to overstretch yourselves. Stripped of all finery and stuffiness, an intimate get together be it over wine and cookies or movies and popcorn can foster just as much engagement as a big flashy holiday party.

Like most things during the holidays, it is really the spirit that counts, not the display.

Want to know how you can foster employee engagement at your organization? Or even plan an office holiday party or a holiday event? Engagedly can help! Request a demo from us to find out!

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Srikant Chellappa
CEO & Co-Founder of Engagedly

Srikant Chellappa is the Co-Founder and CEO at Engagedly and is a passionate entrepreneur and people leader. He is an author, producer/director of 6 feature films, a music album with his band Manchester Underground, and is the host of The People Strategy Leaders Podcast. He is currently working on his next book, Ikigai at the Workplace, which is slated for release in the fall of 2024.

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