Let’s be honest. Holiday parties are kind of passé. You know the stereotypes. Ugly sweaters, overly competitive white elephant exchanges, and enough alcohol to give your HR rep a heart attack.
Each December you ask yourself, “Are we really going to do this again?”
But what if you took a different approach? Imagine, for instance, that you’re an older employee. Let’s say you never had kids, and your husband passed away two years ago. You’ve devoted the last twenty years of your life to the company, longer than any manager has stuck around.
Or perhaps you’re a recent college grad. You’re struggling under a mountain of debt. You don’t have enough money for a plane ticket home. You’re planning to stay home in your small studio apartment while everyone else you know leaves to see family.
In both cases, the annual office holiday party might be a treat and something you genuinely look forward to. This is true for your younger employees in particular. A recent CNBC study found that 61% of Millennials and Gen Zs have close workplace friendships.
Even employees with family might not look forward to time with relatives. A recent survey asked 1,738 Americans about their plans for the holidays. Eighty-one percent of respondents said they will see family during the holidays, but only 55 percent said they’re actually looking forward to it.
Instead, they may prefer being with friends.
My point is that some of your employees won’t find holiday cheer at home. Some won’t even have a place to go. Your office holiday party is not an empty ritual. It’s a great opportunity to develop interoffice friendships, boost overall job satisfaction, and show your employees of all generations that you care about them.
How to make the most of your holiday party
Acknowledge team success
How often do you have the entire office in one place with people in a good mood? Probably not that often. Use this opportunity to show your appreciation for all their hard work. Acknowledge specific accomplishments and results for the greatest impact on morale.
Give personal gifts
Specific is always more memorable than generic. If you decide to give gifts, put some thought into it.
I recommend using detailed questionnaires during the onboarding phase. This way you know your employees’ preferences and can make personal gestures months down the line. Does Steve like Skittles? Does Linda like pandas? Personalize a gift bag for each person.
Let the team plan the party
You’d be surprised how many people actually want to plan a party. This can be a great teambuilding activity that takes work off someone else’s plate.
At the very least, ask for input during the planning phase. Maybe hosting a cooking contest or decorating gingerbread houses would be more enjoyable than the same old party at the same old restaurant. Just remember to be inclusive and plan an event everyone can participate in.
Finally, volunteering is another great way to engage employees over the holidays. When I have polled multigenerational audiences about their most desired team-bonding activity, volunteering always comes out number one. December is, after all, the season of giving. Volunteering shows that you are committed to your doing good while providing employees a memorable experience.
What’s one of your favorite holiday party traditions or a new approach you plan to take? Let me know in the comments!