Employees have high expectations when it comes to the annual corporate holiday party.
According to a survey conducted by BizBash and Seamless, 71% of people believe office holiday parties are good for company culture, and 91% say they would be disappointed if the annual celebration were canceled. Given those expectations, it’s never too soon to start thinking about your annual corporate holiday party and how to make sure it’s the best one yet.
Company holiday parties provide the perfect opportunity for employees to come together and celebrate an organization’s success, but are also the perfect opportunity to rally your team around your company’s shared goals.
We’ve rounded up our top tips to make sure your next holiday party is a memorable occasion for all the right reasons such as employee recognition, reflecting on lessons learned, and sharing key company messages and initiatives.
Recognize Employees for their Accomplishments
A study conducted by the Incentive Research Institute found that millennials are motivated most by public recognition and feeling purposeful in their work. Rather than just a celebration with food and drinks, they are more interested in motivational and inspirational events that celebrated accomplishments and provided coaching in a fun atmosphere.
Adding an awards and recognition component to corporate holiday party is a must. That means that you’ll need to start planning well in advance. Give your company leadership enough time to submit thoughtful nominations that recognize employees in a variety of categories relating to culture, innovation, collaboration, as well as the top revenue producers within the company.
At the beginning of Convene’s own holiday party, we celebrate employee achievements through “Colleague of the Year,” “Manager of the Year,” “Sales Manager of the Year,” and “Founder’s Award” winners. We’ve found that sets an inspirational tone and allows for the winners to fully celebrate the rest of the night with their teams!
Incorporate Team Building Activities
Including collaborative, team-building elements into this year’s celebration gives employees who don’t typically interact with each other an opportunity to work together in new ways.
By engaging in interactive activities rather than passive activities, people tend to feel closer to one another. Try something festive and lighthearted such a cookie decorating contest or go bigger with holiday-themed games such as Santa Limbo, Christmas Mad Libs, or People Bing—where party goers must find coworkers who match certain traits, like “has gone skydiving.”
“Surprise and Delight” Employees Throughout the Night
An employee raffle with unexpected and exciting big-ticket prizes can be a great way to “surprise and delight” staff for working hard all year.
While you have the time now, also consider providing custom gifts to employees to commemorate the night. “The gifts should be something that will be valued by the people attending, and the recipients should feel like it is a ‘thank you’ gift, rather than a promotional gift,” said Larry Cohen, CEO of Axis Promotions. “People will also cherish gifts with their names or initials. They are easy to produce and worth the effort,” he added.
For a more budget-friendly option, “custom cocktail recipes printed on rich cards can be a great leave-behind for guests to make the same drinks at home that were served at the party,” said Susan Kaden, Visuals Consultant at Atlas Print Solutions.
Generate Excitement for the New Year
A segment of the night’s presentation should also be focused on introducing a theme or goal for the coming year. Corporate change management company Bain & Company found 63 percent of a company’s goals for change fail because of a lack of communication between managers and employees.
Introducing or reiterating company-wide goals or initiatives in a fun, low-stress environment such as the annual holiday party make them more likely to be absorbed.
To prevent the goals from sounding too boring or forgetful, Laura Londin from The Booth suggests a mission-driven photo booth, connected to the company’s theme. This can become an interactive element where employees write what the mission or theme means to them, and is an easy way that brings the theme to life. “People are more excited to engage with a photo booth when it draws out a theme that is connected to the event. Throw in signs or work in an overlay that matches the tone of the project,” Laura adds.
Celebrate in a Non-Conventional Space
The local hotel ballroom or surf-n-turf restaurant are no longer the only options for corporate holiday parties.
There’s an opportunity to get your employees excited about going to a destination. The environment you’re choosing to celebrate in will impact how your employees engage in the event—from the moment they receive their RSVP invite all the way to the next day, when they tell their friends and family about it. “Never underestimate the value of a good event layout,” says Lauren Goldberg of AFR Event Furnishings.
A non-conventional venue such as an art gallery, a theater, or a flexible event space should be considered one of the primary options for taking your holiday party to the next level.
Editor’s note: this article was edited on September 17th, 2018 with updated information.