Wednesday, 2 January 2013

How to get your boss to agree to a Christmas Party next year!

With the Christmas decorations hanging lopsided and mince pie foil cases well and truly emptied, I wanted to examine the benefits, or perhaps just perceived benefits, of the “Work Christmas Party”.

This annual event used to be something of a “given” in most companies, prior to the 2008 economic slump. In fact it was seen as a great way of showing gratitude, albeit in a very expensive way, to employees at the end of the year. Since the economy became more turbulent, companies have been reassessing these ‘luxuries’ and many have chosen to cut back, with some deciding that it is inappropriate to have a Christmas party.

But what positive or negative impact can a work Christmas party have? Is it worth the money or just another way of ending up with inter-team trysts, blushing cheeks for the month of January and a sore company bank balance?

I think I may be slightly biased. For the last two years I have been involved with the running and execution of the Christmas ‘do’ at the companies I have worked for and each time I have had a blast, as have my colleagues. However, the real question is, does the company get enough bang for their buck?

The answer is obviously variable. To get a return the event must be planned to specifically aid the team in some way. For example, rather than just having food and drinks in a stuffy restaurant where someone is definitely going to end up cornered on a table with the bore from legal, why not involve an element of team building and relationship building. If possible, try to avoid sit down meals; people are far more likely to mix if they are standing rather than static at a table.

Treasure hunts or team competitions can be organised cheaply with a little DIY and are great at creating a competitive spirit that helps to bond teams. Charity events can also give the team a good feeling of festive spirit, perhaps the team could help to box gifts for the less fortunate or visit a local hospital as a team to give presents to the sick.

Most importantly, make sure you mix people up; don’t let everyone stay in their cliques. Creating stronger relationships between colleagues and across the business is paramount to a more effective working environment which in turn can increase productivity and therefore the bottom line. A great Christmas Party will keep an excitement alive for the coming months but it shouldn't be a one-off. Continue to get the team involved in the team-building events throughout the year (although perhaps with a little less alcohol involved!)

One important point to remember is that not all Christmas events need to be expensive. This year we had a budget of £25 per head for a team of 40 and with this we managed to spend a successful day in teams on a treasure hunt in St. Pauls (bought from the internet for £29.99) followed by food and drinks in a wonderful bar in Clapham Junction (The Plough – if anyone is interested). You can also find things to do for free or even ask your colleagues to chip in a small amount of money towards part of the evening. As a prize for the winning team, I bought flashing Christmas hats, presented them with a certificate and managed to convince the bar to give us a bottle of prosecco on the house. The prize may sound small but the winning team proudly showed off their hats and certificate.

Quite simply…
As long as the event is engaging, builds relationships and allows people to let off a little steam – most will be happy, engaged and it will have a positive impact. I say most because it is inevitable that you will have at least one person that thinks they could have done better or does not want to be involved. My opinion on this matter is – who cares?? I always follow the 20:60:20 rule. Concentrate on the top 20. The middle 60 will follow because they want to get the same attention as those at the top. The bottom 20 will either eventually see that everyone in the top 80 is having such a great time that they want to be involved or they will leave.

Don’t waste your time on the moaners!

I think that Christmas events are a fantastic way to creatively engage your people, whilst recognising them for their hard work. Many companies have decided that a Christmas Party is just too expensive at the moment when cuts are being made, but they don’t have to be expensive. Employees know that gone are the days of the big, expensive, all-company parties in a posh hotel. Why not get their input on how you can DIY the Christmas Party – I bet they would have some great ideas!!!

What did you do for your Christmas Party this year? Was it any good, how would you have made it better?