I’ve heard a bunch of talk amongst other business leaders trying to decide whether they should go through with their annual holiday party plans. The understandable concern is that doing so may send the wrong message after subjecting staff members to employee and budget cutbacks over the past 12 months.
While I get the issue, I feel fretting over the decision misses the point.
That’s because no one gathering at a company-run event – even an end of year celebratory blow out – will positively impact workplace spirits if staff members don’t feel that management genuinely cares about them the rest of the time. In fact, morale can actually get worse if executives don’t communicate well with employees throughout the year; the party will stand a good chance in this case of being viewed as nothing more than "mandatory fun." So before you call off the karaoke machine and prime rib buffet, I recommend CEOs ask themselves some more fundamental questions:
- How do you regularly communicate employees? Believe it or not, a staff member’s attitude can be greatly affected by three key points: (1) how much they’re kept in the loop on company matters by their superiors; (2) how much they’re involved in company discussions; and (3) how much management recognizes their efforts. That means organizations need to regularly update their team members on the goings on of the company. Doing so only once a year at a holiday party is not only ineffective, but insufficient. That’s why at TV Ears, we hold all-hands meetings and special social events both in and out of the office nearly every quarter.
- How often do you seek feedback from employees? No matter the company or industry, senior management sets the tone and vision, but is by no means the only one who holds great ideas that can benefit an organization. CEOs that involve employees in policy-making decisions and company-wide issues will find them more loyal and dedicated to the mission, because they’ve embraced it as their own.
- How often do you publicly praise employees? Team members will respond as well – if not better – to impromptu displays of appreciation than the raise or bonuses that typically come only with an annual review. The best thing about this is that it costs very little. An "atta boy" or "atta girl" in front of peers is gold to many employees, and senior managers should do it as often as possible. We do that at TV Ears in meetings, mass e-mails and a variety of other ways.
- How often do you arrange morale-building events? Getting the company together every Holiday Season doesn’t do enough to solidify the "family" and "fun" elements of the corporate culture, and such initiatives should be done far more often. This does not mean that they be expensive or elaborate by any means. In fact, some employees may even offer to contribute something at, say a summer gathering, by bringing food, music or other activities. What’s more, the best kind is one that are suggested and set up by team members informally. The bonding benefits can be stellar.
Regardless of your answers to these questions, companies that put that much pressure on a holiday party to be the primary team gathering event of the year will find it fails to lift employee spirits for any considerable length of time if nothing else happens during the other 11 months out of the year. So instead of debating whether to actually throw one this year, I would venture to believe that a company may have bigger issues on their hand.