Tis the season for the company holiday party. These parties bring out all kinds of emotions. Excitement, annoyance, indifference, dread…. In the midst of the emotions and slurry of opinions you have opportunities to make this night amazing. We’ve seen tons of these shindigs in action on both the production and attendee side. Companies do a lot of things right and a lot of things wrong. In this post we are going to share some things you might be doing wrong and why they matter. Grab your jingle bells and bundle up. Here we go!

1. Your party has no strategic purpose

This is a fancy way of saying you don’t have a good reason for having a party. If we were to ask you why you have this party every year, what would your answer be? The following answers are just a sample of the wrong response: 1.) We do it every year/we’ve always done it this way  2.) Our employees expect it. 3.) It seems like something you should do for the holidays

These events can cost a significant amount of money and it is money that is wasted if you don’t have a strategic goal to direct your actions and decision. A strategic goal can be something as simple as “we like to have a holiday party to show our employees how much we appreciate them.” In fact, that’s the one we are running with for the purposes of this post. If giving your employees the warm fuzzies is the reason for your event, then every decision you make should come back to your purpose. Is this event going to be something that my employees will enjoy? This brings us to our next mistake…

2. You have no idea what your employees want

For instance, do you know what percentage of your employees would like to have a Saturday night party vs how many would prefer to keep their weekend time sacred? How many of your employees would prefer a casual event vs a dressy sit down dinner? Do people want something family friendly? Would they rather have a summer picnic and skip adding another event to their holiday rush? The answers may surprise you.

We do realize there is no way to keep everyone happy. If you reach out to your employees and find that there isn’t a clear winner among preferences, who says you can’t change things up? Host a Saturday night black tie dinner every other year. During the years between you might stage a Thursday night live music street fair with food trucks in an open setting. It’s called active compromise. It models a good company culture and it shows you value the wishes and opinions of your employees.

3. You make your employees plan their own party

Chances are you have some kind of client appreciation event. It could be something small like a sales dinner, maybe you give your best clients tickets to special events, or you have a big blow out party or trip. Your clients are important because they keep your business going. You want to show them how much they mean to you.  You want to cater to their needs and make them feel appreciated.

Would you ever ask your clients to form a committee and plan their own client appreciation event? Would you remind your clients that you have a budget for their event, and if they can cut corners and come in under budget, you would really appreciate it?  Of course you wouldn’t. Because you want your clients to enjoy the event. You want to treat them and show them they are valued. Do you know who else is important because they keep your business going? Your employees.

4. You make your employees work at their own holiday party

Certain companies might have a specific “director of corporate events” or similarly titled person who is the planner extraordinaire for everything, including the holiday gathering. Even in this instance, you should provide outside support for this planner on the day of the event. If your strategic goal is to show your employees appreciation, here is an employee that deserves to enjoy the months of hard work they have put into this night. It’s like asking a bride or groom to work their own wedding. It happens, but it would be a much more enjoyable event for them if it didn’t.

To be sure, the biggest and most unjust instance of employees working a holiday party, is the tendency for companies to take their admin staff or a marketing team for granted and put them to work at registration so they can save money on hiring hourly temp staff. In lots of offices admin staff are the hardest working and least appreciated people. They literally keep day to day operations running smoothly and give your company a voice and a face hundreds of times a day. They deserve to have a night off. They deserve to show up when the party starts with their date, not an hour beforehand to set up name tags. Just run back up to #3 and imagine asking your clients to volunteer to work registration at their appreciation dinner because it would save you from having to hire a few hourly staffers. If your goal is showing appreciation to your employees, making them work (often unpaid) doesn’t tie in with that goal.

5. You aren’t having fun

Not everything in life has to be fun. If “fun” was our only criteria for getting things done 75% of our necessary daily activities would not be happening. There’s a reason why the adulting hashtag exists. BUT life is what you make it, right? Isn’t that what all of those super happy people say? If you approach this opportunity to appreciate your employees with the right attitude, planning your holiday party is no longer a burden. You are basically the biggest Secret Santa EVER and you get to create this amazing gift for your employees. And when your employees are happy, your company culture improves. When your company culture improves, your employees are more productive. When your employees are more productive, your company wins.

When done the right way, a strategic investment in showing your employees that they are valued and appreciated (aka a holiday party) comes back around to benefit everyone, even your bottom line.