As an entrepreneur, one of the greatest opportunities for building a sense of camaraderie on a growing team may be the celebrations you plan. But when it comes to planning year-end holiday parties, many leaders are so focused on the venue and activity of the event that they neglect to think about how they want their employees feel during the event. Holiday parties are a great opportunity to reinforce the cultural values of an employee-first philosophy in your organization. So despite whether you're having your holiday celebration this year in a bowling alley or a fancy restaurant, here are some things to consider:
1) Involve the team from the start. It's hard to create an event that will make everyone happy. Some team members may prefer to participate in a casual event like bowling, while others are looking for the opportunity to don their best holiday attire. To ensure that your event is aligned with your organization's culture, and reflects who you are as a group, it's important to involve your team in the development of ideas and the execution of the event. It's perfectly OK if your employees don't all share the same vision of what makes a great event; you may find some negotiations that, so long as they are open conversations, can result in an even better event than you would have originally planned. Considering a gift exchange? Worried that some people won't want to attend? Remember that one size fits one--and make it OK for individuals to participate to whatever extent they are comfortable.
2) Be authentic and transparent about the funding for the event. Did you have a great year this year? Your team should know that--and your holiday celebration will likely reflect it in terms of the level of investment you're able to make. Similarly, in years when revenues are down or costs are up, your team will be more understanding of the make-shift celebration you put together if they know why. Be transparent with your team about the budget for the holiday celebration, and be authentic and generous in how you contribute what you're able.
3) Take a moment for gratitude. The end of the year is a fabulous time to recognize your team and show some appreciation for their contributions, even if you regularly do so throughout the year. Take the opportunity to affirm those feelings and verbally acknowledge your employees' achievements in specific terms. Calling out the gifts, talents, and contributions of team members builds enormous pride and commitment to you as a leader and to the team and company more broadly.
4) If you can, invite plus ones--and don't limit them to spouses or significant others! Invite employees to bring a best friend, a family member, or a colleague from another department--whomever they would most like to share the team experience with to build an even greater sense of pride and belonging. As the leader, take time to get to know those plus-ones. These are the people who support your team members when they're not at work, and they'll take great pride in witnessing how integral their friend or significant other is to the team as a whole. If you expect your team to integrate their work and home lives, including the people who are significant to them outside of work is a great way to further that relationship.
5) Make it safe to let loose. While there is certainly a level of boisterous or drunken behavior that any reasonable person would say crosses a line, you don't want your team to walk on eggshells for fear of being judged at work the following day. Building a culture of trust means that you create an environment where people will feel free to be themselves, in the company of the people they commit to working with each day.
We spend more time at work than in any other venue in our lives. With 8-12 hours being a typical day for most full-time employees, that leaves only another 12-16 hours at home for family, friends, exercise, sleep, and everything else we need to keep us sane. Knowing that your employees give so much of themselves to your organization each year, take the opportunity this holiday season to create a celebration that will let them know how much you appreciate them, their families and friends, and the team environment that you create together. Your pride and appreciation will go a long way towards developing stronger relationships and a sense of belonging on your team, leading to benefits in productivity, morale, and overall, just having some fun at work.