While the economic recovery failed to make great strides in 2011 and, in fact, appeared to stall in the second half of the year, nearly 70 percent of companies still plan to hold holiday parties in the coming weeks, according to an annual survey of human resources executives conducted by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.
The percentage of companies hosting parties is about the same as a year ago, but remains well short of a pre-recession 2007, when about 90 percent of companies surveyed held holiday festivities.
The non-scientific survey of approximately 100 human resources professionals found that the overwhelming majority of companies holding parties (95 percent) are budgeting about the same amount for their events as a year ago.
“The economy is not improving as fast as many had hoped. While some companies are seeing improvements, most are still stuck in first gear and continue to hold off on hiring, equipment upgrades and other big expenditures. Yet, despite the less-than-celebratory business conditions, the majority of companies refuse to abandon the year-end holiday party,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
“For many employers, the holiday party is a way to demonstrate appreciation for employees’ hard work throughout the year. Others see the parties as a relatively low-cost morale builder. For smaller companies, the holiday party is simply an extension of a more family-like relationship that often exists between these employers and their employees,” said Challenger.
“The nice thing about holiday parties is that they do not have to be full-blown extravaganzas to be meaningful to employees. A small company on a tight budget can easily host a potluck lunch, where employees bring in a favorite dish to share with co-workers,” he added.
Only about 30 percent of companies surveyed are holding their parties on company premises. That is down from 53 percent of companies that did so a year ago. Sixty percent of companies are limiting attendance to employees only, perhaps excluding spouses or significant others in an attempt to save on cost. More than half (55 percent) are holding the party during the workday or near the end of the day.
“The most surprising finding of the survey was that about half of the respondents said their companies would be serving alcohol at their holiday parties. In addition to the added cost, serving alcohol adds a level of risk that most companies should strive to avoid. However, despite the increased cost and risk of including alcohol, many companies still embrace it as part of the festive atmosphere,” noted Challenger.
“For workers whose companies are holding parties this year, particularly those where alcohol is available, it is important to remember that there is a fine line between having fun and having too much fun. The economic recovery is still very fragile, so it is not the time to draw attention to oneself with embarrassing conduct at the holiday party,” said Challenger.
“However, employees should not simply stand in the corner in an effort to stay off the radar. It is equally important to remember that these events also offer great opportunities, such as socializing with senior executives who you do not interact with on a daily basis. Make an effort to break away from your comfort zone and introduce yourself to those who might help your career,” he advised.
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GUIDELINES FOR OFFICE HOLIDAY PARTYGOERS
Arrive early: This might be your best opportunity to talk with senior executives while things are still relatively quiet.
Work the room: It is easy to simply socialize with the members of your department, with whom you work with day in and day out. However, you gain if you use this occasion to meet people in other departments. You never know who can help your career.
Do not over indulge: Free alcohol can quickly lead to excessive drinking. Stay in control. You do not want to do anything embarrassing to you or your employer. Even if your alcohol-induced actions do not get you fired, they could hurt your chances for advancement.
Be friendly, but not too friendly: The company party is not the place to try out your latest pick-up lines. The risk of such behavior being seen as sexual harassment is high.
Avoid talking business: This is not the time to approach your boss with a new business idea. Save that for Monday morning. Instead, find out about his or her interests outside of the office. Find a connection on a personal level. That connection will help you on Monday when you bring up the new idea and it could help when it comes time for salary reviews.
Attend other companies’ parties: 54 percent of company parties are employees only. If a friend invites you to his or her company party, you should go. It is an opportunity to expand your professional network, which is critical in this era of downsizing and job switching.
2011 HOLIDAY OFFICE PARTY SURVEY
1. Will your company hold a holiday party this year?
|No, we never have holiday parties||
|No, we had a party last year, but not this year due to the economy||
|Not this year for other reasons||
2. Is your company budgeting more or less for a holiday party this year?
(Percentages are among those having parties.)
3. If you are having a party, can you share some of the following information, checking all those that apply? (Multiple answers allowed)
|Inviting employees only||
|Holding party during workday or end of workday||
|Using caterer, event planner, outside services||
|Holding party in evening or weekend||
|Inviting family/spouse/partner to attend||
|Holding the party on company premises||
Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.©