With the holidays right around the corner, there are a few things Human Resources should keep in mind to build company morale, ensure employee safety and limit company liability, all while embracing the season of giving and celebrations.
Hosting Successful Holiday Parties
While the company party is intended to give employees a chance to celebrate hard work with co-workers, hosting is not without its risks. Not only is there the chance of accidents and injury due to alcohol use, but there is an increase in harassment cases arising from incidents which occur at holiday parties.
Serving alcohol greatly increases these risks and companies should weigh the benefits of hosting an alcohol-free party to mitigate the chance of something going wrong. Going alcohol-free, however, may not be right for all companies, so planning ahead and setting expectations with employees will be important.
Below are a few party tips to keep in mind as you plan your celebration:
Limit consumption and serve food.
Utilizing drink tickets or limiting the time an open bar is available will help decrease consumption. Also, while signature drinks and punches have become popular, try staying away from these as they often mask the taste of alcohol and people tend to drink more. When determining the timing of the party, plan on closing the bar an hour or two before the end of the party, but keep the food available well beyond.
Have the party off-site.
If the party takes place at a hotel or restaurant, the bartenders have likely been trained in safe serving and you’re also less likely to be held responsible in the event something goes wrong. Professional bartenders are also more likely to be able to eliminate underage drinking if you have employees under the age of 21.
Establish an alcohol policy.
Institute a company policy to let your employees know that excessive drinking at company functions will not be tolerated. Also, remind employees about the dangers of drinking and driving.
Make car service vouchers available or offer transportation reimbursement to encourage employees not to drink and drive.
Preventing Sexual Harassment and Discrimination throughout the Holiday Parties
In the environment of a holiday party, people are more relaxed. Add in a little alcohol, and claims of sexual harassment and discrimination may increase. There are steps employers can take to minimize this increased risk, beyond limiting the amount of alcohol consumed:
- Remind employees of your company’s sexual harassment and discrimination policies. Employers are encouraged to distribute their policy annually, so think about distributing in December, before the party. In doing so, remind employees that these policies also apply to events after hours and off-site.
- Establish procedures in advance about how to handle any poor behavior. Designate party managers who can keep an eye on things and know when to step in. This can help stop a situation from getting out of control.
In the event that an employee raises a claim of harassment, be sure to take the necessary steps to investigate and take appropriate action quickly.
Create Opportunities to Give Back:
For many employees, the holidays are also a time for giving. They are eager to help, but don’t know where to start, and welcome the opportunity to give back through their employer. Companies that encourage giving, also tend to have higher morale. A recent article in Fortune found that employees “believe [that] organizations [which] give back to the community are a striking 13 times more likely to look forward to coming to work, compared to employees who do not perceive their employers to be generous toward the community.” As you think about how your organization can give back this holiday season and beyond, think about your location, your workforce and how you can make the most impact. A little giving can go a long way and it’s a win-win all around!
Below are a few ideas to get you started:
Food or Clothing Drive
Many organizations are always looking for food or clothing donations – contact your local Red Cross or shelter to see how you can help out. Set up a box and a time for employees to bring in donations. Have fun with it, have departments decorate their box or hold a contest on who can fill their box the fastest.
Who doesn’t love buying and giving toys? A toy drive can collect generic gifts to be given to any child or you can hook up with a local organization so that you can personalize the gifts. Many local organizations will give you a wish list and ages of the children so that you can buy specific toys that you know the children will love. While many toy drives take place during the holidays, organizations look for donations year round. Be mindful; most organizations can only accept toys that are unused and unwrapped in their original packaging.
Community Service Afternoon
Plan to close the office for an afternoon and, as a group, volunteer to paint a local shelter, serve at a soup kitchen, or bring cheer to a nursing home or hospital. You’ll find that many employees will cherish the opportunity to get involved and volunteering together is a great way to build camaraderie among your workforce.
If you are unable to volunteer as a group outside of the office, try bringing the opportunities directly to your team. Contact a local school, boys/girls club, or afterschool program and invite a group of children into the office. The children would love to learn about the business and get a tour of the office; or host a reading hour where employees read to small groups or individuals.
Many organizations donate a certain percentage of their profits to charity. This will not only make employees feel good about working for you, but customers will also be happy about using your services or buying your products. Another way to donate is to implement a corporate gift matching program when employees give to qualified charities. This allows employees to make a greater impact with their money. Lastly, you can set up a charitable gift fund which allows employees to use pre-tax money for donations.
Set the Precedent of Respect and Mindfulness:
By acknowledging, or not acknowledging certain holidays, employers can inadvertently disrespect or upset employees. Morale can be negatively impacted and your efforts can backfire. As you plan celebrations, be respectful of employees’ diverse observances and respect and embrace these differences.
- Try not to use the word “Christmas” or other specific holidays when labeling events or celebrations.
- Decorate in a way that is all-inclusive, rather than a Christmas tree, use snowflakes or design a winter theme.
Ultimately, December is a time of fun and celebration. While encouraging your employees to join in the celebrations, participation in all events should be optional. Employees hate to feel like they “have to” do something, including attend a party or donate to a charity. Plan events that employees want to go to or participate in.
Keep in mind that for many, the holidays can also be a hectic and busy time of year. Think about pushing your celebration off to a quieter time when employees will welcome the celebration. In the end, have fun, but be respectful and safe.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!