Holiday Parties for Employee Appreciation: 8 Do’s and Don’ts for Employers

holiday parties for employee appreciationHoliday office parties have become important dates in the modern workplace. Social gatherings have the power to:

  • Build bonds between employees in a relaxed environment
  • Encourage teams to get to know each other personally
  • Boost employee morale and overall engagement

Office parties are not only great for employee engagement—they're also occasions where job titles, position-levels, and other hierarchal restrictions are tossed out the window and company culture can thrive.


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While your employee celebrations might look a little different this year, there are a few best practices you should consider. Here's our list of do’s and don’t’s for throwing a work party that brings your office together.


1. Gauge employee interest.


Does your workforce look forward to your employee party, or do they view it as another obligation? If your parties are a success, it will be obvious. There’s energy and excitement before, during, and after the party—and employees will relive fun moments for weeks.


How it looks in action

If you’re worried employees don’t enjoy or appreciate your parties, do some investigating. Ask employees for feedback on how to make your holiday party a success. Send out a pulse survey before or after the party to gather real-time and relevant feedback to learn how to improve.


2. Don't be unorganized.


Communicate the date and theme early, and send reminders frequently leading up to the event. When you are unorganized and the party feels sloppily thrown together, it's disrespectful to your employees and their time. It sends the message that they’re not a priority. You’re trying to boost engagement, not sabotage it.


How it looks in action

Send a save-the-date invitation for your work party 3-6 months in advance through shared calendars or other interoffice communication tools. Include the date, time, and location of the event to give employees plenty of time to prepare. Consider creating a sign-up sheet for events where employees will be bringing items so you don’t end up with 47 different desserts and nothing to drink.


3. Personalize the employee party based on your culture.


Your celebrations should be an extension of your people and your work culture. Ask these questions to understand your organization's (and the event's) personality:

  • Are we more formal or informal?
  • Is this event competitive or team-oriented?
  • Do our events include families or strictly employees?

Plan your event in an authentic way that reflects and incorporates the employee voice.


How it looks in action

Traditional parties are usually light, casual, and fun. They allow employees to kick back, relax, and celebrate a year of hard work. But parties can mean much more. Consider incorporating important milestones and achievements from the year and highlight your organization's mission and values.


4. Don't be too controlling.


It's important for your employees not only feel recognized from your holiday get-togethers, but that you care about how they want to be celebrated. If employees come forward with ideas on what they’d like to incorporate, be open to them. Let employees take the lead and shape the party.

Also, avoid making any part of the event mandatory. When you’re forcing employees to participate in your gift exchange or karaoke contest, it becomes a chore instead of an opportunity to unwind.


How it looks in action

Listen to suggestions or changes your employees would make to improve participation at your party. Use employee feedback as an opportunity to make future gatherings even better.


5. Show employee appreciation.


Many companies use holiday parties as an opportunity to give back to their employees. This might mean holiday gift items, end-of-year bonuses, or fun experiences. If your company gives gifts, take the time to put some thought and effort into it.


How it looks in action

Express appreciation for your employees with something they want and appreciate—and if it ties to your organization or culture, even better.

If gifts aren’t in your budget this year, think about other ways you can show employee appreciation during your party.

  • Set aside some time for shout-outs to employees
  • Announce special or fun recognition
  • Run a slideshow highlighting outstanding employees and their valuable contributions


6. Don't forget employee groups.


Be thoughtful about including all employee groups—including interns, part-time, gig, and remote employees. If you work for a larger organization, you might have team or location-specific celebrations. Either way, make sure everyone within those smaller groups is included.

Another common way people might be left out is when it comes to inviting spouses. If you invite employees to bring their spouses, consider giving those without an equal opportunity to bring a guest—such as a partner, friend, or family member.


How it looks in action

Make a concerted effort to get all your employees in one place for annual staff parties. If many of your employees are remote, consider providing an option to video conference-in to the festivities. Encouraging all employees (and their families) to participate can boost employee morale and company culture.


7. Reflect on and celebrate successes.


A holiday party is a great opportunity to communicate about the progress of your employee engagement efforts. Highlight successful initiatives that have come about due to employee feedback and thank your employees for their willingness to help make your organization stronger.


How it looks in action

Consider including a year-in-review slideshow or an awards ceremony to highlight employee, team, and business successes. If you leverage a public recognition tool, hook your computer up to a projector and put your employee appreciation posts from throughout the year on display.


8. Don't celebrate in silos.


According to research by the Human Capital Institute, 78% of culture-centric organizations said that senior leaders are involved in all aspects of organizational culture development. These aspects include:

  • Designing the culture
  • Communicating the culture
  • Sustaining the culture

Holiday parties are great opportunities to build relationships and break down barriers between teams. Make sure your leaders are an integrated part of your workplace celebrations. They should be involved in the communication, participation, and follow-up of your event (and avoid falling back on their typical workplace social circles).


How it looks in action

You can be purposeful in organizing the social aspect of your event. For example, if you have a formal sit-down dinner, assign seats and distribute leaders among different employee groups, teams, departments, or locations. Plan team and group activities that help build relationships between coworkers who don’t otherwise interact.


Capitalizing on your organization's unique personality and culture will make your parties even more successful at bringing people together and increasing overall engagement. The look and feel of each party may vary, and it’s up to you to determine what works best for your workplace.



Holiday parties aren't the only away to express appreciation for your employees. Show employees how much they mean to you throughout the year with our ebook, 40 Ways to Show Love To Your Employees.

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Published October 18, 2018 | Written By Jocelyn Stange