Office Holiday Parties: An Investment in Employees and Company Culture
Monday, December 19, 2016
Posted by: Alyssa DelPrete, AAOE Communications
The holiday season is here—and with it comes the tradition of hosting office parties. While such parties can provide a fun celebration in the midst of other holiday festivities, they can have a lasting impact on company culture. If planned correctly, these types of celebrations—whether titled Christmas, holiday, or year-end parties—can help employees from different departments get to know one another, show staff how much they are valued and appreciated, and serve as the building block for a strong company culture. How can one event accomplish all of this? And how do you host a party like this while keeping budget in mind?
Two AAOE members recently provided details of their experiences with staff holiday parties -- Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center CEO Lisa Warren, CPC, MSHA/MBA and Ohio Orthopaedic Center CEO Curt Jefford. Both took time to share why and how their practices celebrate the holidays, as well as how this impacts their practices’ overall culture.
Both executives describe the role holiday parties play in bringing the entire practice together and helping staff members from different departments get to know one another.
“With an office with this many people, it’s hard for everyone to get to know each other,” Jefford explains. “So [the party] is a chance for people from the physical therapy department to intermix with people from the front office, et cetera.”
For Warren, this kind of employee interaction is key because it has the potential to build respect among staff from different departments and can spark future conversation. An event with an emphasis on fun and collaboration is essential to encourage this type of relationship building.
Warren’s practice typically closes early on a Friday afternoon for the party and has food and games for employees to enjoy. To ensure that staff members interact, Warren plans and coordinates games with groups composed of employees from different departments.
“They get to know each other and other departments in a fun atmosphere,” she says. “I think it’s been good to build morale and get to know people and put faces with names of folks they email all the time.”
Jefford says his practice takes staff out of the office via bus transportation for their holiday celebration. The venues have varied. “We try to mix it up a little bit, and we’ve taken them to places that are restaurants with the arcades inside of them that are also at a shopping mall, and we give them spending money,” he explains. “And we’ve rented out bowling alleys and done that sort of thing. We’ve done several different things.”
This type of planning has a meaningful impact on employees. “They look forward to it a lot,” Jefford says. “They talk about it pretty much all year long. When new employees come in that’s one thing [current employees] tell them they’re really going to like.”
Warren also views the party as a reflection of the practice’s culture—so much so that they take photos at their event to share on social media. “That shows patients that we care about staff and are a fun place to work,” she explains.
Showing appreciation for staff is key for Jefford, who clarifies that, although physicians and management attend the party, it is focused on staff-level employees. “We want to remind employees that we appreciate them.”
Ultimately, Jefford says the party is truly about providing a fun event for employees and “rewarding employees who have had a years’ worth of good work for the company.”
So how do you throw a fun celebration that doesn’t break the bank?
Warren acknowledges that the cost for year-end celebrations can quickly add up, particularly for large practices. However, she is quick to note that proper planning with cost in mind can still result in a fun party that is still budget-friendly. “I think you can do [a party] cost-effectively. If you have it in your office and you cater lunch you can do that.”
Even a lunch can add big dollar signs to your event. If this price tag is not feasible, she suggests doing an event with snacks rather than a full meal—an option that her practice has utilized with success. “One year we did [the party] at a later hour like one o’clock or two o’clock and we just had dessert—like hot chocolate and dessert and a coffee bar—which is a lot more cost effective than doing a full on lunch.”
In addition to food, planning games for employees to play can keep the cost low. “If you do some fun games like a trivia contest, that’s just a matter of printing out paper and working with staff,” she explains.
While Jefford says he has observed other practices reducing or even eliminating holiday parties as a cost-cutting measure, he pushes back against this line of thinking. Although his practice does spend a significant amount of money for the party, year-end bonuses, and even hams they provide for employees during the holidays, he insists, “It’s a lot of money, but to me it’s an investment in the staff. Our philosophy here is to get the best people that we possible can and then retain them, and this is one of the tools that we use.”
“It’s not simply a Christmas party but a tool to retain quality employees.”