Holiday parties can be a great way to show a hardworking staff your appreciation and have some fun after a year of hard work.

They also can have a negative effect, including injury and lawsuits if not planned properly. Here are some tips and advice to make company parties memorable for the right reasons.

If planning a holiday party, company owners and managers should carefully consider and have purposeful plans for the following:

The biggest liability worry for many business owners is serving alcohol to a partygoer who then causes injury. Verifying liquor liability is covered by your insurer is something you should have in writing.

Having the party at a neutral location will increase up-front costs but could save money and aggravation because:
• Liability falls under the site’s insurance. This not only means liquor liability but also worker compensation, slip-and-fall injuries, etc. This is also true for a caterer or professional bartender who comes to your site. Consider getting documentation of insurance.
• Professionals are best to handle hot food and alcohol. Employees who spill hot food on themselves or someone else during the party or are injured in a fall could file a worker compensation claim.

Do something besides eat and drink. Some companies have events instead of parties, such as a visit to a local aquarium or a sporting event with a catered meal or generous allowances for on-site food purchases. This has the added bonus of including family, which many employees appreciate. If you have traditional parties and find they are not as well attended as in the past, perhaps employees want something different.

Like the other things that you plan for your business, employee parties should have a purpose. The company leaders should make a welcome statement and state the purpose of the event. This is also a great time to spread kudos, whether verbally or in the form of gifts. Be certain, however, that everyone is mentioned. While sales may be your number one business barometer, don’t over praise sales staff while overlooking support staff and others. Likewise, don’t have a “head table.” The purpose of the party is to make everyone feel appreciated. Also, if you have hired new employees in the past year, this is a good time to tell them how pleased the company is to have them, and it is a good time to recognize spouses and families.

While retailers debate the use of “Christmas” in slogans and decorations, you as a business owner need to be aware of non-Christians on your staff. Plan a party that makes everyone feel welcome. In your welcome statement, mention all end-of-the-year holidays celebrated by your staff whether they are of ethnic or religious origin. Likewise, avoid cracking jokes about employees or putting others on the spot with stories from the past year. Unless you are absolutely sure no one will be offended by what will be said, don’t say it.

Finally, have a party, if it is your tradition, even if you have had a bad year. Nearly all businesses go in cycles, and keeping valuable employees around for the up times is important. They need to be encouraged and thanked even if sales aren’t great. One of the best ways to push good employees out the door is to take away the small things that they appreciate.

Be as generous as your budget allows. Employees have worked hard for you all year and they are looking for a show of appreciation.

Email me at TTanker@fvmg.com


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