It is that time of year. The end of the year has become the holiday-party season with everyone’s calendar filled with festive gatherings. Some take place during office hours, on company property. Others take place after hours, with much merriment taking place (sometimes too much judging by some of the stories I’ve heard [I miss Hostile Work Environment Podcast.] I personally haven’t been to too many after-hours holiday parties that ended with the possibility of a harassment lawsuit!). In the past, when I’ve looked to make a holiday gathering Inclusive, typically, we just removed any references to Jesus or even Christmas; we call it a “holiday” party, but Santa is likely still present. In our Christian-centric country, we like to think that Santa is secular (and he maybe is) but he is still tied up closely with Christmas. And as I learned earlier this year, some who are not Christian consider anything Christmas-related to be Christian.
We have all seen the stats: a Diverse and Inclusive company is a successful company. [Check out this list of 10 reasons here.] According to Fast company, women in the C-suite lead to 34% higher revenue. And even though only 5% of Fortune 1000 companies have women leading them, those companies outperform the S&P 500 index! A diverse workforce will also help you find new workers as 67% of job seekers are looking for a diverse company. But I don’t think I’m telling you anything you don’t already know. And if you are here, you are likely looking for a way to be more inclusive for the diverse staff you have or are looking to bring in.
But as your workforce gets more diverse, the way you’ve always done things might not work. While there are many different holidays in December (National Today gives us 72 different reasons to celebrate in December – everything from National Llama Day to Festivus!), not everyone celebrates every holiday and some may not want to be included in a religious celebration.
So, in all honesty, my number one recommendation for holiday parties is Just Don’t. Seriously. You can and should celebrate your employees, but you don’t need the December holidays as an excuse. Host your gatherings as a picnic in the summer, recognize your employees throughout the year with smaller celebrations. The Bonusly blog has a great list of ideas you may not have thought of before. I especially like #19 and the reminder that there are holidays throughout the year — not just in December. Spread out the cheer and appreciate your employees all year round, not just in December.
If you must have a celebration in December, start by asking your employees what they want to do. Even if you’ve had a regular Christmas party in the past, you can make the change and ask your employees what they would like. Do a follow up after events to find out what worked and what didn’t. Of course, you will never do anything that satisfies everyone, but by asking for feedback and making changes based on their suggestions will go along way even for those whose suggestions you don’t take. This is the key for inclusion – do your employees feel heard? If your employees feel heard, they will feel included.
You need to decide when you have your party: Will you have it during the day and take time away from your workday or will you have it after hours? If after hours, can staff bring their family? I have great memories of a family Christmas party on a Saturday afternoon where we brought our kids, met Santa and had hot chocolate and cookies. It was an open-house, so employees could come as they were able and came away with a great Santa and family photo. I also enjoy the month-long variety of activities at my current employer — we can choose to participate in activities such as a cookie exchange, Secret Santa or a breakfast potluck. The cost to employees is minimal and optional. Keep the door open for staff to participate as they want – never make your employees feel like they have to participate in any party or spend money to be included.
Inclusion doesn’t take a break at the holidays, but it is a great time to share with your employees and find new ways to recognize and show appreciation to your employees. Hopefully, you’ve got some great takeaways here or visit the Bonusly website for a few more ideas.
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