Nearly 4 in 10 firms not having holiday party this year: Survey

Hold party on-site, only invite staff members to keep costs low
||Last Updated: 11/11/2011

Many organizations continue to face tough budget considerations and holiday celebrations may be a casualty at some workplaces this year.

Nearly four in 10 (39 per cent) of firms aren't having a party this year, according to a survey of 650 Canadians by the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA). But of those who typically do have a celebration, one-half (56 per cent) said they would be understanding if they found out that spending for this year's office holiday party was being scaled back or cancelled altogether due to economic concerns.

"Whether this year has been good or bad for your organization, the holidays are a key time for recognizing hard work and thanking employees for a job well done," said Claude Balthazard, vice-president of regulatory affairs and registrar at the HRPA. "But that doesn't necessarily have to come in the form of a lavish party. It's the thought that counts."

Quebecers are most likely to continue the time-honoured office party tradition, with two-thirds of respondents (64 per cent) indicating they are having one this year, compared to a lower likelihood of workplace parties in Ontario (56 per cent), Alberta (50 per cent) and the Atlantic (47 per cent).

But not everyone is quite as understanding if cutbacks are in the forecast. One in five (19 per cent) said they would be disappointed — a holiday party is a tradition and something everyone looks forward to year-round. Those under the age of 24 are the most likely to be let down.

However, the holiday party may not be in jeopardy if an organization has an HR department. According to a Pulse Survey of 862 HR professionals polled by the HRPA and Canadian HR Reporter, only six per cent of respondents said they weren't expecting a party this year. The majority of HR professionals (81 per cent) believe a holiday celebration is important to the morale of an organization and four in 10 (43 per cent) would be disappointed if the party was scaled back or cancelled back due to cost cutting.

"HR plays a significant role in the morale of the organization and a holiday party is one way to strengthen the team dynamics," said Balthazard. "If your organization isn't able to have a party this year, perhaps you could consider planning something that is less costly which would still engage employees. Be clear about the reasons why the company is not holding a party and ask for their feedback and involvement with planning."

The most popular tips from HR professionals for hosting in tough economic times include:

•Shop around for less expensive venues and entertainment. Instead of a sit-down dinner with a live band, consider a cocktail reception with a DJ.

•Get creative with your office space and host your party on company premises. On-site events cut down on travel and rental costs.

•Downsize your guest list by inviting employees only. Staff-only functions are a great way for employees that don't typically work together to meet each other.

Beyond just company morale, eight in 10 (79 per cent) believe that HR plays a significant role in ensuring inclusiveness in the workplace during holidays. Two-thirds (64 per cent) agree that holiday celebrations should be more inclusive; however three in 10 (31 per cent) of workplaces are already acknowledging holidays from different cultures and faiths.

The top tips from HR professionals for how workplaces can be more inclusive as part of holiday celebrations include:

•Decorate the office in a winter theme instead of specific holiday decor.

•Throw a snowflake party — host a holiday party that celebrates the winter season.

•Open a cultural dialogue, inviting employees from different cultures and faiths to discuss how they celebrate the holiday season.

"A holiday party doesn't have to be jingle bells and eggnog. As the Canadian workplace changes in both its cultural and economic make-up and how holidays are celebrated, the festivities can morph to meet all budgets and all cultures," said Balthazard. "HR professionals believe that holiday parties have a place in today's organizations to build company morale, and shape a larger discussion around inclusiveness in the workplace."

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