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How HR Can Make the Most of Your Company Holiday Party

How HR Can Make the Most of Your Company Holiday Party

The company holiday party is one of the best opportunities of the year to build your company culture, and a healthy culture has a direct effect on retention. With that in mind, HR should take holiday fun pretty seriously!

But what, exactly, is HR’s role in the festivities? Here’s how you can take responsibility and make the most of your company holiday party.


What’s HR’s Role in the Company Holiday Party?

You know that, in most small to midsize businesses, HR wears many hats—including a party hat on occasion. Even if party planning is not your responsibility, holiday festivities are still an HR issue because they're so vital to a healthy company culture.

Building company culture requires regular acknowledgement and encouragement of employees’ efforts. And that’s the best reason of all for employers to host a holiday party.

But what about party time? Should HR just kick back, relax, and let loose? Or should HR be vigilant and on guard throughout the night? There’s a third way between those two extremes.

To be clear, HR should not be the party police. You want to have fun, too—and you certainly deserve it! It can be good for employees to get to know HR pros in a more relaxed social setting. Workers can be more understanding of policies and procedures they don’t like when they see the human behind Human Resources. Take this opportunity to enjoy yourself and let others see that.

Still, if there’s an expectation that employees not treat this as a private party with close friends, then there should be some light supervision. After all, someone in leadership will have to—at the very least—assume responsibility when booking the venue. Not that that person should be the de facto party police, but there is already some degree of responsibility to go around. However, it should not all fall on HR’s shoulders the night of.


How to Make the Most of Your Company Holiday Coaching Your Managers

In many small to midsize businesses, HR assumes responsibility for training and coaching management throughout the year. The company holiday party should be another opportunity to exercise that leadership role

A few days before the party, clearly establish at least three expectations for managers:

  • Managers should act as hosts.

The company holiday party allows everyone to get to know one another better. But it could be the case that for some employees—say, new hires or fully remote workers—their manager may be the only person in the company they know at all. That means, at the very least, managers should commit to showing up!

As hosts, managers should make sure they greet their direct reports and introduce themselves to significant others. Like it or not, it’s likely that an employee’s partner knows the manager’s name even if the manager doesn’t know theirs. When they’ve heard so much about the manager already, putting a name with a face can go a long way. It also helps managers better see an employee as a whole person when they can meet a significant other. 

When workers feel seen, they often attribute that to company culture, which in turn contributes to company culture.

  • Managers should help make connections.

Consider this example: a brand new hire shows up at the company holiday party, knowing no one but his hiring manager. But the manager isn’t there and doesn’t let anyone know that someone needs to introduce the new hire to coworkers. That initial awkwardness could leave a lasting impression that undermines a lot of HR’s efforts at building culture.

Similarly, managers are also the most frequent point of contact between teams. This means they often know more people across your organization than employees who mostly just collaborate within their team. The company holiday party is a great opportunity for managers to help their employees make connections, which can give those workers a better sense of purpose and understanding for how each person contributes to the whole. 

This feeling of working toward a common goal is at the very heart of a healthy company culture.

  • Managers should remember they are managers.

All employees—not just managers—should be reminded that, even though the party is a chance to relax and enjoy the company of colleagues, it is still an office event. In other words, they may not have professional responsibilities at the party, but their professional reputation is still at stake. 

It’s good to get out of the office, but they're still going back to it the next day—when the party may still be a topic of conversation.!

This is especially true for managers. Like HR, managers should try to enjoy themselves, but they should not forget themselves. Even without intending to, workers will notice and remember their manager’s behavior at the party, as the two earlier points make clear. 

Getting out of the office does not change the fact that managers still represent company leadership in the eyes of their employees. In turn, managers should keep an eye out for their employees’ behavior as well. This shouldn’t require constant, condescending attention. Remember, they likely hired the members of their team, which means they should be able to trust their judgment. 

However, managers should also be willing to take someone aside—discreetly, of course—if that employee starts to embarrass themselves or the company at the party. It will go much smoother coming from someone who’s established rapport in weekly 1:1 meetings rather than HR. Managing difficult conversations with integrity and grace is yet another hallmark of company culture.

So, this holiday season, practice delegating responsibilities while celebrating the festivities.


Additional Resources

For more on how to better coach your managers and train your employees, check out our HR Leadership blog series and our BernieU continuing education course, “How Employers Can Master Managing Employee Performance.” 

For more on how to build company culture, check out another BernieU course, “How to Establish a Meaningful Workplace Culture.”

You can stay informed, educated, and up-to-date with HR leadership, company culture, and other important topics by using BerniePortal’s comprehensive resources:

  • BerniePortal Blog—a one-stop-shop for HR industry news
  • HR Glossary—featuring the most common HR terms, acronyms, and compliance
  • HR Guides—essential pillars, covering an extensive list of comprehensive HR topics
  • BernieU—free online HR courses, approved for SHRM and HRCI recertification credit
  • HR Party of One—our popular YouTube series and podcast, covering emerging HR trends and enduring HR topics

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