As we all know, the global pandemic put the brakes on any kind of company function last Christmas - indeed it brought the majority of personal functions to a screeching halt too. So, new strains of Covid allowing, is this the year that you can get back some sense of normality and again host your annual Christmas or end of year party?
But whether your business prefers to keep it simple with drinks in the local pub, you host departmental or company-wide meals out, or you go all out with a big bash in a hired venue, you may have noticed a pattern forming over the years.
And that is that some employees either look forward to the Christmas party with as much joy as a dentist’s appointment, or just don’t show up at all.
There’s a problem with this for two reasons: one, it’s disheartening when time, effort and money has been spent by the HR Department in order to plan an event that you think everyone will enjoy. And two, and more importantly from a business standpoint, if people are actively complaining about attending it creates a bad atmosphere, while non-attendees are missing out on the opportunity to bond with coworkers.
Your end of year event, no matter how low key, is also a chance for the company to thank employees for their hard work throughout the year, making it an important part of your efforts to create a great company culture.
And, this year in particular, it’s a way of bringing back a little bit of normal to the workplace, and even breaking the ice and helping your people strengthen any working relationships that may have been tested by remote or hybrid working.
So, that brings us to the big question: how do you make sure everyone is looking forward to the annual event and not dreading it - and making their feelings well known in the process?
How to increase employee attendance at your Christmas party
There are any number of reasons an employee isn’t jumping at the chance to attend your carefully planned party: family commitments, the distance from their home to the office, the fact that they’re a remote worker who might be reticent to meet people they don’t really know, long hours or tight deadlines, or even anxiety caused by the lockdowns and the ensuing scaling back of social activities.
The good news is that most of these issues can be tackled by making sure everyone is involved in at least some stage of the party planning.
Here are some ideas you can try to make your people feel like they’re part of the process and the event, and will therefore be more likely to look forward to it, as opposed to being told to turn up for dinner or drinks for some mandatory fun!
Ask people what they want to do for their event
Assuming that everyone is happy with drinks at a bar is a mistake: not everyone drinks alcohol, some may not want to go if they can’t have a drink because they have to drive, and some people may just not like the noise or crowd factors.
Similarly, not everyone will want to go for a sit down dinner due to dietary restrictions, or the fear of getting stuck next to or opposite someone they don’t particularly like for a couple of hours.
Big events can often be a turn-off too - the commitment needed to get dressed up, find a babysitter, go to an unfamiliar venue, and have to spend an evening mingling is not everyone’s cup of tea.
As they say, you can’t please all of the people all of the time, but to increase the chances of getting a good turnout for your party, it is well worth polling your people. Send an email, or create a survey using a tool such as Google Forms, laying out a few options such as dinner, drinks, a party or an activity such as ice skating or even volunteering.
Plan for the best time possible
It is highly unlikely that you’re going to be able to organize an event that suits absolutely everyone when it comes to time and date, particularly if it’s an evening function. Indeed you might even find that you’d have people who would love to come but are unable due to other commitments.
But to make sure as many of your people as possible can make it, also offering a choice of times and dates along with your event options survey is a good idea.
And if you’re planning for an activity that is going to take a good few hours, organize it on company time - not on your employees’ personal time. Also consider letting people finish early on the day of the party if you’re going for dinner or drinks as this will be seen as a bonus by many and may allow people that have a long drive home, or need to be home early for their children to attend.
Read more: 6 Ways to Show Your Employees a Little Love
Elect a party planning committee
This puts the power in the hands of your employees and helps take the planning and execution of company events, not just your Christmas party, to the employee level, rather than the shots being called by the management or an HR Department.
The other good thing about enlisting a party planning committee is that it creates a sense of bonding between the members and allows them to generate excitement for the event at a grassroots level.
Just make sure that your committee members are company-positive, outgoing, enthusiastic, organized and engaged.
Create your own hype!
Make sure that you, or your party planning people, go the extra mile in the run up to your event. Sure, you could send an email round telling everyone the time, date and place but that’s hardly going to spark peoples’ imaginations and create a sense of excitement, is it?
Instead, you need to market your event. If you have an in-house designer or design team, ask them to create a fun, cool, attractive, quirky or (insert your brand ethos here) flyer or invite that will generate some buzz.
If the marketing of your event falls to your or your party planners who have no design experience, there are plenty of free tools available with just a quick Google. It really can be as simple as finding the right background image, typing in your text, downloading your design and printing it out.
Make sure your flyers are highly visible to keep the event forefront in peoples’ minds. Stick them up in communal areas and on notice boards, and leave them on desks on the day.
How to increase employee attendance at your Christmas party: conclusion
You’re probably not going to be able to convince the most ardent haters of company social activities that your end of year bash is going to be the Best. Party. Ever. And some staff will be unable to attend for genuine reasons.
But you can increase the likelihood of the majority of your employees, not just going to your event, but actually having a great time too.
All you need to do is to get people involved and that will help create a feeling of inclusivity and greater engagement, which will create a snowball effect of positive vibes and genuine excitement about your event.