Ian Hodson: Are Christmas parties worth the spend?

Employers need to understand what their staff want.

In whatever format it takes, being able to say thank-you to their workforce is really important for employers.

The cost of a celebration event is often easier to justify than the significant cost through the payroll in the form of remuneration.

But I think there are a few fundamental questions employers have to ask themselves in determining whether the Christmas party is the appropriate form of recognition.

First, they could ask their workforce how they want to be recognised. Often, when asked this question, it means more to employees to see a donation being made to charity on their behalf, or perhaps to see some improvement to their workspace.

Opinions will inevitably differ on how recognition is perceived and expected in light of the widening social generations in the workforce. 

The second important question concerns the exclusivity of the Christmas party and whether it really can be all-encompassing.

With workforces becoming more globalised and agility through activities such as home working becoming the norm, it is not always possible for employers to ensure they do not exclude groups of their workforce through such an activity. This could inadvertently result in a demotivated workforce. 

Employers should think of more neutral and flexible ways of thanking their workers. For example, we use an all-staff award site and allow employees credit to spend on a variety of options that, hopefully, cater for everybody.

Organisations sometimes forget that that the best gift to give an employee is something they truly value, such as the ability to treat their family to a cinema outing or a meal with friends. 

So, although the Christmas party may be a worthwhile investment, employers should do their research first to make sure the rewards they plan to give staff will be received as intended.

Ian Hodson is reward and benefits manager at the University of Lincoln]