“To hear stories from kids who are overcoming challenges in their everyday lives and doing an amazing job of turning those into a positive experience really brings the holidays into focus,” says Conover. “I don’t think any of our staff wish we would go out somewhere and just eat a fancy meal, drink and have a good time. With this, we get to enjoy ourselves and so much more.”
There is a rise in the number of businesses that are planning holiday celebrations that blend fun with bonding and frugality with functionality.
“What we are seeing is that holiday events are being reprioritized to be less frills and more authentic to the current company culture,” says Chris Smith, partner at Arryve Consulting, a Seattle-based management consulting firm specializing in strategy. Smith suggests that small businesses are taking into account the kind of year they had in 2011 and planning their holiday party accordingly.
“For those companies who have had layoffs and budget cuts, they still want to celebrate, but it’s been scaled back,” says Smith. “Now instead of a big, formal, sit-down dinner with a band, the team might go out for a more casual dinner or have a cocktail party or social hour instead.”
Or, bypass the holidays altogether and save the celebrating for when your employees really need a boost: like in January.
Christine Drinan, CEO of New York-based Galavante says that by taking her 28-member team to a Russian restaurant for an evening of “caviar, Bellini and bonding” a month later, when restaurants have relaxed requirements for a minimum spend on food and drink, and she can cut her costs by two-thirds.
Maneesh K. Goyal, CEO of MKG, an experiential marketing agency, says that while companies like Galavante reflect the overall trend of small business holiday parties being less over the top, there is also a move toward making them more about creating an experience for the employees.