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Trends - Changes in Company Holiday Socials Requires New Strategies

publication date: Nov 30, 2010
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Cutbacks continue for company holiday parties

As the holidays approach many companies are cutting back on their holiday party plans.

  BY PAULA BURKES Oklahoman    Comment on this article 0 Published: November 21, 2010
In Christmases past, Oklahoma City Abstract & Title Co. has held holiday parties at the Waterford Marriott or Skirvin Hilton Hotels, but for Christmas present, its 88 employees will celebrate in a happy hour reception at its company headquarters in west Edmond.

Oklahoma City Abstract & Title Co. employees Carey Rucker, left, and Martina Dowell pose among toys workers bought for needy families this holiday. PHOTO BY PAUL HELLSTERN, The Oklahoman

To drink or not to drink?
Most companies don't prohibit drinking alcohol at holiday parties and other work-related events. Only 21 percent of organizations have a formal policy prohibiting alcohol consumption, while 13 percent rely on an informal policy to restrict drinking. Six percent report disciplining an employee in the past 24 months for violating workplace alcohol consumption policies. SOURCE: The Society for Human Resource Management

Last year, they catered in Big Truck Tacos. This year, they're thinking about fried chicken and asking employees to bring sides. The move from an off-site to on-site party saved the company some $13,000 for each of the past two years, Vice President Amber Dixon Patterson said.

"While most of our competitors had layoffs, we chose to cut back on the holiday party, advertising and office supplies to balance the lack of income these past three years," Patterson said.

For Christmases future, such workplace trends may continue, according to survey results released this month by the Society for Human Resource Management.

In a poll of 472 randomly selected human resources professionals from SHRM's membership, 61 percent - the same percentage as last year - said their companies plan to hold holiday parties. But while fewer companies than last year reported not having parties due to financial challenges (12 percent versus 20 percent), more (26 percent versus 19 percent) reported their organization doesn't have a practice of holiday parties, suggesting some companies who eliminated them because of money aren't planning to reinstate them.

Among companies hosting parties, 60 percent will hold them off-site, according to the poll. Thirty-nine percent will hold them on-site and 1 percent elsewhere.

Oklahoma City event planner Bea Penhall said the findings are in sync with local trends. Some companies that hosted Christmas parties and summer picnics are dropping the former for the latter, Penhall said. "Others are moving from nighttime soirees, with heavier meals and a band or disc jockey to employee-only lunches with company-tailored Jeopardy games or other fun, team-building events," she said. Such moves, she said, cut costs from $100 to $200 per person to $35 to $50.

At AT&T, using company funds for a holiday event has been prohibited for long before the recession, spokesman Andy Morgan said. "For instance, the current state president hosts a holiday event for his staff that he pays for out of his own pocket," Morgan said. His predecessor, Morgan said, would contribute the main entree, a ham or roast, to a potluck dinner and employees would bring the rest of the meal.

Employees at Oklahoma City Abstract & Title Co. began ringing in the cheer of the holiday season on Veterans Day when they played three games of Turkey Bingo via e-mail. Accountant Carey Rucker every 30 minutes or so would send a mass message with a number, and the first employee to yell "Bingo" via e-mail, phone or in person was given a Thanksgiving turkey.

To increase their odds of winning, employees can buy extra Bingo cards over the free one they're given, Rucker said, and the funds raised through Bingo and other activities throughout the year help the company buy some $2,000 in toys and clothes for needy families at Christmas.

At Kimray Inc., an oil-field equipment manufacturing company, about 500 workers each are treated to a free whole smoked turkey for Thanksgiving, a spiral-cut smoked ham with fruits and cheeses for Christmas and a holiday party with a meal and music to which they each can bring one guest.

"We feel it's important to continue to keep our holiday traditions alive and thank our employees," CEO David Hill said. "For us at Kimray, it marks the beginning of the holidays, and is a time to get together, relax and enjoy each other."

Kimray this year will spend $70,000 for employee appreciation during the holidays, Hill said, including roughly $26,500 each on the Christmas baskets and holiday dinner, and $17,123 for the Thanksgiving turkeys.

Published on 11/28/2010

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