Emily Bryson York, reporter for the Chicago Tribune, covers the topic of holiday party plans in a recent edition. Front and center is a survey result where 68% of companies plan to have a holiday party which, while up slightly over 2009 and 2010, is significantly down versus the 90% that held holiday parties in 2007 (SOURCE: Challenger, Gray and Christmas Inc. survey of 100 human resource professionals). For small businesses, the decision to host a holiday party may not be as touchy given that the expense is not one that will likely break the bank. However, the question is worth thinking about. What’s your point-of-view?
Clearly, the economy has caused businesses to rethink the expense of holiday parties. As Ms. Bryson York writes, “Just like the millions of American households that have felt the economic pinch, companies have adjusted their holiday plans, opting for simpler, smaller celebrations.” Or, none at all. Are holiday parties a waste of money? Arguably, in some cases, they are not. Consider those industries where client relationships are part of their bread and butter, like PR firms or organizations focused on the hospitality industry. Holiday functions are a natural event to solidify and to drum-up new business.
Small businesses might be wise to consider the following questions: 1) does the party include spouses and partners to reflect its gratitude to all who are impacted by the job, 2) would employees rather have the cost of the party dropped into their paychecks and spend the extra time with their families, and 3) is holding the party consistent with your business’ other approaches to purchasing, eg. is the expense reviewed carefully to control costs? We at HRInsights want to know, is there a right answer? Tell us.
This past weekend I found myself doing a little home maintenance. You know, the little things that no one else does or even think about: The toilet paper holder was empty and needed to be reloaded (toilet paper roll was on the counter), the liquid soap dispenser was almost out of soap and needed to be refilled and the Q-tip container in the bathroom was down to the last cotton swab. I thought to myself, “Am I the only one who notices these things? What would they do without me?” Well one thing is for sure, they would have poor hygiene and these things would be less convenient.
So how does this relate to the business world? It made me think of workplaces where so many employees do simple things everyday and we take it for granted that it will be done. We don’t think it’s a big deal because it’s a convenience and not a necessity. For example, the person who always puts on a fresh pot of coffee, the person who always pushes in the desk chairs of others, the person who picks up the piece of litter on the walkway in front of the office. These little things can make a difference and without them you would be subject to the wrath of the coffee addict, the office will look unkempt and the outside would be dirty and unwelcoming. It is the actions of someone thinking and participating in the greater-good of the workplace community. It is paying attention to details and thinking of the impact to others.
Now, go one step further with me and let’s tie this to business operations. I thought of some of the past teammates that I worked with and the little things they did that made a difference. For instance, I worked with a customer service rep that made it a point to at least touch base with a customer within an hour to let a customer know she was working on their issue. I knew a project manager that always volunteered to take on the unexpected “extra” work to meet the customer expectations for the better of the team (and yes he had family commitments like others). I knew a receptionist that called me regularly to ask if I needed any help because she had capacity to do more and she didn’t even report to me. None of these things were in their job descriptions, it was just thoughtfulness. These are little things that often get overlooked, but should be recognized. When someone cares enough to do these things, you should care enough to say “Thanks!” The heroes are obvious; the employee who gets the big sale, solves a major customer issue, or steps in when there is a crisis. But the person who is an everyday hero as a result of reliably, consistency and thoughtfulness can often be overlooked. I know we would all agree they provide value to workplace and/or to the customer experience.
Recognition can take on many forms including big bonus checks, lavish gifts and luxury vacations. However in tough economic times, some of these may have been cut back or simply don’t make sense. Remember the power of a simple thank you. Appreciation is more than a gift, it is an expression of sincere thanks and the words alone can be enough to motivate and create loyalty. I have been a part of several organizations where employees just wanted the senior leadership team to acknowledge the work they did and that was more important than a recognition gift. Tell employees you appreciate them.
Of course your company can survive without some of these little things that people do, but perhaps it is these little things that make your workplace better than others. Perhaps it is these little things that make your customers’ experience great versus good.
Just take a moment and think about who is filling your company’s Q-tip container without being asked.
Now, go thank them.