Why your Christmas party isn't keeping your staff engaged.

Why your Christmas party isn’t keeping your people engagedIt is a memory I’ll never forget: After waiting what seemed to be an eternity, the calendar finally read Dec 25 and it was Christmas morning. Before the sun was up, I ran out to our living room and under the tree was a gift I couldn’t possibly have mistaken. As a seven-year-old aspiring NHL’er, I saw a long L-shaped item wrapped carefully, and glowing in the multicoloured lights hanging from the tree. I was going to get the new hockey stick I had dreamed about for months.

I remember taping the stick carefully, ensuring everything was just right. I remember waxing the blade. I remember stick-handling in my basement. And finally, I remember my first time using it on the ice. What a feeling that was!

But as time went on, I taped it less frequently, the wear and tear of the game added scuffs and nicks to the shaft, and like every stick before this one, it became a tool and another possession of mine. By the end of February, in a fight for the puck, it snapped in half and I was in need of something new. This time, though, it wasn’t going to find anything under the Christmas tree as it was tossed weeks ago. My gratitude for the gift was gone, behaviours and habits were back to normal, and I moved on with my day-to-day as I always had.

Now at Perk, some decades later, I’ve had the privilege of meeting with and understanding employee engagement and drivers of productivity across organizations of all sizes and across industry. I’ve realized that while the Christmas party usually appreciated, it doesn’t always last. I say usually because if my sister got the hockey stick I did, she wouldn’t have had use for it. Similarly, if not all employees celebrate Christmas or are interested in a party with the company, then perhaps we aren’t meeting them where they are at.

Instead of just a Christmas party, what we’ve discovered is that we need to constantly and consistently keep our people feeling appreciated for the work they do. While the act of a party or event is well-intended, the bumps, scrapes, and nicks of the battles we face at work tend to wear us down. Unfortunately, much like I felt when my stick broke, employees aren’t always able to feel that sense of respect and appreciation throughout the year.

Instead of focusing on one event in the year, consider taking action a new way. Consider hosting small events, allowing teams to give more regular feedback and be heard. Consider a new forum for ideas to be shared. Consider a way to show people they care through custom rewards and the ability to recognize co-workers or direct reports. If we can change the way we look at rewards and compensation, and keep people engaged year-round, then every time we break our metaphorical hockey stick, there will always be a team or a support system in place when we need it.