Lance Trebesch, CEO, Eventgroove
While I appreciate my employees every day and make a concerted effort to offer positive feedback whenever I witness good performance, I find that the company party is the best way to help my staff form cohesive bonds and cultivate the attitude that Eventgroove is, in fact, a great place to work.
As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, happy employees create happy customers, who in turn create a business that thrives. That’s why I like to plan two parties a year to reward everyone in the company for making our organization the best that it can possibly be. Our annual holiday party in December is a grand affair, with dedicated party-goers celebrating the season until the early hours of the morning.
Summertime, of course, is the season for another much-appreciated celebration: the company picnic. It’s a great way to encourage folks to let their hair down, help individuals working in different locations to mix and mingle, and to assure everyone that the company is indeed prospering, thanks to their hard work.
If there’s interest among your employees, it’s not too late to start planning your own company picnic. It’s pretty much the simplest type of party you can host. You’ll need:
- Public park
- Nature preserve
- State forest
- The beach
- Veggie burgers
- Portabella mushrooms and grilled vegetables
- Side dishes
- Other desserts
- Plates, cups, cutlery, napkins
- Ice water
- Iced tea
- Sodas (regular and decaffeinated)
- Plenty of ice cold beer (if your employees imbibe)
- Intramural sports
- Field day games
- Nature hike
- Trivia contest
- Water balloons
- First aid kit
- Mosquito repellant
- Wet naps
- Barbecue tools
Plan well in advance. Double check on the venue’s rules about alcohol, campfires, dogs, music, and barbecuing. You may very well require a permit or a reservation to have a picnic in your chosen location, particularly if you expect a large number of people to attend. Speaking of guests, as with any company gathering, an honest examination of your current finances should dictate whether this party is employees-only or if people may bring their families. More people will attend and they will stay longer if they’re accompanied by spouses and children.
Spread the word and remind everyone in the weeks leading up to the picnic. Set up a website site or social network page for the event, where you can post reminders beforehand and pictures and discussions afterwards. Hang flyers around the office, send emails to help people plan for the event, and hang sign-up sheets for those who wish to participate in the sports competition or bring extra dishes to share. You can even send postcards to remind everyone about the big day.
Appoint a knowledgeable person to be in charge of food preparation. The last thing you want at your company picnic is to disable some part of your staff with food poisoning. Make sure all meat is property thawed before it hits the grill, and that the person working the grill is aware of food safety standards. Foods that spoil easily, like potato salad, should be transported in coolers full of ice, served out of the sun, and cleared away before they have a chance to turn.
Make sure you have all the necessary accoutrements, too. Will you bring paper or plastic plates, cups, and utensils? For smaller groups, you can use real dishes and cutlery, provided someone is willing to wash them. Biodegradable and environmentally responsibly silverware and plates are available, and your employees may appreciate your commitment to a green party. Doing as much prep work as possible in advance, in a real kitchen, will improve the experience for everyone.
If you’ll be serving alcoholic beverages, make sure that your guests drink responsibly. You may want to ask a non-drinker to be in charge of helping others make safe decisions. No one should drink to impairment, and no one should drive while intoxicated. Make arrangements for shared rides, taxis, or overnight accommodations if you suspect that libations will flow freely. Remember, a little tipsiness can really spice up the picnic and promote better relations among employees, but it only takes one incident of extreme belligerence, sexual harassment, or reckless driving to permanently spoil the experience for everyone.
Depending on the facilities available at your venue, you may like to set up a game of softball or volleyball. Choosing teams beforehand can create a nice atmosphere of expectation before the picnic. Sack races, scavenger hunts, or even nature walks (with a well-informed guide) can add to the fun. If families are invited, you may want to provide separate activities for children: crafts projects and their own sports events will keep them busy and allow the adults to relax.
You can really plan an entire days’ worth of events. One memorable year, a few of the women from our business office organized our own company Olympics. We divided everyone up into teams and created events that allowed everyone a chance to participate. Since families were in attendance, we tried to think of activities that would be fun for kids and adults: trivia, jumping rope, throwing highlighters at a target, carrying water by the teaspoon to fill a cup to a certain level, and incredibly short sprint races, like a 10 foot dash! Each team was informed of the next event and allowed to choose a member to compete.
One of our IT guys brought a computer and played the Olympic Song for our opening ceremonies, along with the national anthem as we awarded medals. Our medals were old CDs that we didn’t need anymore, affixed with printed labels denoting “gold,” “silver,” and “bronze,” with ribbons tied through them so they could be worn around the neck. Everyone was really pleased with the results. One little boy, about 8 or 9 years old, was thrilled to win the 10-foot dash. He competed against adults, but took the lead with a fast start. No one could catch up with him. Another fun surprise was watching a woman who tended to be very quiet and shy winning the trivia contest. No one knew about her extensive expertise in music and film.
Whatever you plan, if you offer up the events of your picnic in good spirits and with the expectation that everyone should be having fun, you can expect that you’ll create lasting memories and motivate your employees to become even more loyal.
You’ll want to document the festivities with pictures and videos. Light-hearted and consensual group photos early in the picnic can help cement the good memories, as can short videos of amusing events. Use the pictures on your company’s social networks, inter-office newsletters, and to promote next year’s picnic.
When the party’s over, make sure that everyone gets home safely. Clean up the space, being certain to remove all trash and food from the site. If you’ve lit any campfires, they should be completely extinguished before you leave the site. The same goes for charcoal grills, especially if you live in a dry, windy area.
I look forward to my company picnic every year, and I know my employees do too. It’s the perfect way to celebrate the summertime while celebrating the business.