Planning Inclusive Holiday Events

Inclusion in event planning is about making sure you take everyone into consideration. If it sounds like a big job, it is! These tips can support you in creating a wonderfully inclusive team holiday celebration.

Jen Gouldstone
Founder & CEO, Gardenstreets
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Sep 16, 2022
Calendar SVG

Last updated on Sep 16, 2022

Now is the time of year where people leaders start to look ahead to end of year celebrations and employee acknowledgements. As we head into the fall and winter, planning a wonderful holiday event for employees is a top priority for many HR leaders and professionals. It can be daunting to try to plan an event that truly centers inclusivity and offers enjoyment for all the diverse members of your organization, but the culture and event planning experts at Garden Streets have your back! In this article, we highlight three top challenges and our favorite tips to address them when it comes to creating an inclusive team holiday celebration. 

Challenge 1:  How to make sure the event is inclusive?

Having an inclusive event is critical to make everyone feel like they belong, especially at holiday events where the majority of the team are present and expected to participate. Being fully inclusive means considering a variety of factors, from issues of diversity and representation, to access considerations for remote employees. It means that newer employees feel welcomed generously into beloved traditions, and employees who have spent more time with the company see new traditions and ideas for what they are - an opportunity to continue building your culture (rather than feeling alienated). No matter what, all of your employees should feel enthusiastically welcomed!

Inclusion in event planning is about making sure you take everyone into consideration. If it sounds like a big job, it is! As a former HR professional and current event planning expert, here are some concrete tips to get you started planning the inclusive holiday event of your dreams! 

  • Get your ERGs involved.  If your company has established ERGs, invite them to be part of the planning process for the event. In addition to representing different perspectives from across the organization, which will help ensure your decision making process is centered on inclusion, publicly including members of ERGs will demonstrate to employees that the event aligns with the company’s DEI values and efforts. 
  • Check Personal Preferences. Making sure that diverse voices and preferences are accommodated in the planning process is a great way to ensure that every event will feel inclusive and exciting for employees. Some things to check in on might be food allergies, alcohol consumption (not everyone drinks), or religious practices. Going the extra mile to make sure everyone feels comfortable at the event will go along way towards making the event feel inclusive. 
  • Check Accessibility. If your events are planned by a committee, make sure someone on the committee is tasked with relevant accessibility concerns. For instance if your team has lots of remote employees, having someone on the committee who is consistently advocating for making the event remote-friendly will be a huge help.

Challenge 2:  In-person, virtual or Hybrid?

At this point in the pandemic, the majority of companies have instituted some level of optional return-to-work or hybrid schedule.  With holidays around the corner and COVID cases on rise, the hybrid model is likely to remain until at least the end of the year.  This raises a challenge of how to plan an event that will work for a hybrid team, without breaking the bank. Even if you had a budget to plan a separate event for remote and in-person team members, segregating the team sends the wrong message, especially for end-of-year events, which are all about coming together to celebrate your team as a whole! 

Creating a hybrid event that works for your whole team is possible - it just takes a little extra planning:

  • Dedicate resources to in-person and virtual. …. someone in charge of supporting in-person team members, and another person in charge of supporting online employees. This could take the form of a virtual class or hosted event that is broadcast to remote employees in their homes and onsite employees in the office or another communal space, or having someone facilitate an online chat and make sure that virtual employees are able to be spotlighted or pinned and brought into the physical event via conferencing software. 
  • Ship materials. Hands-on events that come with kits are a great option for hybrid events. They ensure that no matter where employees are located, whether together in the office, or at home, they have a shared experience cooking a meal together, or learning a new craft or skill. 
  • Gift vs. Experience.  Kit-based events are also a wonderful option for the holidays because they often result in an additional keepsake for participants. There are a variety of winter or holiday focused arts and crafts classes such as wreath-making, creative gift-wrapping, or gingerbread decorating that are sure to put everyone in the holiday spirit and leave employees with a new skill, a new treasure, or a tasty treat to share with loved ones. 

Challenge 3.  How do you know what your team is interested in?

Planning an interest-based event will help build excitement and encourage participation, and it will also show your team that you care about their interests and preferences. For example, a cocktail party has been a go-to event choice for a long time for holiday celebrations, but it can represent a lot of social pressure on employees, especially if they have been spending time working remotely and don’t know each other well or simply do not drink alcohol Planning an interest-based event like a trivia competition, a cooking or crafting class, or a scavenger hunt gives people something to talk about and connect over, which lessens that social burden and inspires more organic connection. 

Planning an interest-based event is a great way to create memorable experiences for your team and create new traditions for your company. Here are some tips to get you started: 

  1. Send a Survey!  The first step is understanding the interests of your team members. A simple survey can be a big help, whether to gauge interest in a list of potential events that have already been generated, or to collect a list of possible interests that could form the basis of planning your event. 
  2. Narrow Your Focus. Ask employees to select from a list of categories which events suit their personal interests, from food and beverage, to arts and crafts, to games and puzzles. Once you have an idea of what category of experience you’re looking for, planning an interest-based event becomes much easier. As a bonus, when people know that their interests are being taken into consideration during planning, they are more likely to be excited about the event. 
  3. Use Your Shortlist. Once you have this more focused list of ideas for an event, you can bring that back to whoever is making decisions about the party, whether that is a committee of volunteers or someone in leadership. Since the list of options has been crowdsourced from employees, decision makers know that whichever event they pick, the team will be excited and feel that their interests have been taken into account! 

However you use it, a survey is a powerful tool for empowering your employees to become part of the decision making process around events and celebrations. A survey can also serve as an early source of internal marketing for your event, getting employees excited even before the event is fully planned. 

There are as many ways to celebrate a year as there are companies. Following these steps will help to make sure your end-of-year celebrations reflect all the best parts of your company’s unique culture. Start by understanding the interests and needs of your employees and with intentionality and some crowdsourced help, you’ll have a wonderful inclusive event that your whole team can be proud of!

If you have any questions or want some help planning your holiday celebrations, reach out to Garden Streets for a consultation!

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