Spotlight on…summer parties

Some employees relish them; others wouldn’t touch them with a bargepole. But staff summer parties are often a familiar feature on the corporate calendar.

Organising a get-together before staff go away on holiday is an effective way of teambuilding or welcoming new people to the business, says Alastair Scott, sales and marketing director at corporate events company Sodexho Prestige, which hosts annual barbeques for clients such as the BBC and Royal & SunAlliance.

Yet deciding whether to invite partners as well as staff, and finding a tactful way to control any drunken behaviour, can be a thorny issue.

Family affair?

“If staff want a company-only party, make it straight after work and don’t expect them to dress up for it,” Scott says.

“If your employees have been working hard and you want to thank partners and families for their patience, either make it an informal weekend event with a bouncy castle for the kids and a barbeque, or opt for a formal occasion and give people the opportunity to dress up.”

Scott believes that the presence of outsiders at a company event tends to make for a calmer atmosphere, but says that organisations with a predominantly young workforce prefer to socialise without colleagues’ partners looking on.

Martin Symes is HR manager at IT components firm PCT, where a strictly no-partners rule is observed.

He says: “Most of my employees are in their early twenties. The presence of too many husbands and wives would simply put a damper on the occasion.”

If drunken behaviour threatens to ruin an event, Scott advises direct action.

“Unlike Christmas parties, where the alcohol tends to be largely spirit-based, Pimm’s and lemonade or an alcohol fruit cup are the most popular choices for summer, so the strength of drinks is easier to control,” he advises.

“If the behaviour of your staff becomes riotous or aggressive as the evening wears on, water down the alcohol in the punch, serve only soft drinks, or make an excuse to temporarily close the bar,” he adds.

Although the likes of Blenheim Palace, Kew Gardens and Knebworth House – among the top choices for corporate shindigs this summer – have undoubted attractions, the whole notion of an office knees-up can still be a turn-off for some.

Listen to your staff

“Some people simply hate the idea of staff functions and if too many of your employees decide not to turn up, the whole event will fall flat on its face,” says Scott.

“My advice is to listen to what your staff tell you about their preferences for this year’s party and, if possible, survey them after the event.

“There’s nothing worse than organising a lovely day for your staff and then only a handful of them turning up. Ensuring people actually want to attend your ‘do’ should always be a major consideration,” he adds.

Party planning – top tips

  • Avoid fancy dress or a strict dress code.
  • Don’t bore the staff with too many speeches.
  • There’s a fine line between letting your hair down and indecent conduct, which could land you in court.

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