Battalia Winston Survey Finds Corporate Holiday Parties at All-Time Low

New York, NY – November 17, 2011 … Fewer of the nation’s businesses will hold holiday parties this year than at anytime in nearly a quarter of a century, according to the 23rd annual survey of corporate America’s holiday party plans conducted by Amrop Battalia Winston, a leading global executive search firm.

Only 74 percent of the companies polled will have parties this year, down from 79 percent in 2010, 81 percent in both 2009 and 2008, 85 percent in 2007 and 95 percent in 2006.

Holiday parties were held by 95 percent of companies in 1988, the first year of the survey, and an all-time high of 97 percent was recorded in 1996 and in 1997, all years when the economy was robust.

“From the beginning the study has been a reliable barometer of both prevailing economic conditions and corporate confidence,” said Dale Winston, Amrop Battalia Winston’s chairwoman and CEO.

“The trend is downward and we’re seeing that once a company does away with them, parties rarely get back in the budget. In many cases, the holiday party is the last vestige of company sociability. Some young people entering the job market may never see a corporate holiday party,” said Winston.

2011 Survey Findings:

  • Why no party? Of the 26 percent of companies not holding a holiday party this year, nearly half (44 percent) said it was not in their budget, more than one third (37 percent) said that partying would be inappropriate in this troubled economic environment and 19 percent felt that their employees were simply not that interested in attending corporate parties.
  • Who is partying? Three out of four companies (74 percent) will have holiday parties this year.
  • Why have a party? Slightly over half (53 percent) are doing so to build employee morale, while about a third (32 percent) are holding a party to celebrate 2011 as a good year and 15 percent to show employees and clients that they are optimistic about next year.
  • Who will be invited? Most parties (71 percent) will be for employees only, while 22 percent will be held for both employees and their families and 7 percent will host employees, their families and friends of the firm.
  • The budget While 10 percent of the parties will be more modest than last year’s, 11 percent will be more lavish, and the expenditure for 79 percent will be about the same.
  • When and where? Of the companies holding parties, most (60 percent) will be held in the evening and 40 percent at lunch. Sixty percent of the celebrations will be held in a restaurant, 23 percent at the office, 15 percent at a hotel and two percent at a bar.
  • Drink up — if you can. Drinks will be served at most (76 percent) of the parties, but nearly one-in-four (24 percent) will be alcohol-free. Last year, alcohol was served at 79 percent of the parties. Noting that alcohol was served at 90 percent of the holiday gatherings in 2000, a survey high, Winston said tighter budgets are playing a role in the decision not to serve alcohol.
  • Holiday charity efforts While 39 percent of the companies are donating money or goods (down from 47 percent last year, 66 percent in 2009 and 74 percent in 2008), employees at nine percent of the firms will be doing volunteer work. About half (52 percent) of the companies are not involved in holiday charitable activities.
  • Employee morale While 53 percent of the companies are taking steps to boost employee morale (e.g. flexible work schedules, performance incentives, pay raises, team building/training), 47 percent have no such plans. Last year, more than half (58 percent) of the respondents planned morale boosting actions, almost twice as many as the 30 percent in 2009.

The survey also asked, “How do you expect your company to perform in 2012?” About a third (36 percent) report they are on track to grow and hire, 54 percent anticipate staying the same and 10 percent are planning to consolidate.

In contrast, last year more than half (55 percent) of the companies expected increased growth and hiring in 2011, while 32 percent felt performance would remain about where it was and 13 percent expected to have to pull back.

Why has caution replaced much of last year’s optimism? “There was uncertainty about the speed of the recovery in 2010. That has been replaced by the certainty that the recovery has a long way to go. Now, companies appear to be resigned to the fact that we’ll be facing globally challenging economic times for the foreseeable future,” said Winston.

The 2011 Amrop Battalia Winston nationwide survey was conducted among a cross-section of 120 companies.

About Battalia Winston:

Battalia Winston, the U.S. member firm of the Amrop Group, has been successfully meeting client needs in executive recruitment for over 45 years and is currently ranked as one of the nation’s 12 largest retained executive search firms. Headquartered in New York, the firm also has offices in New Jersey, Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Silicon Valley. It offers a global presence through its membership in Amrop, the largest network of independent search firms in the world, with a search force of over 300 senior consultants, based in 90 offices in 55 countries on five continents.

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