Mix and a-Mingle: Executive Search Firm Battalia Winston’s Annual Survey Finds Corporate Holiday Parties Are on the Rise

Companies are getting into the festive spirit this year as the trend of having corporate holiday parties continues to grow, according to the 28th annual survey of corporate America’s firms conducted by leading global executive search firm Battalia Winston.

This year, 89 percent of the companies polled will have holiday parties – a continual uptick from 85 percent in 2015 and 78 percent in 2014. The survey has historically served as a means of gauging corporate confidence in the economy. The increase in the number of parties planned generally reflects that people are feeling positive about the economy.

Holiday parties were held by 95 percent of companies in 1988, the first year of the survey, and hit an all-time high of 97 percent 1996 and in 1997 – all years when the economy was robust. The parties then hit a record low of 81 percent in 2008, and as the nation continued to react to the “Great Recession,” holiday parties spiraled to a new record low of 74 percent just five years ago.

percentage-total-2006-2016

This year’s results show a much merrier turn of events, as the survey reveals even more positive data from the companies.

“Despite the uncertainty of the election, we are seeing that companies are showing continual growth and that they are wanting to celebrate that growth with their employees,” said Dale Winston, Battalia Winston’s Chairwoman and CEO.

2016 Survey Findings:

  • Seeing green in 2017: As companies make plans for next year, more than half (64 percent) of respondents say they’re on track to “grow and hire” next year – up from 52 percent in 2015. Less than a quarter (20 percent) expect their growth to stay the same.

  • What’s the reason for the party this season? 50 percent of the respondents said that the purpose of the party was to boost employee morale – up from 47 percent last year. Another 30 percent said it was to celebrate a successful 2016.

  • Why no celebration? Half of the respondents who reported that their companies are not having a holiday party this year say they have never had such a celebration. Only 27 percent of those not having parties say a holiday party just didn’t make it into the budget this year.

  • party-sizeAbout that Budget… An astounding 93 percent of respondents said that regardless of company revenue, their company’s holiday party would be the same as – or even better than – the previous year’s. That trend is holding strong: it was also at 92 percent last year and just one point lower in 2014. What might be most telling about the employers is that this 93 percent includes the 18 percent of respondents who said their company either had no growth or had some type of consolidation and yet they still planned to have a holiday party at least as good as last year’s.

  • Who’s invited? Employees, of course! However, this year 30 percent of respondents say spouses, partners, dates, or other family members will be passing the eggnog.

  • Deck the Break Room: Most respondents say their parties will be held in the evening (35 percent) and at a restaurant (40 percent), but a sizeable portion (30 percent) of this year’s parties will be held at the office. Of the 18 percent having multiple parties, the majority are doing so because the company is too large for a single party or because of a dispersed workforce.

  • Bring on the Booze! Drinks will still be served at most (65 percent) of this year’s parties, but that’s the lowest percentage ever recorded. Thirty-five percent of party-goers will have to bring their own cheer this year.

  • What election? It seems this year’s presidential election has already been forgotten – at least when it comes to celebrating the holidays. Ninety-eight percent of respondents said that campaigning and elections had absolutely no effect on their party-planning process or budget. In fact, the majority respondents said the uncertainty surrounding the elections had no effect on their company’s future whatsoever.

  • charitable-giving‘Tis the season to give back (but just a little bit): 2016 marks one of the lowest for companies officially giving back to charity during the holiday season since 2010, when the recession caused charitable giving to drop to 47 percent. This year, 67 percent of the companies surveyed will be volunteering or collecting donations this year, up slightly from 66 percent last year, but down sharply from 75 percent in 2014. Also on a downward spike is the number of employers giving their employees a holiday gift. This year only 32 percent of respondents said their companies planned on giving out holiday gifts to their staff this year, down sharply from 45 percent just last year.

So, are corporate holiday parties here to stay?

“It is absolutely looking like the holiday party is here for good,” said Winston. “Employers enjoy giving their employees something to look forward to every year and a holiday party can do that every time.”

The 2016 Battalia Winston nationwide survey was conducted among a cross-section of 200 companies.

Click on the images below for full-size, downloadable graphs.

About Battalia Winston:

Battalia Winston has been successfully meeting client needs in executive recruitment for 53 years and is currently ranked as one of the nation’s 20 largest retained executive search firms, as well as one of the world’s largest woman-owned search firms. Headquartered in New York City, the firm also has offices in New Jersey, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Battalia Winston is an agile and uniquely flexible firm and their culture is focused on providing highly personalized, responsive client service.


Family-Owned Businesses and Long Term Incentive Programs (LTIPs)

by Bruce H. Walton, Partner at Battalia Winston

When a family-owned business needs to recruit a non-family CEO or COO, a well-structured Long Term Incentive Program (LTIP) is essential in attracting an outstanding candidate. However, LTIPs can make some family business owners uncomfortable. Few families want to give up true ownership, even when they realize that an agreement is important for the health of the business. Naturally, the non-family CEO will want to share in the value they create through an incentive program that enables them to feel, act and think like an owner.

Fortunately, there are ways to structure an LTIP that preserve ownership and make the program a win-win situation for both owners and newly hired executives. The dominant LTIP vehicle among private firms is a cash-based performance incentive which contributes the earned award to a deferred pay account with vesting conditions.

Here are a few guidelines that we have found useful in recruiting.

Work with Experts

Creating an LTIP is not something that should be handled in-house. It takes a professional compensation consultant to translate the family’s value system and objectives into an appropriate LTIP architecture, and then to fit the program to the requirements of the finalist candidate. There is always a bit of negotiating that goes on, first within the board and family, then with the finalist candidate. The process usually requires several steps/iterations over a couple of months and needs to be memorialized by a lawyer. The whole process might cost $12-15,000.

Because the process can take some time, we strongly encourage clients to start developing the LTIP at the beginning of the CEO or COO search. It is too late to start the process once the final candidate has been identified. If there is an LTIP already in place, it may need to be refreshed to match the current marketplace. Again, this process should be started early, since even minor modifications can take a couple of months.

Start with the Premise that the Program Should Pay Out Only When Value is Created

The architecture of the LTIP should be based on sharing in the value that the CEO helps create. Frequently, the way to measure that value is EBIT or EBITDA, starting with a reference value before the new CEO joins, and allocating a percentage of the value created to a pool that is shared by the top three to five members of the management team. This incents the CEO and provides some tools to attract and retain top talent.

In some programs, a third party assesses the company’s value each year, providing an independent view of the payout, but this method has a yearly expense attached to it. One recent client simply assigned a percentage of the EBITDA growth over time to a pool.

Keep it Simple

Some of my clients have tried to incent behavior with overly complex metrics, to the point that one candidate likened the proposed LTIP to the tax code. He asked, “What are you really trying to get me to do?” The company did not have a good answer. Also, it was very hard for the candidate to assess what was achievable before he moved under the tent with access to all the needed information. Ultimately, the company decided to simply base the incentive on company value growth based on their formal company annual valuation program.

LTIP payouts should be made in a reasonable timeframe, balancing the needs of the candidate with the need to protect the company from a large cash flow demand. Remember, if the CEO makes a lot of money, the family has made even more!

Of course, the value of the LTIP should be subject to a vesting schedule of a reasonable timeframe, perhaps three to five years. I had one client that wanted the monies held within the company until the CEO turned 65. That was unacceptable to the 43-year-old finalist candidate. He proved he was the right candidate by saying, “I want to be able to take some of my (earned) money out on a regular vesting schedule, invest it and then lose it, just like everyone else.” He turned the company profitable within nine months and doubled the value of their minority ESOP within three years.

While a recruiter can provide a sense of whether a program is comparable with others in the market, it takes a compensation consultant who deals with private companies to “turn the dials” and match a program to a specific situation. Recruiters familiar with family-owned businesses are accustomed to collaborating in this way and working with various other consultancies supporting the family-owned business community.


Fred Lamster featured in Chief Executive Magazine

Fred Lamster recently contributed an article entitle, “Why CHROs Should Get a Seat at the Board Table” to Chief Executive Magazine.

Why do HR leaders boast about “earning a seat at the board table” when any other function head on the leadership team—CFO, COO, CMO, CIO, CDO—just comes in and sits down?

CHROs and emerging HR executives must be included along with that of their C-level counterparts to make others see them as equal. First, by adopting HR best practices and then by proactively asserting expertise in business-critical processes, your CHRO will be welcomed at the leadership table. Here are 3 strategies you can direct your CHRO to follow to help make that happen.

Best Practice 1: Understand the key elements of the overall business. C-level executives (often with the exception of HR) are generally fully informed and aware of the financial health of the company, potential areas for growth and experimentation, competition and overall industry challenges. Most CXOs possess extensive knowledge of the products or services the company offers. A successful CHRO will be both knowledgeable and conversant in all of these same areas. He or she should know the key elements of each of the other executives’ areas, know what they mean and how they are measured and, most importantly, understand how human capital challenges impact each of these areas and be able to discuss these challenges and potential solutions from a functional and business perspective.

Continue reading on ChiefExec.


Battalia Winston Places CIO for The Andersons, Inc.

We are pleased to announce that Anthony Lombardi joined The Andersons, Inc. on September 6, 2016 as Chief Information Officer. Terry Gallagher completed the search. The successful candidate was identified in 14 days, and the search was completed in 96 days.

The Andersons is a $4.5 billion diversified company rooted in agriculture conducting business across North America in the grain, ethanol, plant nutrient and rail sectors.

Mr. Lombardi most recently was Vice President, Global Business Services and Chief Information Officer at Armstrong World Industries, a global leader in the design and manufacture of floors and ceilings with net sales of $2.5 billion, operating 32 plants in nine countries and 7,600 employees worldwide. As Vice President, Global Business Services and Chief Information Officer, Mr. Lombardi led a multi-sourced global Information Technology and Finance organization of 400 staff located in the U.S., Europe, China, India, and Australia and a $67 million budget.

Prior to advancing to becoming CIO of Armstrong World Industries in 2010, Mr. Lombardi served as Director of Enterprise Applications for four years and Director of Global IT Infrastructure for six years. Before being recruited to join Armstrong World Industries, Mr. Lombardi advanced into IT management positions of increasing responsibilities for 17 years.

Mr. Lombardi earned his MS, Computer Science from Villanova University and his undergraduate degree in Computer Science from Moravian College. He has been quoted in CIO magazine and The Wall Street Journal and been an annual speaker at Society for Information Management’s IT Leadership Development Forum and a member of SIM’s Advanced Practices Council.

 


Battalia Winston Wins SmartCEO’s Corporate Culture Award

We’re thrilled to announce that Battalia Winston is one of just 50 companies in the greater New York area that has won the SmartCEO Corporate Culture Award for 2016. The award celebrates organizations that have successfully championed positive, productive, and performance-driven cultures.

As a firm that was founded more than 50 years ago, our culture is part of our ongoing legacy. We are focused on providing highly personalized, responsive client service and our internal culture supports that mission.

At Battalia Winston, we champion:

Collaboration

We prioritize cooperation over competition and our internal collaborative spirit is apparent in our client relationships. We develop an understanding of our clients culture and values and serve as an extension of their brands, which allows us to identify the best candidates and produce outstanding results.

Intellectual Curiosity

Providing exceptional service to our clients requires a clear understanding of the emerging trends and evolving challenges in their markets. Our consultants are committed to continuously strengthening their skillsets; we share our learnings with one another to help our entire firm maintain its reputation for insightfulness.

Accountability

We take our work seriously—and personally. We’re dedicated to getting the job done. Our clients know us as reliable, respectful, and—above all else—results-oriented. We value accountability both internally and externally: to our clients, our peers, and our candidates.

Battalia Winston’s Chairwoman and CEO, Dale Winston, will be accepting the award at a ceremony in November. The winners were chosen by an independent committee of local business leaders and will be profiled in the November/December issue of SmartCEO magazine.


Fred Lamster featured in Total Retail Magazine

Fred Lamster recently contributed an article entitle, “The Changing Role of the Merchant” to Total Retail.

Merchants were once the only critical players in the retail industry. Their ability to drive the business by understanding the customer and predicting customer behavior made them invaluable to their organizations. However, now that “omnichannel” retailing is the new reality, the merchant’s role is rapidly changing. A merchant must now also be able to absorb enhanced analytics and work even more closely with design and marketing applications to understand and adapt to trends that satisfy quickly changing customer tastes.

Executives and HR leaders at retail companies are now asking themselves, “What does it mean to be a strong merchant, and how we can ensure that we retain and develop top merchants into future leaders?” Until recently, most retail CEOs or CHROs thought that augmenting a merchant’s skill set with leadership training was sufficient. Through informal programs — e.g., internal mentoring, coaching, etc. — they helped their merchants develop the capabilities necessary to lead a team of people.

However, in a rapidly transforming retail market, simply leading a team is no longer enough. Now, a merchant must embody a number of additional mission-critical competencies.

Continue reading on Total Retail.


Susan Medina Places Gloria Lara as CEO of the Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Battalia Winston is pleased to announce the placement of Gloria Lara as Chief Executive Officer of the Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (MHCC). Susan Medina, Partner in Battalia Winston’s Diversity and Inclusion Practice, completed the search.

Gloria Lara is the former CEO of the Girl Scout Council, where she served as the chief spokesperson for the organization and drove funding development efforts. Lara has extensive experience in finance, marketing, sales and project management and has held executive positions at IBM, Chrysler Corporation, and Jervis B. Webb Company, among others.

The Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is the largest and best recognized organization in Michigan that promotes the development, growth and visibility of Hispanic-owned businesses. MHCC members have a collective gross revenue of more than $3 billion, and the organization was recently named Chamber of the Year by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.


As Companies Crack the Diversity Code, Leadership Teams Still Lag

Susan Medina and Peter Gomez recently contributed the following article to Workforce Magazine. 

Like several Silicon Valley counterparts, tech giant Intel last year went public with its lack of employee diversity. The company is openly sharing its efforts to correct the problem. In an interview with NPR, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich discussed his company’s diversity initiatives and concluded that the “pipeline problem,” or the idea that there aren’t enough qualified diverse candidates, is overhyped, saying, “If the pipeline was such a big problem, I would have come back as a failure.”

It’s true the pipeline problem is somewhat improving — at least at the entry level — for companies like Intel that have the budget to invest in targeted recruitment programs. As more companies formalize diversity initiatives, partner with educational institutions and community organizations, and train their hiring managers on the effects of unconscious bias, they will be able to bring in more diverse talent in their junior and mid-level ranks. For example, Apple reported a 50 percent increase in the number of African-Americans hired in 2015 compared to 2014, and a 66 percent increase in Hispanics.

But this improvement is not producing greater diversity representation in the C-suite. In 2014, only 4 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs were minorities, and only 5 percent were women. Move down the corporate ladder into the executive ranks and the percentages do not improve. According to DiversityInc, Hispanics make up less than 4 percent of senior management in U.S. companies. African-Americans make up less than 3 percent, and Catalyst reports that women of color are virtually absent at the senior-level and above in S&P 500 companies.
Continue reading on Workforce. 


Reducing Staff Turnover for Nonprofits and Associations

Dale Winston recently contributed the following article to Associations Now.

With smaller, less hierarchical organizational charts, associations often struggle with attrition, losing aspiring leaders to other organizations. However, with a focus on better succession planning, leadership assessment, and onboarding, an association can slow the outflow of top talent.

Late last year, one of the largest health research foundations in the world approached our firm with an urgent request: It needed to find a transformational head of human resources to help the organization address an alarmingly high rate of employee turnover. The foundation was struggling to retain top performers within its junior- and mid-level ranks. The losses were creating disruption throughout the organization, particularly at the leadership level. Without a sufficient pool of “high-potentials” capable of moving up through the organization, the existing management team was unable to develop and nurture a pipeline of potential successors.

Continue reading on Associations Now.