Business is Up, But Holiday Parties Are Flat: The Time-Honored Tradition is Changing

New York, NY, December 1, 2014 – An ongoing rebound from the recession and expected growth in 2015 are no reason for celebration, according to the annual survey of corporate America’s holiday party plans conducted by Battalia Winston, a leading global executive search firm.

The survey, now in its 26th year, reports that only 88 percent of companies polled will have a party this holiday season—down from 96 percent in 2013 and 91 percent in 2012.

Is the dip in parties the result of a recession mentality, similar to what we saw in the post-Great Depression years? Battalia Winston Chairwoman and CEO, Dale Winston, thinks so. “Companies became more economical during the recession, and it’s possible that financial restraint, even when it’s not required, will be the new standard.

The dramatic decrease is particularly unexpected considering that respondents—senior leadership from companies across the nation—indicate that their companies are performing very well. Over 60 percent of respondents said their company was on track to grow and hire in 2015, and nearly 25 percent said their company’s size would remain consistent. Only a meager 7 percent of companies expect to consolidate next year. Furthermore, 58 percent of companies said that even though their business had grown since 2013, their parties would not be any more lavish than last year.

The decrease could also be attributed to a continued increase in teleworking. The survey found that a growing number of companies are foregoing parties because their employees work remotely. There was a noticeable increase—from 5 percent to 14 percent—in respondents reporting that a dispersed or remote workforce made holiday parties impossible.

The renewed sense of frugality extends beyond the party budget. About 70 percent of businesses will limit the guest list to employees only (no spouses or guests) and 62 percent of companies will decline from giving their employees a holiday gift.

While companies continue to participate in charitable giving during the holiday season, well-performing companies aren’t being any more generous than their struggling counterparts: 65 percent of both consolidating and growing companies are donating to charity, and about 15 percent of both groups will participate in company-sponsored volunteer activities.

Key Survey Findings

Business is Up, But Parties are Flat.

Nearly 79 percent of companies will refrain from throwing a more lavish party this year, even though 72 percent experienced improved performance in 2014 and 60 percent expect growth in 2015.

A comparison of companies that consolidated versus those that grew in 2014 shows that both groups are having similar types of parties, despite the performance differences. About 50 percent of both groups plan to have their party at a restaurant. A slightly higher percentage of consolidating companies plan to have their party at the office (25 percent, as compared to 18 percent of growing companies). While fewer consolidating companies are serving alcohol, the difference is not overwhelming: 73 percent of growing companies versus 65 percent of consolidating companies.

Budget Choices—Not Economic Climate—Prevent Parties.

Of the 12 percent of companies not holding a holiday party this year, 40 percent cited “budget reasons.” Nearly 14 percent said that employees were not interested in a party, while only 5 percent said that they thought having a party was inappropriate because of the economic times, a drastic dip from 2013, when 50 percent of party-foregoers said that a celebration would be inappropriate.

The Daytime Party Trend Holds Steady.

Of the companies holding parties, 56 percent will celebrate in the evening, while 43 percent will celebrate at lunch. The trend toward lunchtime parties continues (43 percent in 2012 and 47 percent in 2013).

Bottoms Up! Day Drinking is on the Rise.

Similar to years past, drinks will be served at 73 percent of parties (up just 1 percent from 2013), while some companies continue to abstain (27 percent). However, many companies will be participating in some day drinking this year, with nearly 40 percent of lunchtime office parties offering adult beverages.

Companies Will Use Non-Pay Incentives to Boost Morale.

A majority of companies (61 percent) are taking steps to boost employee morale in the year to come, down just 5 percent from 2013, but most (over 50 percent) are using non-pay incentives to do so, i.e. offering flexible schedules, training and team building, and public performance recognition. Only 14 percent said they would give pay raises.

Summary

Last year, after two consecutive years of 90+ percent of companies having holiday parties, Battalia Winston asked if throwing holiday parties was returning to a regular part of corporate life. The data this year indicates that corporate leaders are resetting expectations, says Dale Winston: “The high percentage of holiday parties in 2012 and 2013 was a signal that the economy was rebounding, but now that growth has been steady for a few years, companies are reestablishing a baseline. A successful year and a normal rate of growth are becoming the norm, not an anomalous event that calls for a lot of hoopla.”

The 2014 Battalia Winston nationwide survey was conducted among a cross-section of 114 companies.

About Battalia Winston:
Battalia Winston has been successfully meeting client needs in executive recruitment for more than 50 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 Edison, NJ, Flemington, NJ, 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.

Media Contact:

Cara Silverman
212-616-8808
csilverman@battaliawinston.com

Peter Gomez and Susan Medina Deliver Keynote Address at Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s Diversity and Inclusion Forum

Today Battalia Winston Partners Susan Medina and Peter Gomez delivered the keynote speech at The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s Diversity and Inclusion Forum.

The forum was designed to help Michigan businesses and non-profits learn key strategies for diversifying their talent pipeline and growing their consumer base by engaging diverse talent.

Drawing from their experience helping hundreds of companies across the country recruit diverse executives and senior leadership, Susan and Peter discussed best practices for attracting and retaining diverse talent, trends in diversity and inclusion, and shared how many forward-thinking organizations are driving company performance through diversity-building initiatives.

Overcoming the “Talent Shortage” With Analytics

by Gilbert Carrara, MD

Despite an enormous pool of unemployed talent looking for work, some of the best and largest companies in the United States (and even worldwide) are consistently unable to find high-quality talent. Why? Across industries, executives and HR leaders are realizing that they are often poorly evaluating employees, leading to undervaluing or mis-valuing their teams.

The tendency to misjudge employees’ value may originate in outdated hiring and performance evaluation methods. A mountain of scholarly literature shows that the intuitive way companies now judge professional potential is rife with snap judgments and hidden biases, rooted in our upbringing or in deep neurological connections that doubtless served us well on the savanna but would seem to have less bearing on the world of work.

A survey by Corporate Executive Board, a research firm in Virginia, showed that 74% of the 500 hiring managers surveyed reported that their most recent hire had a personality “similar to their own.” Another study from Northwestern University that analyzed the recruiting, interviewing and evaluation practices of professionals from elite investment banks, consultancies and law firms concluded that among the most important factors driving their hiring recommendations were shared leisure interests.

More and more organizations are beginning to see how damaging these unscientific methods of evaluation can be for company performance, and big data and analytics providers have responded by developing new solutions specifically designed for talent assessment. For example, Knack, a company funded by Israeli entrepreneur Guy Halfteck, designs tests that examine specific cognitive skills that employer’s desire by drawing on the latest cutting edge behavioral and scientific research. These skills range from pattern recognition to emotional intelligence, risk appetite and adaptability to changing situations.

Google’s understanding of the promise of analytics for talent assessment is probably better than anybody else’s, and the company has been changing its hiring and management practices as a result of its ongoing analyses. For example, Google no longer uses brainteasers in their interviews, because they do not correlate with job success; GPA is not considered for anyone more than two years out of school, for the same reason—the list goes on. But for all of Google’s technological enthusiasm, these same practices are still deeply human. A real, live person looks at every résumé the company receives. Hiring decisions are made by committee and are based in no small part on opinions formed during structured interviews.

While tried-and-true methods of evaluating candidates for the necessary personality traits and culture fit shouldn’t be completely abandoned, HR executives and CEO’s around the globe need to start injecting analytics into their hiring processes and performance management programs. Corporate leaders should be making sure that they are developing and rewarding employee skills and valuing employees who are there to help achieve their organizations’ business goals. By adapting analytics and new methods of assessment, leaders will build higher performing teams with decreased employee turnover and increased employee engagement.

5 Questions Chief Data Officers Must Answer for Effective Results

Battalia Winston partners Walter McGuigan and Joe Carideo recently collaborated with Roy Lowrance, Managing Director of NYU’s Center for Data Science, to contribute an article to FierceRetailIT, “5 Questions Chief Data Officers Must Answer for Effective Results.”

The authors respond to the most pressing challenges for retailers attempting to leverage big data — among them, Think big: What could we accomplish if we had the right data?

Their response: “Big data initiatives often focus on using existing data–data that companies and their partners already collect–and integrating it in new ways to learn more about customers, processes and products. But the most effective big data leaders will be able to tackle a new challenge that we’re calling applications conceptualization–envisioning what could be done if the right data was available. This forethought requires a keen understanding of the business’s objectives and a thorough understanding of what data is available and how it can be collected. Someone with this strategic vision must also be able to straddle the science/R&D and the marketing/sales functions–a critical skill in the new, big-data powered retail and CPG world.”

Read the full article here. 

Terry Gallagher to Speak at NACD on Oct. 16th

On October 16th, Terry Gallagher, President of Battalia Winston, will be speaking at the National Association of Corporate Directors New Jersey Chapter event entitled, “Get The Most Out of Your Compensation Consultants.”

The panel will cover ways in which compensation committee chairs can work most effectively with their compensation consultants. Topics will include:

  • What expectations does a compensation committee set?
  • What relationship does it have with their consultant?
  • In what ways can consultants work effectively with the committee while maintaining independence when they do analysis for   management?

To register, or for more information, click here. 

Battalia Winston Partners Gilbert Carrara and Adam J. Millinger Featured in H&HN Daily

Healthcare practice leaders Gilbert Carrara  and Adam Millinger have co-authored a piece for H&HN Daily, a publication of the American Hospital Association. In their article, Carrara and Millinger explore how leaders with a diversity of experience, a commitment to data-driven thinking, and an entrepreneurial approach will better manage the transformation required by the ACA.

Read the article on H&HN Daily. 

Dale Winston Quoted in Fortune’s “9 Tips to Land Your Dream Job”

Dale Winston, Battalia Winston’s chairwoman and CEO, recently contributed her expertise to Fortune‘s Erika Fry for her article, “9 Tips to Land your Dream Job.”  Fry compiled tips from leading talent experts on  how to “fine-tune your career and land the perfect job—now.”

Here’s an article excerpt and Dale’s tip:

Appoint your own board.

Network, of course, but Dale Winston, chairwoman and CEO of Battalia Winston, an executive search firm, advises people to go further by creating their own personal board of directors made up of trusted professionals they’ve worked with previously. “Identify a group of three or four people you can consult on a regular basis,” says Winston. She recommends casting former bosses, peers, or executive consultants like herself to help you think through questions like “How can I enhance myself?” and “Is this the right time to make a move?”

3 Mission-Critical Application of Big Data in Oil & Gas

Battalia Winston partners John Ebeling and Walter McGuigan recently collaborated with Roy Lowrance, Managing Director of NYU’s Center for Data Science, to study the most critical components of big data for Oil Field Services companies. The three combined their expertise to identify three applications big data leaders (Chief Data Architects, Data Scientists, etc) must understand in order to enable faster, smarter, and more informed decisions within their organizations.

Read the full article on Rigzone. 

Pruning Private Equity Portfolios

Terry Gallagher, President of Battalia Winston, has contributed an article to Financier Worldwide’s Special Report on Private Equity. 

Drawing on his extensive experience helping Private Equity firms identify and recruit talented executives,  Terry discusses the tendency of PE firms to “prune” the  management teams of their portfolio companies (purchasing a company and then replacing  its leadership team) and provides his perspective on the type of leader firms should target in order to achieve high-growth and ensure a speedier ROI. 

Read the full article in Financier Worldwide.