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.

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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.

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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.