“I’m already spending so much time in the office … why should I attend after-hour company events?”
“It’s not mandatory, plus with me or without me, nothing will change.”
“Will I get extra pay if I go?”
These are just a few of the excuses you’ll hear from your employees when it comes to attending company events.
Trying to get your employees excited about company events is like assigning extra homework to students.
You’ll get lots of dissatisfied mumbling and fake smiles.
No wonder why: These company events are usually repetitive, boring, and sometimes unnecessary.
Even team-building workshops are seen as silly and a waste of time. All these uninspired games and uncomfortable interactions may decrease your employees’ enthusiasm, subsequently reducing the attendance rate.
What could be worse than planning internal events no one wants to attend?
Just one thing: turning company events into mandatory activities. If you decide to force participation, don’t expect your employees to be in a good mood or willing to actively engage in the dynamic. So here you are, knowing you can’t make company events obligatory, but also understanding that most of your employees would prefer to skip them.
All of your planning goals, efforts, and resources are meaningless, and you have no idea how to change this situation.
How can you transform these encounters into interesting and time-worthy experiences?
Before we begin to answer these questions, let’s better understand the nature of these company events.
What types of company events can you run?
Depending on your goals, company events can vary and take different forms. Here are a few examples:
One of the most popular type of corporate events refers to strengthening the relationship between employees. According to Hubspot, “Team outings are a great way to facilitate bonding with your team members, reduce employee stress, and give them the chance to get to know one another outside of the office.”
This category of company events involves a series of dynamics oriented toward increasing your employees’ interest in the products your company is developing, while involving them in attracting new clients and new talent at the same time.
Knowledge transfer events
The most famous examples of knowledge-transfer events are Google and Palantir. These companies would invite important names and leaders from different industries, authors, and even spiritual gurus to talk with the employees.
The main goal of these events is to provide a platform for lifelong learning and the option to engage with multiple thought leaders.
Professional development workshops
These company events are focused on helping employees develop their skills and interact with different field experts.
These workshops aim to strengthen the employees’ knowledge regarding their areas of expertise (or maybe a broader topic, such as sales or marketing), while also helping them to move further in their professional development.
Product launches and demonstrations
Somehow aligned with the employee-advocacy programs, these company events involve product launches and demonstrations, and focus on getting everyone on the same page.
For big companies, it can be difficult to keep everyone up to date with new product updates; thus, these dynamics are crucial to guaranteeing equal distribution of the company knowledge.
Although the objectives of each company event are different, there’s a standard set of practices you can use for all of them to ensure a higher employee attendance rate. We’ve highlighted a few for you below.
Practice #1. Get your employees out of the office
It doesn’t matter if your company has multiple conference rooms or fancy meeting spaces—for a better event experience, your employees need a change of scenery.
If you want more employees to attend company events, book unusual venues.
Nontraditional spaces such as vineyards, warehouses, or even boats give employees the chance to have new experiences.
The space itself can greatly influence the way people feel and how they interact. Apart from that, unusual venues may ignite your employees’ creativity and get them more involved in the dynamic.
Practice #2. Schedule the company event during work hours
Avoid making your company events mandatory, but plan them during the workday.
Put yourself in your employees’ shoes: You had an exhausting morning. You have lots of emails to answer and dozens of new tasks on your to-do list. You decide to grab a quick lunch, eat in front of your computer, and finish the report you postponed for so long. Your afternoon is booked solid with meetings, and you need to prepare for each. Then, after the meetings, you end up with a fresh list of tasks you aren’t sure how or when you’ll tackle.
Finally, instead of going home and resting, or worse, getting out of the office and heading home to do a million chores, you have to stay a few extra hours and attend a company event.
How you do you feel about that? It doesn’t sound very appealing, does it?
Well, think about your employees.
This is exactly how they feel each time they have to attend a meeting or event that’s scheduled after the workday ends.
To increase the appeal of your company events and get more employees to attend, set up the events during work hours.
There will still be some attendees who won’t be able to attend because of work commitments. They can also have conflicting meetings with company clients. However, the majority of them will say yes to the opportunity to spice up their workday a bit and escape the daily grind.
Practice #3. Set up a compelling culinary experience
Not that everything revolves around food, but when there are snacks on the table AND they’re free, people will definitely want to attend company events.
Instead of the typical sandwiches, think about diversifying your fare with different types of cuisines. There are tons of great options out there, from Mediterranean to Japanese food.
Practice #4. Turn your employees into protagonists
In this case, you can find inspiration in co-creative activities or by exploring new interaction models.
Let your employees help plan the event. You could run a few internal surveys to get their opinions about the event format, location, time, catering, etc.
Second, think about providing different problem-solving dynamics or activities, such as Serious Lego Play or world cafes (both flexible formats for hosting large-format discussions).
Practice #5. Avoid ridicule exercises or activities
The last thing employees want is to make fools of themselves during company events. Dynamics such as free falling from a table into the arms of other colleagues or singing in front of others must be banished immediately.
If you want to make your company events truly fun, then plan activities that don’t obstruct anyone’s dignity, privacy, or personal space.
Running company events for the employees can be challenging. However, if you manage to establish clear goals and transform these encounters into valuable experiences, you may get extraordinary results.
Just don’t forget to treat your employees with respect. Be honest about your intentions, and truly invest time in making these interactions as interesting and meaningful as possible.