Reward staff with a night to remember
Corporate hospitality is one of the essential tools when it comes to rewarding diligent staff and entertaining valued clients. From a low-key gathering at a local restaurant to a full-on dinner and dance extravaganza, complete with celebrity performers, fabulous goodie bags and unlimited Champagne, it's just as important to recognise the people who keep the smallest of businesses ticking over as it is for those on the payroll of the giant conglomerates, prepared to fly in associates from all points of the compass for the occasion.
An annual celebration of everything that's good about the company – and that begins with the workforce – is the perfect opportunity for everyone to relax and socialise together.
While it's not "work", it's still a great team builder, with everyone letting their hair down together in a fun atmosphere.
Office Christmas parties fell victim to the recession somewhat last year but Hull and East Riding firms seem intent on rekindling the seasonal spirit this year, seeking out some of the region's best venues for a Yuletide celebration.
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The Spa Bridlington describes itself as the East Coast's premier venue for meetings and events. Whether it is a meeting for two or an event for 3,800, The Spa Bridlington can accommodate almost any activity from banquets, exhibitions, training events, parties or music concerts.
As well as hosting some of the biggest names in music, The Spa Bridlington is now the exclusive home of the Yorkshire International Business Convention (YIBC).
The venue has hosted the YIBC since 2008, alongside a sister event in Harrogate and latterly Leeds, but from 2013, The Spa Bridlington will host the event exclusively, a sign of the organiser's faith in the town and the venue.
Leading up to Christmas, The Spa Bridlington has the staple list of events you would expect to find at an entertainment venue; from pantomime, which this year is Beauty And The Beast and stars Big Brother winner Craig Philips and CBBC's Simon Grant, to A Christmas Carol and the Vienna Festival Ballet's The Nutcracker.
The Spa Bridlington is offering corporate entertainment in the shape of its Christmas party nights, making any Christmas party a night to remember in the Art Deco Royal Hall. Their facilities boast a full-time, on-site catering team, which includes an executive chef, sous chef and two chef de parties, allowing for a fine-dining, three-course meal experience.
Andrew Aldis, general manager, said: "The Spa Bridlington has excelled in corporate entertaining since the refurbishment in 2008. Hosting award ceremonies, conferences and trade exhibitions such as the Wolds Expo, the venue is a proven place to do business that leaves a lasting impression on all visitors."
This has been recognised with The Spa Bridlington winning "remarkable conference venue" for the past two years at the Remarkable East Yorkshire Tourism Awards, which the Spa also hosted in 2011.
The awards celebrate the achievements of businesses across Hull and the East Riding.
Most recently, The Spa Bridlington was highly commended by WRA in the "business tourism" category at the White Rose Awards.
Last year, many employers slashed budgets or cancelled festive parties altogether, as belts were tightened in response to the recession.
But it seems this year Christmas parties are back on the agenda, with an upward swing in the number of companies planning to host an event.
A poll of Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) members shows 72 per cent are holding a party this year, compared with just 58 per cent in 2009.
Event organisers have also noticed the shift, with the past six months seeing significant increases in bookings for Christmas and the New Year.
It appears to be a response to people feeling the "green shoots" of recovery, on top of companies desiring a morale booster to encourage and reward those employees they still have.
Charles Cotton, CIPD reward adviser, said: "A Christmas party can be used as a way of reinforcing that you've come through a tough year and survived.
"It's a good way of recognising and rewarding contribution over the previous 12 months and engaging employees."
Of course, it could be viewed as improper for a company to spend on a party if there have been job losses and pay freezes earlier in the year – this was a factor that deterred many firms from hosting events last year.
But Cotton said timing and sensitive communication were vital.
"If you've just announced or made redundancies, you may find a lot of people wouldn't enjoy a party anyway," he said. "But if it's a few months on, companies can maybe say to staff that they've had tough times and had to make people redundant, but they are still standing as an organisation and want to recognise staff contributions by keeping the Christmas party."
Last year, there was a bit of a backlash when staff who had stuck with firms through the hardest of times didn't get the recognition of their efforts with a party.
This year, employers are seeing that what might be considered a frivolous spend is quite wise in tough times, when there is a need to motivate staff.
An added benefit for employers is the tax allowance on corporate events, which allows businesses to spend up to £150 tax-free on each employee.
So how do companies make the most of a party?
Approaches can vary, depending on the business. Some companies use the opportunity for chief executives to present annual speeches to staff, while others host awards ceremonies to reward employees for their achievements.
Charles Cotton advises companies to take into account the size and type of their organisation, and what they think will work for staff.
He believes it's important to define outcomes clearly, while still making the event enjoyable.
"If you want to increase sales next year, think about how a sit-down meal at a Christmas party is going to help you do that," he said.
It's also important to communicate with staff, and find out what they would like.
Careful planning means that events don't have to be expensive to work. Smaller venues and "shared" parties – where different organisations share a venue to split costs – can still have the desired impact.