8 Creative Ways to Celebrate the Holidays With Your Employees

Last Updated Dec 13, 2010 4:05 PM EST

Small companies may not be able to afford the lavish holiday parties that their larger counterparts often throw for employees, but that simply means they need to be more creative about their festivities. I asked few small business owners how they plan to celebrate with their employees this month, and was pretty impressed with their responses. If you're still wracking your brain for ideas, think about stealing one of these:
  • Go bowling. Every December, the employees at Zackin Publications in Oxford, CT, hits the local bowling alley for a company-wide tournament, followed by lunch. "The 
interesting thing is that almost no one in the company is a regular 
bowler," says Zackin editor Phil Hall. "And still, the company's employees love it -- even though it has absolutely 
nothing to do with the holiday season." Hmm. Maybe that's the point!
  • Get creative with cash. Karen Trap, president of Lady of Letters, a transcription company based in Seattle, says that a "big thorn in my side this time of year was always what gift would either a man or woman think was fun, unique and useful?" Then she discovered a company called FoldinMoney.com. "With my cash and their kits, I can take a just a few bills and fold them into different shapes," she says. "I use the Tree and Star designs."
 Employees have fun unfolding the money; Trap can make the gift fit her budget by using a combination of denominations.
  • Bring philanthropy home. "We are a corporate events company, so you would think that we throw a GREAT party for our staff at the holidays," says Carol Galle, president of Special D Events in Royal Oak, MI. Instead, the company gives back to the community by choosing an activity that benefits a local not-for-profit. "In past years, we have baked cookies with runaway teens, worked phone banks, sorted gifts for needy children," says Galle. "This year, we are actually helping one of our own. The family of one of our staff members has had a very challenging year due to numerous medical and financial crises. So, we are adopting their family and helping them have a merry Christmas."
  • Show off your ugliest holiday sweater. At Marketing Maven Public Relations in Los Angeles, the staff will celebrate the holidays with a "Tacky Sweater and White Elephant Party," says account executive Aljolynn Sperber. "Just like the opening scene in Bridget Jones's Diary where Mark Darcy is wearing a tacky holiday sweater, we'll be donning our most tacky Reindeer glittered sweaters," she says. "We'll also be exchanging White Elephant gifts for under $10.00 along with potluck." Cheap, fun, and only slightly humiliating.
  • Celebrate multiculturalism. At IGIGI by Yuliya Raquel, a San Francisco-based women's designer clothing brand in sizes 12-32, the showroom is transformed into a party room, a local, independent chef does the catering. "In addition, everybody will bring a dish from their ethic background since we are a very multinational company including Russian, Turkish, Chinese, American, Italian, Vietnamese, Italian, and South American," says marketing assistant Ozlem Arpaci. "This is a nice way to also get to know each others' background and culture better."
  • Take a day off. Trish Sare, owner of BikeHike Adventures, is in the business of providing customers with multi-sport adventures in South and Central America, Canada, Europe, Oceania, Asia and Africa "Since we are in the industry of experiences, we do the same for our employees" during the holidays, she says. "Each year we take our employees to a Christmas event in Vancouver, such as a play or a day off to go snow shoeing together. We find that giving the gift of experience is far richer and allows for employee/management bonding."
  • Choose a company-appropriate theme. At WPromote, an El Segundo, Calif.-based search marketing company, "we're in the tech industry and many of our employees are geek-chic," says public relations manager Maria Sass. So the company is having its holiday party at the trendy Royal/T Cafe + Art Space in Culver City, which now has a TRON: Legacy pop up shop (the movie, a Disney remake with Jeff Bridges, launches Dec. 17). Since WPromote is filled with geeky TRON enthusiasts, says Sass, "this was a perfect fit--the decor was already set in place." Meanwhile, Manhattan-based Night Agency, an interactive ad agency, is going retro with a Mad Men themed party at Ella Lounge, a roaring 20s and 30s style venue. "Get out your swanky suits and pencil skirts, and bring a loved one or friend, as we sip Manhattans and Old Fashioneds," reads the invitation. Different strokes for different coasts.
  • Vegas, baby. Okay, this isn't exactly cheap. But Mitch Goldstone, the CEO of ScanMyPhotos in Irvine, CA, thinks his employees are worth every penny he spent on a four-day trip for everyone to Las Vegas. The staff stayed at Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino's penthouse Executive Suite, were treated to four-days of gourmet dining experiences, a limousine tour of the famed Vegas Strip, an evening chartered helicopter tour above The City of Lights and private suites for all employees. Goldstone invests 25% of his annual marketing and advertising budget not on customers, but on his staff. "My company's success is due to our employees, and in return the holidays are just one annual opportunity to dazzle them," he says
So which of these holiday celebrations appeals to you most? What are you doing for your employees this month?

Photo courtesy of Flickr user PlasticRevolver, CC 2.0