Sometimes, HR Should Plan the Office Party

Is planning a party beneath you if you are an HR professional with a seat at the table? (Photos by Dreamstime)

Everyone loves talking about human resources getting a seat at the corporate table (2 million or so search results on Google alone). And whenever you hear about HR getting a seat at the table, it’s always described like it is some sort of civil rights issue.

All of this talk about standing up to executives, demonstrating your value, rejecting the paperwork and administrivia of HR and certainly you won’t be planning any company parties anymore. That sort of thing is below you now.

Well, I’ve got news for you: sometimes a party needs planning, and sometimes, you’re the somebody that’s going to make that happen.

Now, I don’t know many people who like planning parties. And pre-HR, I didn’t know anything about planning a party outside of what we did in college. That primarily consisted of securing a keg of the cheapest beer, spreading the word, and keeping freeloaders from the tap. This experience didn’t help me that much unless I was going to be working with a bunch of other college students.

So when I got into HR and was asked to plan fun things for around the office, I tackled it like any other task: I figured out how to do it, got it done well and quick, and got on with the rest of the things I needed to do. And once I figured out how to do it, I told managers that they could figure out how to hold their own parties too (because I could show them), and the big parties we could rotate through departments.

60 minutes of planning

I timed myself one time after I figured out how to do it and it took me about 60 minutes from start to finish to plan and organize a nice office party. We didn’t have more than one office party a month, so if I planned every party and if I worked my bare minimum of 40 hours a week, that would be 0.6 percent of my time planning parties.

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Now could that 0.6 percent be used better elsewhere? Sure. Did I always want to do it? No. But the quicker I got it done and organized, the faster I could move on to better things.

Some folks in HR act like it is such an insult to them as HR professionals to plan a party. Or to do payroll. Or to handle any other non-strategic function. And the last thing I want to do as a HR professional is do something else that doesn’t directly hit the bottom line. There are a couple advantages though, if you’re open to them:

  • Being a party planner isn’t difficult and you do get some good internal publicity for it.
  • It is nice to get other people involved to see how they work outside of their normal job.
  • You won’t put it on your resume, but I think it has a positive effect on your references.

The big downside is always this supposed lack of respect it shows, but I’ve never had a problem with that. There’s always an excuse for not getting a raise, a promotion, or that next big job, and I don’t think it has ever had anything to do with a willingness to host occasional office shindig.

Now if you want to talk about a holiday party or other giant gathering, that’s one thing. That should always be shared and rotated. But the occasional office party? Relax a little, plan the party, and let others complain about it.

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4 Comments on “Sometimes, HR Should Plan the Office Party

  1. Frankly I am not a party planner but I agree with you that if HR doesn't get the transactional stuff right then you can forget the strategic stuff – nobody's listening while they are still wondering when they are going to get paid…:)

  2. The reason I'd object to HR planning a party is simply that work should flow downward to the lowest-level person who can do it well, so that your skills can be used doing things that only you can do. Assuming the HR person also has work on their plate that only they're capable of doing, it's a strange decision to take them away from that work to put together a party. I'd assign it to an office admin for that reason.

  3. Isn't that assuming a perfectly optimized work environment? I think people are doing things that they shouldn't be doing all of the time. Directors of Marketing shouldn't have to proof copy but they do in a lot of organizations. Are marketers saying “Enough is enough” when it comes to proofing?

    I don't think so and that's my point. Both are such a minor inconvenience that we should just do them and get on with it. Yes, optimize as much as you can but spending too much effort determining who will be doing these functional tasks can be just as inefficient as the “wrong” person just sitting down and doing them.

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