MENLO PARK, Calif. – Even as one major CU vendor just announced it was eliminating its annual holiday party to save money, not having a holiday party can wind up being more expensive, according to an HR firm. According to OfficeTeam not only can it be done but it is better to host an inexpensive celebration than none at all. "Employees realize that budgets are tight in the current economy and that gatherings may not be as lavish as in previous years," said Liz Hughes, OfficeTeam executive director. "But having some type of event can show appreciation for hard work, boost staff morale and reinforce the cohesiveness of the team – all of which can build staff motivation and retention." Hughes offers the following six suggestions for planning a low-cost event: * Be honest with staff. In person, tell your team that budget constraints are impacting every segment of the business, including year-end party plans. Emphasize that you want to recognize their hard work by doing something – then get their feedback. Being upfront and asking for input encourages communication and creativity. * Keep it small. Company-wide events can be difficult and costly to plan. If your firm has decided not to hold an event, see if individual departments can have their own celebrations. * Watch what you eat. Not every holiday party needs to revolve around a five-course dinner. Less expensive options include a breakfast or lunch, or a potluck with appetizers and desserts. * Offer words, not gifts. Instead of holding a gift exchange among employees, plan a card exchange instead. Encourage each person to describe one thing they appreciate about that individual's work over the last year. Recognition doesn't need to come from managers to be significant; a coworker's kind words can have just as much – if not more – meaning. *Volunteer. Replace a formal party with a group volunteer outing. Organize the staff to serve meals at a shelter, sort gifts at a toy drive or visit a local school to bring needed supplies. * Keep it social. The point of your gathering is to thank your staff for their hard work and reinforce your recognition of the team throughout the year. Focus on a function that builds teamwork and camaraderie, and keep business talk to a minimum.

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