By Cindy Raz
December 23, 2021
With the end of year quickly approaching, many organizations take a moment to celebrate their teams’ hard work, corporate accomplishments, and most significantly, the joyful holiday season. Appreciation and gratitude are normally expressed through corporate holiday parties, gift giving, and often everyone’s favorite – time away from the office to spend with friends and family. While the holiday season often brings celebration to the workplace, it also brings corporate policies and protocols to light.
HR teams are responsible for creating a workplace for people to thrive and that includes ensuring people feel safe and clear about their organization’s policies. When people are unclear about what is expected of them, organizations run the risk of encountering an ethical dilemma and/or compliance violation.
To help HR teams ensure their organization is happy, ethical, and compliant not only during the holiday season, but throughout the year, here are three tools – with supporting tips – that can help guide a successful strategy.
1. Ensure proper training is in place around corporate gift exchanging policies.
Conflicts-of-interest (COI) are one of the more common challenges that organizations face around the holiday season. While a COI can occur in many circumstances, holiday gift exchanging – whether between team members or with vendors – is often one of the biggest culprits. Some of the more common COIs that businesses see around gift exchanging include when a gift is:
- Given with an intention to accelerate a business relationship
- Of higher value than corporate allowances
- Cash or a cash equivalent, thereby triggering tax laws to apply
- Not reported appropriately to leadership teams
To avoid a potential COI, HR teams need to build awareness around the organization’s commitment to business ethics and social responsibility. This can be done by deploying short-form refresher trainings on gift exchanging policies to ensure that people understand corporate policy. The clearer your policies in explaining what is appropriate to give and receive, the more effective they will be in helping avoid COIs.
HR teams can also call out corporate gift exchanging policies through an organization’s various communication channels – like group messaging or even email. Not only will this remind people why processes are in place, but it can direct them where to find the organization’s policies, and where to go should they need to report an issue.
2. Practice preventative planning around holiday parties.
While issues can arise when a company hosts a holiday party, in today’s environment, they can also arise afterward on social media. To avoid the wide array of issues that can be caused during or in the aftermath of the holiday party, HR teams should have a preventative plan in place.
First, ensure events are inclusive by having established plans that balance differing perspectives and community groups. For example, be sure to ecognize the various holidays that are celebrated throughout this time of year; ensure people feel safe and supported to not participate in a company event; and above all, listen to what people value by seeking their input in the planning process to help create an inclusive experience.
Second, HR teams can work to proactively mitigate the risk of inappropriate behavior. Limiting alcohol availability is often a first step, but HR teams may also consider asking partygoers to pay for their own drinks to eliminate binge drinking, and/or offer vouchers for taxi rides home. HR can also proactively outline social media policies, encouraging positive behavior while clearly outlining consequences for people that choose to compromise their organization’s standards.
3. Ensure leadership understands their crucial role in social responsibility.
Lastly, managers and leadership teams are the role models in all workplace matters, including external events like holiday parties. HR teams can help ensure leadership teams understand the policies in place as well as their crucial role in enforcing them for the rest of the organization. Not only are they responsible for their own appropriate conduct, but also for intervening when necessary to avoid risky activity from escalating. If complaints surface, leadership teams should be prepared to act quickly and handle the situation appropriately to prevent any further ethical or compliance concerns.
In closing, the holiday season is – and should be – a time to celebrate not just the organization but the people that have contributed to its success. As HR professionals, it is important to help people be informed, and with a proper plan in place, organizations can be happy, ethical, and compliant, especially during the holiday season.
Cindy Raz is SVP of HR at NAVEX.