Take Your Holiday Office Party Beyond Rubber Chicken

From the Coloradoan, October 2016

Column: On The Job with Katy Piotrowski

What do rubber chicken, holiday sweaters and an obligation to attend all have in common? Company holiday parties! And this time of year, organizers are deciding what kind of festive get-togethers they want to create.

Director of international at Loveland Products, Ben Nelson, found himself in this situation, and rather than the predictable DJ and sit-down dinner, he opted for a more “tasteful” experience. Sixteen workers from sales, customer service, regulatory and marketing gathered in the kitchens at The Cooking Studio to celebrate the year and to get to know each other better. “I wanted to do something fun that would also support diverse demographic backgrounds,” he said.

At the facility in Old Town Fort Collins, the group received cooking instruction from chef Scott Manning, and then divided into three teams to prepare a starter, main dish, soup, salad and dessert. Ingredients and recipes were provided.

To up the bonding and fun factors, prizes were offered for best appetizer, entree and overall winner. And because bragging rights were at stake, the teams got creative with their cooking techniques and presentation. Once prepared and judged, the group dug into their dishes and debriefed the experience.

Looking back, Nelson said that the event helped them celebrate the year, recognize employees and accomplish some valuable team building. Additionally, he’s witnessed the cross-functional teams interacting more in the workplace, even more than a year later.

For about what they’d spend to treat employees to a nice dinner out, prepared and served by the restaurant staff, Nelson’s group still got a great meal, yet also had the opportunity to acquire new cooking skills as they learned more about their coworkers. “Everyone came, no one backed out, and they all said they had a great time,” Nelson said.

So, if you’re thinking about how you want your team to celebrate this holiday season, consider something outside of the norm — a cooking class, volunteer experience, or field trip to a local landmark.

A new twist on an old tradition could result in a truly delicious experience.

Katy Piotrowski, M.Ed., is the author of “The Career Coward’s Guides” and provides career and job search support with Career Solutions Group in Fort Collins. Reach her at 970-224-4042 or katy@careersolutionsgroup.net.