Why successful holiday parties start with an inclusion checklist

Plate of food at an event

No matter what type of end-of-year celebration you choose, the festivities should include everyone in the company. An inclusion checklist is how you make that happen.

An inclusion checklist is a list of guidelines and restrictions to be mindful of when planning your event. Every company is different, so every checklist is different. What you see here is what an inclusion checklist might look like. Ultimately, you want it to reflect your own company values and the concerns of your team.

Example inclusion checklist

How to create your first inclusion checklist

So how do you create an inclusion checklist? Start with what you know. Religious practices. Food allergies. New team members who may not know everyone yet. These are the best practices you already know, simply from having your ear to the ground. More specific items (Activation energy of activities, for example) reveal themselves by asking the team directly.

At Poll Everywhere, we do this at scale by running company-wide retrospectives after each company retreat. Everyone has an equal opportunity to share their likes and dislikes about the retreat. Then we – the People Operations team – use that data to create new items for our list.

Finally, we check to see if the same concerns come up again during the next retrospective. If they don’t then we know we did our jobs.

Example retro poll

Be prepared to update your checklist regularly

This brings me to the most important aspect of an inclusion checklist: it’s always changing. Items come and go as the makeup of your company changes. That’s why you have to be disciplined about running those retros, connecting with employees, and acting on their feedback. We’re not mind-readers, so the only way we can be proactive about these things is by giving people the opportunity to speak up and feel heard.

A great way to encourage people to speak up is by asking a few colleagues to act as inclusion advocates. This is someone who has expressed interest in an issue on your inclusion checklist. Ask that person to pay special attention to how their peers are feeling with regard to that particular issue, and to bring any concerns to your attention before it turns into a problem.

Some folks having fun at the company party

Read more: How to run an inclusive retrospective meeting

Celebrate success to empower others

For example, at Poll Everywhere we have a lot of remote employees. We don’t want them to feel left out or neglected just because they’re not in the office. So I designate someone as remote employee advocate. This is a colleague I feel comfortable turning to for insight and feedback on how remotes are feeling, and what we can do to make them feel included.

Since I can’t have eyes and ears everywhere, this is a great way to stay ahead of potential problems and to be sure my inclusion checklist is still relevant to the concerns of my colleagues.

At first, it may be hard to find people to be advocates, or to come to you with concerns. The best way I have found to overcome this is by celebrating success. Remember earlier when I talked about running a retro and checking to see if the same issues popped up multiple times? If they don’t pop up again, that’s a win. Celebrate that win in a way that’s visible to the company.

This celebration is not about bragging rights; It’s a way to demonstrate to people that, if they come to you, there will be action, there will be results. People operations is not a black hole.

Inclusion is the feeling that you belong.

Create an inclusion checklist, designate advocates, and celebrate success. Do this before and after any major work events (optional for the smaller ones) to set an expectation of inclusion, respect, and trust with your peers. It takes work, and it takes discipline, but it all pays off when you see everyone smiling and laughing and having a good time together – with no one left behind.

Want to know more about planning an office holiday party? Check out Poll Everywhere COO Sam Cauthen’s post Inspiration for your next company holiday party.