The Social Contract of the Social Committee
Whether you have any Irish heritage or not, chances are you ended up celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in some way this month, and while St. Patty’s work parties aren’t as common as those holly jolly holiday parties, they do happen, and usually for the same reason holiday parties happen – your office’s social committee.
Of all the benefits that come to mind about having a social committee, probably the first is all those volunteers in your workforce organizing morale-building events, from after-work parties to fundraisers to birthday get-togethers in the boardroom (and all the cake that comes with it). Of course, the key ideas here are “volunteer” and “morale”. What employers need to appreciate about their social committee members is that they do what they do voluntarily because they truly believe in the team spirit that ultimately drives productivity and profit. That’s why it’s not only a good idea to start a social committee, but to ensure that those who participate in it can do so during work hours without feeling like they’re putting off work. After all, running a social committee is hard work, involving organizational and people skills expected of any high-ranking individual or team.
Every social committee is typically started by (or at least encouraged by) the HR department, but starting and maintaining one involves the same level of logistics and dedication it takes to execute the kinds of events the committee will be responsible for. In fact, some statistics point out that most social committees dissolve within just six months of starting. However, there are steps you can take to help ensure your social committee has a smooth start and a bright future.
You can’t start a social committee without letting your employees know you want to start one. Send out mass emails, put up flyers in the lunch room, and bring it up during meetings. The volunteers will come out of the woodwork.
Collectively, select a regular time during which your new social committee will meet, and stick to it. While this seems obvious, and while social committees are voluntary, commitment needs to be taken seriously and enforced. Each member needs to evaluate whether they actually have the time and energy to devote to their delegated responsibilities. If someone agrees to something and it turns out they can’t follow through on it (and that includes being present and on time for every meeting), they’re doing a disservice to their fellow members and to the organization. That’s why every social committee should have a dismissal policy predicated on commitment. There’s a reason “commit” is the root word of “committee”.
No, this tip isn’t about being wary of alcohol-fuelled get-togethers. While social committees, and employers in general, need to realize that alcohol is often the reason certain parties backfire, partying smartly is more about the type of party that’s thrown rather than what happens at it. Beyond the joys of birthday cake, green beer, and homemade eggnog, there’s corporate social responsibility, or simply “CSR”, to take into consideration. Your social committee should also act as your CSR committee by starting, taking part in, and promoting events such as donation programs and fundraisers. These initiatives not only boost morale by making your employees proud to work for you, but they also help attract talent once the word gets out about your organization’s social conscience.
Again, although a social committee is a volunteer effort, it should still be held to the same standard as any other team in the organization. Otherwise, it really does become an excuse for people to blow off work. So, like with any other team, there should be regular reviews of how individuals performed and how fruitful the committee’s efforts were. In fact, it’s not uncommon for committees to hold elections, require written assignments, or institute revolving positions to help ensure that the right people are performing the right tasks.
A social committee can play a vital role in everything from talent retention to establishing a positive public image. That’s why it’s important to remember that, although driven by passion, an effective social committee must also be directed by the same rational checks and balances that govern all successful teams, from its decision-making processes to the types of endeavors it undertakes.