How much importance should be placed upon the attendance of senior leadership at team member appreciation functions? I was recently speaking with someone who communicated how senior leaders failed to attend a team member appreciation function within their organization. When asked why, the response was simply, “They (the team members) had free admission, free dinner, and got to spend time with their friends, it isn’t important if we were there.” They also believed that people would not relax and “be themselves” if they were worried about running into anyone from the senior leadership team.
In my own opinion, this senior leader was missing the point of an appreciation event. The purpose of thanking our team members for their dedication should be front and center at these events. If senior leadership doesn’t bother to show up, what message does this send to our team? They were too busy or too important to spend two hours with my family and me? Or better yet, they appreciate us; they just don’t want to see us. Next, who will deliver the message of gratitude if your senior leadership does not bother to attend? Granted, your team members enjoy getting a free evening out, but these types of events are so much more than just free food and an activity. Team members want to see and interact with the senior leadership, as many of them do not have a regular opportunity to get face-to-face with those who lead the organization. They want to introduce their families and connect with their leaders on a different level than just professionally. In other words, they want to know that you put your pants on one leg at a time like the rest of the world!
Do you believe there is intrinsic value for a team member to see senior leadership at company-sponsored social event?