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Happy Holidays? Not if You Forget Your Employees

It’s the only time of year that it’s acceptable to give a fruitcake. Complete with hot cocoa, stockings hung with care, and holiday bonuses… wait, what? Yes, these are all trademarks of the holiday season, especially the bonuses. Tis the season to recognize your employees, and failing to do so could mean losing valuable employees. Consider the case of a PR firm that usually gave large year-end bonuses and without warning one year, shifted that spend into opening a nice new office. Or what about the high-end magazine that rewarded executive employees with a large novelty candy? Both companies suffered significant attrition before the New Year. Don’t let this happen to you.


Frustration can simmer just under the surface of your workforce, but your organization can reduce some irritation by implementing formal recognition and review programs. Organizations that create and sustain an effective recognition program have a 31% lower voluntary turnover rate – i.e., employees quitting or resigning – than those with a poor recognition program. In fact, lack of appreciation at work is the number one reason Americans leave their jobs, but you can use it as a retention tool.

According to the latest Randstad Engagement Index survey, U.S. workers say promotions or bonuses are one of the most effective ways to keep them engaged in their jobs. A holiday bonus increases employee engagement and motivation in the office, which means more successfully completed projects and subsequently more revenue for the organization.
The truth is, your employees might be dreaming of a white Christmas, but they are expecting recognition before the New Year. Some (like Clark Griswold) may even be counting on that bonus to make their Christmas a merry one.

How and When to Reward

Just because you tell members of your team how wonderful their work is all year doesn’t mean that will suffice when it comes to the holiday season. Unfortunately, not every company feels that way. In fact, just 27% of small businesses are planning to offer holiday bonuses this year, compared to 35% last year, according to an American Express survey. (Tweet this Stat) That special recognition in the workplace is one of the greatest contenders to combating high turnover rates. So, even though it makes your employees happier at work, it is a business gain as well.

Some pointers:

      Try to give consistently. If you can’t for whatever reason, let employees know ahead of time.
      People will talk. You don’t have to give the intern and the top performing sales person the same amount but keep it similar within job titles.
      Speak up! Bonuses and gift cards have to be declared so give your employees a head up!
The ROI of employee recognition stretches beyond a mere monetary value. The emotional response is what fuels a difference in an employee’s work and engagement. For example, KPMG, an international tax and audit organization, increased awards dispersed throughout the company by 25%. The results were, according to Sara Turner, UK Head of Employee Benefits and Wellbeing at KPMG:

“What you get with the recognition is a really emotional response… Though the monetary value is low, the impact is really huge. In monetary terms, recognition is so much less expensive [than other reward systems], but what you get is this emotional gut response from people who are overwhelmed, happy and excited when they get an award. People are so engaged because someone has appreciated the extra effort they’ve gone to and taken the time to make sure they acknowledge it and that others acknowledge it as well.” 

Think Outside the Box

The business landscape has changed over the last few years. Employees are feeling the effects of a slowly healing economy. Unfortunately, employers aren’t so trigger happy when it comes to expenses that aren’t deemed “necessary.” Individuals on your team expect some kind of bonus around the holidays. If business was down, communicate it well and set expectations before the office party if you are planning on giving a non-monetary gift.
On average, there is an expectation of a 2.9% bonus increase among the workforce this year. (Tweet this Stat) Even if you’re not prepared to dispense a monetary reward for all of the meritorious hard work from your team, leadership can still give employees a “bonus.” If budget constraints prevent a traditional bonus, Glen Tullman, CEO at Livongo Health suggests trying these alternatives:
      Give a tangible gift – A gym bag, a nice sweater, or a small piece of technology would suffice. However, don’t put any company logos on the gift… otherwise the gift loses the “it’s the thought that counts” factor. 
      Offer a chance for community involvement – Websites like TisBest allow employers to offer “gift cards” that employees can use towards the charity of their choice. This gives them a semi-monetary reward for their hard work and the opportunity to give back to their community.
      Give to employee families Why not engage your employees through their support systems? Families are important to the engagement of your team, so try sending a basket of gourmet snacks or giving a list for the family to choose from.
      Give time off! Can’t afford a lavish bonus? Give the gift of paid time off. People love unexpected vacations. (Tweet this Tip)

The holidays can be a stressful time for employees. Finishing year-end projects around the office can be taxing. Acknowledging their work and rewarding them through traditional bonuses or non-traditional gifts maintains engagement levels and produces a real ROI for the organization. Bear in mind that performance bonuses and holiday bonuses should be kept in two separate categories. As company leadership, ensure you’ve dotted your holiday I’s and crossed your T’s; make employee recognition part of your holiday to-do list this year. Give your team a little something special (hopefully more than just a holiday fruitcake).

Friends don’t let friends be the Frank Shirleys of their company. Spread the holiday cheer by tweeting these year-end bonus tips.