5 Creative Ways to Thank Your Employees During the Holidays

A holiday party isn't the only way to show your appreciation. Your employees might actually welcome these gestures more.
holiday-thankyou
One idea is to start a holiday tradition that shows employees you appreciate them and also gives them something to look forward to every year. (Photo: Nelosa/Shutterstock)

These days, it’s more important than ever to retain your top employees by making them feel valued and creating an enjoyable company culture.

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“Doing something unique as a group is a great way to show your appreciation. It could be going to a winery or taking a cooking class all together or going to a spa, bowling, horseback riding or skiing.” -Natalie Maniscalco (Photo: Natalie Maniscalco)

How will you show your appreciation and delight your employees during the holidays this year?

A holiday party, complete with food and entertainment (even if it’s just a white elephant gift exchange) is one obvious idea. And of course, a cash bonus, presented with a heartfelt thank you note, can go a long way. But if you’re looking to do something different, here are a few creative ideas.

Establish a tradition

The holidays are chock-full of family traditions. Why not start a tradition for your business, too?

Honey Baked Ham gives a free ham to all the seasonal staff, said Chris Weissman, the company’s chief marketing officer. “There is also an annual Christmas tree lighting that employees are invited to attend at the corporate headquarters,” he said.

Many businesses like to bring in a catered meal. But Natalie Maniscalco, CEO and founder of Retro Media NYC, suggested taking a more personal approach.

“Although bonuses and gifts are always appreciated, I love inviting our employees and even clients to a home-cooked, family-style meal for Christmas. It sounds so simple, but you’d be amazed at how appreciative people are of a home-cooked meal and sitting around a dinner table. It’s a great way to unwind, not talk about business and just enjoy being together and celebrate all of the hard work and success you’ve accomplished for the year.”

Make it personal

“If there is an employee who has put in a lot of extra hours or been away from home a lot over the year on the company's behalf, sending that person's spouse a thoughtful gift as a thank you for their sacrifice will buy my employee (and me) a lot of goodwill.” -Jacob Dayan (Photo: Jacob Dayan)

“If there is an employee who has put in a lot of extra hours or been away from home a lot over the year on the company’s behalf, sending that person’s spouse a thoughtful gift as a thank you for their sacrifice will buy my employee (and me) a lot of goodwill.” -Jacob Dayan (Photo: Jacob Dayan)

While thinking of unique gifts for your staff may be time consuming, that extra effort can mean a great deal to your employees.

Tanya Beaudry, director at ConvertiCulture, a firm specializing in improving company culture, suggested giving personalized gift baskets. “Put some effort into uncovering some personality traits in your staff. It will mean a lot and it’s personal,” she said.

Jacob Dayan, co-founder of CommunityTax, a tax relief and tax services company, recommended doing something on your employees’ behalf that “they might not have time or resources to do for themselves.”

Pay a mobile car detailer to come to the parking lot and detail the car of any employee who wants to participate. For employees with pets, give a gift certificate for a nearby pet groomer.

“If you take some time and think carefully about your people, you can come up with out-of-the-box ideas that they’ll remember for a long time,” said Dayan.

Remember their families

“If there is an employee who has put in a lot of extra hours or been away from home a lot over the year on the company’s behalf,” Dayan said, “sending that person’s spouse a thoughtful gift as a thank you for their sacrifice will buy my employee (and me) a lot of goodwill.”

Elizenda Jean-Claude, founder of business consultancy Launch to Scale, has seen this approach succeed. “The handwritten note to the spouse had the biggest impact,” she said. “The spouses feeling appreciated were more supportive, which then allowed the employees to feel less stressed and more productive during work.”

Give the gift of time

Depending on your business, you may not be able to close up shop and give employees paid time off during the holidays. But giving even a few hours of paid leave can make a huge difference to an employee dealing with the stress of holiday to-dos.

Jana Tulloch, an HR professional at DevelopIntelligence, said this strategy can cut down on last-minute absenteeism during the holidays. “This will not only be hugely appreciated but will also help reduce unexpected absences for those who are feeling a bit overwhelmed.”

Steve Twomey said MasterMind SEO gives employees a “hall pass” for an extra paid day off. “My team loves the hall pass,” he said. “It helps them know that I care about their time.” The hall pass can be used to take a day off at the employee’s choosing, but Twomey suggested requiring reasonable advance notice, “so as not to leave anyone stranded.”

Spring for an outing

“Perhaps it is snowshoeing, or a painting class, or paintballing even. But make it fun, and let them know it's your treat for all the good they've given you over the past year." -Jana Tulloch (Photo: Jana Tulloch)

“Perhaps it is snowshoeing, or a painting class, or paintballing even. But make it fun, and let them know it’s your treat for all the good they’ve given you over the past year.” -Jana Tulloch (Photo: Jana Tulloch)

Instead of an office holiday party, consider spicing things up with a team-wide field trip.

Tulloch recommended finding an activity suitable for your staff’s ages and physical abilities. “Perhaps it is snowshoeing, or a painting class, or paintballing even. But make it fun, and let them know it’s your treat for all the good they’ve given you over the past year,” she said.

Maniscalco also suggested hosting an outing. “Parties are also fun, but doing something unique as a group is a great way to show your appreciation. It could be going to a winery or taking a cooking class all together or going to a spa, bowling, horseback riding or skiing.”

Don’t pick the outing unilaterally. Ask your employees what they’d like to do.

However you choose to thank your employees, try to find something each person will truly appreciate — then enjoy the holidays with your work family.

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