The end of the year is a season of goodwill and cheer. Managers - as you reflect on the past 12 months and begin looking forward to the New Year, there is no better time to show your appreciation for your employees by rewarding their hard work for the year while spreading cheer during the holiday season. However, even with a more optimistic outlook for the economy, many managers would need a holiday miracle to give every employee in their department a holiday bonus. Although cold hard cash is a valued gift, employees will feel the love just as much if you offer one of these eight rewards instead.
1. Say thank you with a handwritten note.
As mundane and simple as it sounds, don't underestimate the power of taking the time to write a thoughtful and appreciative note. Be specific about how the employee is a valuable asset by mentioning individual accomplishments and achievements. Make sure to handwrite the note, don't opt for an email, and take the time to write clearly and legibly so that your employee can actually read the card!
2. Offer flexible hours or telecommuting options.
Especially if your team is working up until (or even on) Christmas, let them have flexible work hours. Allow them to take long lunches and leave work early. Even better, don't make them come into the office at all and let them work from home.
3. Call in the caterers.
If you can't let your team telecommute, bring in a catered breakfast or lunch. Make sure to get your employees' input about what kind of meal they'd like. Some delicious food can make working during a holiday week less of a drag.
4. Institute casual dress days.
Although many offices have already done away with suits and ties, if your company expects professional dress, give your employees a few days reprieve from heels and jackets. Instead, let them come to work in their favorite pair of jeans and the coziest sweater they have.
5. Give day off passes.
Sometimes your industry or business just will not allow you to let your employees leave early or telecommute during the holiday weeks. You may even have your team working on Christmas and New Years. If that's the case, give your employees a free pass (or a few) for any other day of the year. Let them take a long weekend, go on a field trip with their kid, or be a couch potato all day -- no excuses needed and a full day's pay guaranteed.
6. Publicly praise successes.
Host a lunch or small event where you can publicly acknowledge and praise each employee in front of their peers. Liven up the event by making it an interdepartmental Academy Awards. Make sure that everyone is acknowledged and praised and give away small gifts or prizes with each award. Specificity with your praise is essential: thank an employee for leading a project to success, saving a relationship with a client, or improving a system that made everyone's lives easier.
Get your whole team involved in sharing the love by having them write down specific ways in which they appreciate each of their colleagues for the work they do. Read these kind words out loud for each employee as another way to feel recognized and encouraged.
7. Start a departmental graffiti wall.
Bring in a huge whiteboard or chalkboard and set it up in a public place in the workspace. Write down specific ways that you appreciate each employee. Keep markers or chalk around and encourage everyone to contribute to the wall with encouraging words, inspirational quotes, doodles, or thank you notes.
8. Give gifts they actually want.
If you can't give bonuses, give gifts that your employees will actually appreciate. Skip the scented candles and give away movie tickets, gift certificates to a nice restaurant, free maid or landscaping service at home for a month, or a travel card to cover a month's worth of gas. If you're not sure how to pick a gift your whole staff would want, gift cards are always a hit.
Even if bonuses are not an option at your office, there are still plenty of ways to say "Thank You" to your employees and make them feel that their hard work and efforts were noticed and valued this year. Don't think that because you can't give cash, you should just ditch rewards altogether.
Readers, how would you like to be rewarded when bonuses are not an option?