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Inspiring employee engagement at Christmas – Christmas bonuses vs Christmas giving

Marcia and elfDoes your company do an annual Christmas bonus or appreciation? Has it been going on for a long time? Do employees expect it? Feel entitled to it? At some point an annual Christmas bonus becomes an employee entitlement. They begin to feel they deserve or are entitled to it. The same can be said for seniority awards.

I’m not suggesting that companies cut their employee Christmas appreciation bonuses or scrap their seniority awards. Both of these programs can contribute to employee engagement and can be an appreciated ritual for your company. Continue to do them, and do them with flare!

However to generate real Christmas delight and surprise you need to change things up every year.

One way to do this is with humorous employee appreciation awards

These are often both silly and ceremonial. Funny trophies for humorous things can be used to recognize individuals, groups of employees or departments. Involve supervisors or others in helping to create and to present the awards. Take the time to make them personal and surprising. They will have no monetary value – but the feelings that they can inspire are more meaningful and more in the Christmas spirit of surprise and delight.

Even better than just changing things up each year is reframing the Christmas question from what is the boss/company going do for us this Christmas, to “what are we (as a company) going to do or give this Christmas?” There are different ways to do this:

Rally your employees around supporting a local charity at Christmas time

This could include monetary or foodbank donations with goals and targets. Help your employees feel that they are contributing to a greater good than themselves at Christmas and feel that they are helping the community. Make sure your company contributes at least a matching amount! If possible donate to a charity with whom an employee or group of employees have had a personal connection or with whom your organization has volunteered during the year.

Focus on delighting your customers and clients for Christmas – the normal way

Have all hands on deck to support the best version of your organization to customers and clients during the holiday season. Involve all staff, even those who are not usually client or customer facing, in the festivities of spreading holiday cheer to those that your organization touches. For example, this could include having your accounting and maintenance staff participate in front-line customer and client facing events. I work in the back offices of a retirement home, but when we celebrate our Resident Christmas Party, all staff, from all departments come together to help make the season merry for our seniors.

Empower employees to spread mini Christmas miracles – the West Jet Way

If your company has a more resources this can be done in an even bigger way! For example, this year the West Jet Christmas Miracle 2015 features employees carrying out 12,000 mini miracles. Over a period of 24 hours WestJet empowered their 12,000 employees to commit random acts of kindness on December 9th.

Documentation and review

With all of these company Christmas efforts and events, ensure that you record them through words, photos and video, on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Reviewing and re-watching the moment or getting to share in someone else’s moment amplifies the feelings produced and creates a shared organizational memory and culture among employees.

Keep the bonuses but reframe the seasonal focus

So for the best employee engagement impact at Christmas, yes, keep giving out a Christmas bonus to your employees if this is something you have always done. But if your organization has additional ability and resources, do everything you can to reframe the Christmas focus from what your employees get at Christmas to how they can give – whether it be to customers, clients, one another, a local charity or random strangers. Involving your employees, together, in Christmas giving has a more significant ROI on authentic Christmas engagement than individually assigned, small increases to annual Christmas bonuses.

“Because every time we give or do a little extra for someone it feels good and that is what the season is all about.”

~WestJet Christmas Miracle 2015

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Marcia Scheffler

Human Resources Generalist at Wawel Villa
Marcia Scheffler, M.A., CHRP Candidate is a Human Resources Generalist with M.A. working full-time as a Senior HR Officer. She is interested in the intersection of human resources theory and current best practices in HR. Read more
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