Why Thanking Your Employees Is More Important Than Ever This Holiday Season

After this difficult year, show your staff that you value their hard work, and appreciate them sticking with you. (Yes, it’s possible to do so on a budget!)

Young woman gives golden gift box wearing a protective Face maks for Covid-19, present and Coronavirus concept. social distance background
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There’s nothing quite like a “thank you.”  The impact of an outward expression of appreciation cannot be underestimated—especially when it comes from a boss.

And while you might always plan something special for your staff around the holidays, this year it’ll be more important than ever to show them that you value their hard work, and appreciate them sticking with you through an incredibly challenging time.

“It’s been such a turbulent year,” says Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew, CEO and founder of Soulstice Consultancy, which works with small business owners. “Showing gratitude is a way to honor your employees, demonstrate your acknowledgment of their service, as well as highlighting each individual for their contribution to the company.”

If you’re short on cash for gift-giving this year, though, you’re not alone—and Booker-Drew says that’s okay. “It isn’t about giving the most expensive gift, but making sure it is something that is meaningful and respectful,” she says. “Gift giving can be a great way to reinforce company values of collaboration, teamwork and support, especially if the giving is focused more on enhancing relationships than it is on the types of items exchanged.”

The good news is, with a bit of creativity, you can show your thanks without blowing your budget.

  1. Make it personal.

Gifts that are specific to the giftee show that you care about their interests and that you’ve put thought into their gift. Even if all you can give is a card this year, a handwritten, personalized and from-the-heart message can go a long way.

  1. Gift them an experience.

“I love thanking my employees on a year-round basis, but especially during the holidays, with a little extra treat,” says Lindsey Dinneen, owner of Elevate Art, a boutique semiprivate dance studio for pre-professionals in Leawood, KS. In the past she’s done everything from dance-related gifts to a Starbucks gift card to a gift basket with champagne and bath goodies. This year, though, she’s opting to gift her employees Groupons, which they can redeem for much-deserved discounted spa days.

  1. Don’t play favorites.

Booker-Drew encourages small dance business owners to be sure gifts are comparable between all employees—otherwise gift giving can backfire.

  1. Shout them out.

Who doesn’t love being publicly celebrated for a job well done? Jen Ngozi, founder of dance fitness company NetWerk, says that public recognition can help motivate employees. So, she’s planning to celebrate each of her team members on NetWerk’s social media platforms, with a photo or video and a description of what they’ve achieved throughout the year. “Our team has been instrumental in helping us pivot to offer virtual offerings this year,” Ngozi says. “It’s the least we can do!”

  1. Gift them time.

Extra time off—especially after this difficult year—will be much appreciated, and won’t cost you a thing. The trick is in the scheduling; figuring out how to give them an extra day or two off without it impacting workflow or placing too much work on other employees—or you. Make it work so it’s a win–win for everyone.

  1. Zoom, Zoom, Zoom

With COVID-19 cases on the rise again, an in-person holiday party may not be possible (or smart). But, there’s plenty of potential for holiday fun on Zoom, says Booker-Drew. Meet virtually to play games, have a dance party or even host an awards ceremony, giving out creative and funny superlatives to staff members. If you can, provide a small food allowance so they can celebrate at home in style.

  1. Remember: Cash is king.

Cash may not be particularly creative, but it might be what your employees most want (and need). (Plus, it takes the guesswork out for you.) Give what you can reasonably afford (keeping in mind that it is taxable for your staff) and make it special with a card and some studio swag, like your branded T-shirts, sweatshirts or mugs.

Sheryl Nance-Nash is a New York–based freelance writer specializing in personal finance, business, and travel/lifestyle.