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What to give employees for Christmas

Skip the Employee Holiday Parties
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It’s that time of year again and most businesses have already planned office parties, employee gifts and year-end bonuses. Still, there may be some of you out there still pondering the question what to give employees for Christmas.

Skip the Celebrations

According to Suzanne Lucas of CBS Moneywatch (What do your employees want for Christmas) and a plethora of other polls, only five percent of employees vote for a holiday party.

What do employees want? Lucas offers up these stats released from Glassdoor:

· 73 percent want a cash bonus

· 60 percent are hoping for a pay raise

· 36 percent want time off of work that doesn’t count against their vacation time

· 13 percent want to work from home in 2013

Real-World Realities

A big work-place issue for employers and HR heads is justifying what to give employees for Christmas when it comes to the expense of theses desired items. As both an employee (HR head) and employer, I can relate to both sides, especially in today’s challenging economy.

But the economy shouldn’t be your most important decision when deciding what to do for your employees this year.

Give the Cash – If possible (and for some business owners it’s not) do give cash even if it’s less than what you think employees will want.

Skip the Pay Raises – If it’s been a long time since you’ve gotten a pay raise as the business owner and officer dividends are unheard of, skip the pay raises—in the real world employees understand the economy is bad even if they whine about it.

Free Time Off Work – This can be disruptive to work flow, but it can also be planned in advance. Make sure you set up a policy on how this program will work and do make it “unpaid” time off and no more than three to five a year per employee that can’t be taken as a block.

Telecommuting – Do think of this as a realistic option because technology has come a long way. With Skype, GoToMyPC and other VoIP offerings, if an employee can do the job at home and has a printer that is an all-in-one fax, copier, scanner why not offer some telecommuting days? Email and cloud document sharing make this even easier.

The Upset and Unhappy

When I was an HR Director, the company I worked for spanned four states—hard to give all the employees cash. We did opt for the honey-baked ham certificates but there were tons of complainers. Do your best to ignore those wanting to make things worse by complaining to every co-worker they can. If the situation gets out of hand, why not tell the complainers just how much 2,000 hams cost—or whatever the gift is—give them a reality check.

It’s not uncommon to show employees their total compensation package on paper including what the company pays for benefits, taxes, workman’s comp, retirement and wellness plans, company perks, etc. so why not stop the complainers by offering just how much the gifts cost per year?

Plan Ahead

For 2013, it’s best to budget for the holiday, year-end season like any other business expense. The very small can do this by investing in corporate gifts like portfolios and local two-night hotels stays—even dinner, sporting events or theatre tickets. If you make arrangement for bulk discounts throughout the year, when Christmas comes these “desired” gifts will be more appreciated. You can also put aside some cash each month toward year-end bonuses but that’s often hard for many small business owners to do.

Whatever you do, don’t forget annual employee evaluations…I’ll talk about how important this is in my next post on workplace issues.

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