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New Study Reveals What Employees Really Want for the Holidays

Of course your employees would be jolly if you cut them a check this holiday season, but you can also stay on their "nice" list with other (read: less expensive) recognition, a Randstad survey shows.

New Study Reveals What Employees Really Want for the Holidays

You rely on your employees every day of the year to keep your business humming. So if you want to make sure they're merry and bright for all of 2018, you'll probably want to use this holiday season to show them your appreciation. 

A recent survey by staffing firm (and Monster parent company) Randstad U.S. survey asked what employees really want for the holidays—and 54% of respondents ranked “holiday spirit in the workplace” as a priority. 

Alleviating the stress of the season and showing workers you care can go a long way toward building a better employer brand and improving and employee morale as well. “This is an opportunity for your company to show that you actually have a heart and value your employees,” says Chris Edmonds, author of The Culture Engine: A Framework for Driving Results, Inspiring Your Employees, and Transforming Your Workplace.

Here are seven creative ways to show you appreciate your employees this holiday season:

Trade the holiday bash for cash. Put simply: this is an expensive time of year. This holiday season, U.S. consumers plan to spend on average $967 on decorations, candy, holiday gifts, and other purchases for themselves and their families, the National Retail Federation reports. “Cash is tight,” says Eric Chester, employee engagement expert and author of On Fire at Work: How Great Companies Ignite Passion in Their People Without Burning Them Out

One way to help your employees shrink their spending is to give them a holiday bonus. In fact, Randstad’s survey found 90% of workers say they would rather get a bonus or extra vacation days than attend a company holiday party. 

Even a small bonus can be meaningful—when it comes with a personal note from your company’s president or CEO. Case in point: Rick Jackson, CEO of Jackson Healthcare, gives each of his employees a holiday card with $100 folded inside every year. If you can't do money, how about a free vacation day or two around the holiday week? Or a free day to take off anytime during their birthday month?

Offer flexible work options. Many employees want flexible work options during the holidays, says Paul Thallner, partner at the Great Place to Work Institute. Also, “the more you can accommodate your employees, the more both parties benefit,” Thallner says.

A recent study from the University of Minnesota and MIT found that workers at a Fortune 500 company who participated in a pilot work flexibility program voiced higher levels of job satisfaction and reduced levels of burnout and psychological stress than employees who did not participate in the program. 

Offering your employees flexible work hours and telecommuting options during the busy holiday season can make them happier and more productive. 

Break bread together. Randstad’s holiday survey found that 62% of employees feel obligated to attend their company’s holiday party. Instead of throwing a big fancy bash this year, consider a less lavish meal during the workday

“It doesn’t have to be a big catered event,” Edmonds says. “It can be something as basic as a pizza party.” The important thing is to have employees sit down and eat together as a group. “It’s about spending time together,” Thallner says. “That’s the kind of camaraderie that employees love.”

Organize a white elephant party. Exchanging gifts between co-workers is a fun way to celebrate the holidays, says Thallner, who recommends throwing a white elephant party.

The rules are simple: You set an affordable $5 or $10 budget for each gift, or have people bring in something valuable they own but don't want anymore. “It’s not about the price,” he explains. “It forces people to get creative and it creates positive memories for employees.” 

Provide a simple luxury. The holidays can be a stressful time of year for people. To help your employees decompress, bring in a masseuse to provide free 10-minute massages. Another fun activity for employee appreciation: “take your employees to see a matinee,” Chester suggests. 

Whatever activity you select, quietly ask a few employees for their input first to choose an activity that everyone will enjoy.

Share a thank-you video from an executive. Many companies (often unintentionally) build barriers between company brass and employees, which can damage employee morale. A short thank-you video from an executive during the holidays can open a communication channel and improve your company’s culture. “It humanizes executives and helps employees see company leaders as ordinary people,” Thallner says. 

This can be especially beneficial for employees that telecommute or work remotely. 

Say it in writing. Give employees handwritten thank-you notes from managers. Don’t overlook this time-tested display of appreciation. “You cannot underestimate the power of a handwritten note thanking an employee for their work for the year,” Thallner says. 

Rather than give all employees the same generic thank-you card, have managers write personalized messages to their direct reports citing specific milestones or contributions. (“Thank you for the new account you negotiated for our team. We couldn’t have done it without you.”)

The effort you put into caring for your workers this holiday season will benefit your workforce and company in the coming year—and that’s a gift for everyone.