10 Employee Appreciation Ideas For The Holidays

10 Employee Appreciation Ideas For The Holidays

Wishing you all happy holidays and a great new year!

As we reach the end of our blogs for 2019 we’d like to wish you all a wonderful December and thank you for your interest this past year. Whether you are a blog reader or a McQuaig customer, your support is appreciated and we look forward to coming back in the new year with more great content. Please enjoy a safe and happy holiday season and we’ll see you in 2020.


While it varies a bit by specific research, usually the three primary reasons someone leaves a job are: relationship to their manager, compensation/benefits issues relative to the amount of work, and lack of appreciation or recognition. You can argue which of those is No. 1 and you can look at turnover in any number of ways. But you cannot ignore what is becoming a well known truth: if you don’t recognize employees, they will eventually leave.

Recognition, appreciation, and trust are cornerstones of human interaction, and yet we sometimes remove those from workplaces in the interest of efficiency, scale, and productivity. But really, appreciation is vital to your workforce, especially around the holidays when many are in giving or cheerful moods. There’s almost an assumption that some form of appreciation will happen during December, be it a holiday party, a bonus of some kind, or just something to say thanks, and it makes sense. Your staff work hard all year long, after all. So as it’s the holiday season, let’s break down some ways you can use to show your appreciation for your team or department.

Larger holiday employee appreciation ideas

Let’s put this into two buckets — more extrinsic, bigger ideas and then smaller, more intrinsic ideas. Larger ideas include:

1) Provide bonuses: This is usually everyone’s first stop on the employee recognition ideas game. If you’re going to go down a monetary appreciation route, however, you will need a full accounting system for this. Usually this requires taking into account tenure, productivity, net revenue, sometimes revenue per department, team specific goals, etc. It’s important not to have the bonuses just go to senior-level people and sales. That sends the wrong message. Their bonuses can be bigger, of course, but everyone should receive something if the math works out since those who do get bonuses get them in part because of the hard work happening in the departments all around them.

2) Throw a holiday party for staff: Who doesn’t love karaoke after a couple of drinks, right? While you don’t have to do anything big or formal, holiday parties or team meals is a good way to show you care and it gives everyone a chance to unwind away from the office. If you’re worried about mixing alcohol and a work event, try inviting families to the party to give it more of a casual vibe.

Read More: Make your employees feel values with these 5 ideas

3) Give additional time off: This varies by industry, but broadly not a lot happens in many white-collar offices between about December 22nd and January 2nd/3rd. Giving employees the week between Christmas and New Year’s off can be a welcome treat, and gives them more time with their families. If that’s not possible, consider allowing everyone to work from home during that in-between week with the understanding that if anything urgent comes in, it needs to be dealt with but workloads will be very light beyond that responsibility.

4) Have a family/Santa/etc. event: If holiday parties aren’t your cup of tea, make it even more family focused and throw an event during the day. Allow people to bring their kids, make gingerbread houses, have photos with a Santa, etc. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, no. But you can make the event a mix of different celebrations, or just make it a Family Holidays concept. This is less “party-based” and more “family-based,” which can also signal the values of your culture.

5) Throw an employee appreciation day: Designate a day that is about employees, not managers or those higher up the food chain. Then have that exec team do things throughout the day to say thanks. This can be a speech from the CEO, an early day, lunch with department directors, handwritten notes to staff,  etc. One company we’ve heard of even has their senior team cook breakfast for every member of staff once a year.

Pro-tip: Check out these 6 ideas to keep employee engagement from slipping

Smaller holiday employee appreciation ideas

Now that we’ve covered some of the larger, company-wide ideas, let’s explore some smaller gestures that might be more appropriate for a team setting. These include:

1) Start talking deeply with employees about 2020 and their goals: Each manager should be doing this anyways but it bears repeating. Consider a chart like this for each direct report:

19Q4-10 Employee Appreciation Ideas For The Holidays pic-blog

This process will make employees feel like they’re being invested in going forward, which speaks deeply to the employee value proposition (EVP). It also allows the manager a chance to have a one-on-one conversation which should include, among other things, gratitude for their efforts so far.

2) Make “fun” yearly recaps: Like a haiku about every employee and what they did this year, or a team video recapping some of the year in a funny way. Even snapping pictures throughout the year and making a wall of them can be fun around the end of the year.

3) Gift cards: This is the old standby but it works. It doesn’t cost much, and people value movies/coffee/etc over the holidays.

4) More flexible work from home schedule: There are a lot of needs during the holidays around shopping, family in town, kids out of school, etc. Loosen up your work from home/remote policy during this time and show employees you still value their ability to get work done. This can be particularly effective around days like Black Friday or Boxing Day where everyone is likely trying to get deals online. Giving employees an hour at the start of their day to get their carts ordered will make everyone feel more relaxed and productive.

5) Social media spotlight: Spotlight one new employee per day on different social channels, in the spirit of the season! Even better, have teams spotlight each other online to boost your employer brand reach and publicly recognize great contributions. Not to mention, it boosts peer recognition which can be just as important as the managerial kind.

6) 2020 moonshot contest: Let every employee contribute a “crazy” idea that could benefit the business in 2020, then actually have team leads follow up with them about some of the ideas. Have a presentation before a longer break showcasing some of the zany ideas and how they might help the business going forward.

Saying thank you goes a long way

We all want to be appreciated and recognized. It’s a core tenet of being human, not to mention a key part of team building. When recognition is not present in the workplace, employee engagement tends to suffer which of course can lead to turnover. But using some of these simple ways to show you appreciate the contributions those around you are making can have a positive impact that lasts well beyond the holiday season. It’s the effort that counts so from big companies with deep pockets to small startups working around a shared table, take a moment to step back and say thank you to the people who help make a company’s vision a reality. And when the snow starts to melt, remember the impact those two little words can have and see if you can build employee appreciation into your talent management strategy year round.

Download The Quick Guide to Employee Engagement


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