How employers can make workers happy this holiday season

The No. 1 gift employees want this holiday season is a bonus, but many employers have other plans.

Some 41% of employees surveyed say they want their stockings stuffed with extra cash, but almost half (46%) say their companies don’t offer bonuses or any other monetary gifts, with 13% describing their employer as “stingy,” according to 1,000 employees polled by Spherion Staffing Services.

With the unemployment rate sitting at 3.7%, the lowest since 1969, employers that are unable to give bonuses may run the risk of losing their employees.

“It’s a tricky line to walk because you don’t want to seem like Scrooge, but at the same time, giving out bonuses to each employee is not necessarily feasible for many companies,” says Rob Wilson, president of Employco USA, an employment solutions firm.

Wilson adds that given the tight labor market, smaller companies who’ve focused on making their wages and benefits competitive will find it challenging to give out extra cash. “If you try to take it out of their wages for the bonus, that can backfire.”

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Employees serve customers at the Macy's Inc. flagship store in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. Deloitte expects sales from November to January to rise as much as 5.6 percent, to more than $1.1 trillion, marking the best holiday period in recent memory. Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg

“Once you do bonuses,” Wilson says, “it’s really hard to stop it.” An bonus expectation is created that some firms, uncertain of what the future may hold, wish to avoid, he says.

“If you do it a year or two years in a row, you better have a good story as you why you won’t do it again.”

For employers who choose to not give out extra cash this year, Wilson suggests giving employees some time off. With the holidays coming up, he says, “giving the team an extra day off or even half-a-day can go a long way in inspiring goodwill.”

Earlier this year, a study by West Monroe Partners found that 42% of employees who got days off during the holidays report feeling more productive. For employees who don’t get time off, only 17% reported feeling productive.

Wilson notes that employers should set a rule about in-office gifts. He suggests making it clear that employees are not expected to get their managers or supervisors any gifts during the holidays.

“This will help to remove any fears of ‘brown-nosing’ or people getting favorable treatment just because they are able to splurge on a big gift for the boss while others cannot afford to do so,” Wilson says.

Employers should encourage their staff to give to charity instead, says Wilson, noting that the practice can help remove stress about holiday giving in the office.

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