'Tis the season to be jolly, but chances are, what you're feeling isn't so much jolly as stressed out. Not only do end-of-the-year deadlines loom, but there are last-minute deliveries to make and you still have shopping to do, presents to wrap and relatives to entertain. Still, you can't ignore your work family—your staff.
The question comes up every year. What's the best way to show your appreciation to your staff? Let's review the options along with their pros and cons.
1. The offsite office party. Everybody gets decked out and heads to the ballroom of the local hotel, with spouse in tow, for an event featuring a catered dinner, live band and open bar (uh oh, better not—liability, you know). Everyone has a great time—except for those staff members who only go because they feel obligated to attend and those forced to drag along a reluctant spouse. And then, there's the huge cost.
2. The onsite office party. Compared to the offsite party, this one's a bargain. And holding the party during work hours eliminates the question of whether to invite spouses.No one has to get dressed up—a plus for many staffers. However, because it's work time, someone gets stuck answering the phone or dealing with that last-minute customer crisis. If you hold the festivities right after work instead, some are bound to resent the encroachment into their personal time.
3. The have-yourself-a-merry-little-Christmas party. Believe it or not, some organizations think they're being magnanimous when they hand out holiday goodies and send employees off to celebrate on their own. Back in the day, the gift was a bottle of scotch or champagne. But now businesses have taken to giving out frozen turkeys, 15-inch cheesecakes or gift baskets stuffed with truffles and pate. It's the thought that counts, of course, but more often than not, these gifts go unappreciated. What does a newly divorced employee do with a 24- pound frozen turkey?
4. Gifts and gift certificates. Handing out gifts gets you off the hook for hosting a party, but gift giving brings dilemmas of its own. Do you get everyone the same item to avoid the appearance of favoritism? Or would it be better to try to personalize your gifts? Does imprinting the item with the company's logo make it more memorable or is that tacky? Even if you opt for gift certificates, you still have to make choices: Should the certificate be for a department store, discount store, restaurant or mall? What value should the gift certificates have?
5. The cash bonus. Cash might be the best solution. Each person can buy what he/she wants and no one has to get dressed up. But you still have decisions to make: Do you give everybody the same amount? Do you adjust the amount according to job position? Longevity with the company? Merit? Should the amount be linked to profit margins or sales goals? Will you create a dangerous precedent by setting up expectations that you may or may not be able to meet next year?
6. Time off. One of our clients used to throw a party for 5,000 employees each year, complete with caterers, tent and live band. But at the request of staffers, it has since bagged the party in favor of time off. If you give employees time off, the only decisions you have to make are how much time and when: Will it be a fixed day, such as Dec. 24, or can each employee pick his or her own time?
Make your decision carefully. If you choose wisely, you raise your odds of starting off the new year with enthusiastic, energized employees. But whatever you decide, have a happy holiday season. Enjoy!