Susan Strayer, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board Member

Susan Strayer LaMotte, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board Member

Forget the holidays—the end of the year is a time for reflection: for yourself, your colleagues and your business. And too often, we forget that with reflection comes with gratitude.  Especially to your colleagues.

Forget about gifts and gorging for a second and think about what you’re really grateful for—how about a way to add value to the world you live, an opportunity to earn a wage, a team that supports you every day?

This year, a number of leaders have asked for advice on how to handle bonus and gift giving for the holidays. If you’ve been rewarded with the opportunity to run a team, now’s the perfect time to remember you’re not flying solo. Ever.

Start first with the sentiment of giving.

Sure, your employees get paid, but if you’re succeeding it ‘s not just because you’re going above and beyond.  They are too.

Second, come up with a plan.

Anything you give to your employees should align with your culture–what value are you recognizing when you give bonuses? Don’t just give a bonus and say thanks.

Third, give with recognition. Whatever you choose to give, accompany it with a message of thanks. Personalize it if you can. Handwritten notes recognizing specific wins or personal strengths or goals are often appreciated more than the gift or bonus itself.

I want to give cash. How much should I give?

If you can afford bonuses great, but they need to be $500 or more to be really impactful (especially after taxes). They should be calculated one of three ways:

1) Give a flat amount bonus for everyone tied to a business-based metric. For example, let’s say your average deal this year rose by $10,000. Divide $10,000 (or the percentage increase) by the entire team evenly.

2) Tier bonuses based on salary (typically 1-10%) of base salary. Tie tiers to levels with a flat percentage going to each level.

3) Offer bonuses based on performance–this means you have to have a performance process to tie it to. It can’t be random. Some companies do gainsharing: if the company hits certain revenue goals, everyone gets a percent of that. For example, if you end up with 107% of your sales goal, everyone gets a 7% bonus.

Forget cash. I want to give gifts.

If you can’t do bonuses of more than $500, I recommend to clients that they do unexpected gifts–the things people wouldn’t buy for themselves, the little luxuries.  Amazon gift cards are valuable, but don’t show much thought or personalization.

If you know your employees well and your company or team size is manageable, custom gifts really show a leader’s appreciation. Pay attention to what they do outside of work—their passions, interests and brand infatuations. At exaqueo, we track what brands employees love and what they’re passionate about. Then we can reward with gratitude that matters.

Let’s get to the dos and don’ts:

Some things NOT to do:
– Don’t pick a random flat bonus out of thin air
– Don’t give bigger bonuses to employees you like better
– Don’t tie gifts to gender, age, religion or sexual orientation

– Don’t give joke gifts—sure they’re funny, but rub one employee the wrong way and the sentiment is completely lost (plus it can be risky)
– Don’t pick a gift you like (focus on them!)

The most important things to DO:
– Do tie a monetary bonus to a metric–even if it’s a flat bonus
– Do pull in your values and culture when delivering bonuses or gifts
– Do make sure gifts are of equal value especially if you’ll be gift giving in public- Do consider a donation to a charity as an additional company gift of gratitude

It’s all about the attitude of gratitude too. End-of-year gratitude sets the tone for 2014. Surprising and delighting your employees means they take that sentiment home for the holidays and start 2014 with commitment and dedication.


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