year-end employee recognition ideas

4 min read

The holidays are a special time, people’s moods begin to lift with the festive cheer and you can snowball that feeling of goodwill to show appreciation to everyone in your business. I love it and you’ll definitely see me in my Christmas jumper if you stop by the London office before I go on leave for the holidays!

Of course, Christmas can also be a time of stress and it’s important to be mindful of how this can affect peoples' attitude towards work. They may be struggling to make ends meet and feel under pressure to buy presents or they may be alone and having to spend a time of togetherness on their own.

Keeping employee engagement high is critical every day, but especially noticeable during the holiday season when there can be high stress.

Before I go to celebrate myself, here are six humble ways I’ve used and seen appreciation given to employees during the festive period which will keep spirits high…

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Ease financial troubles

If you can manage it, paying your employees even a few days early can help bring a little Christmas cheer as it can help ease end-of-year bill-paying stress and potentially avoid debt. Offering employees a great benefit that helps them save money on gift-giving, like our employee discounts program or net salary deduction benefit on technology, can help further keep money in your people’s purses.

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An army marches on its stomach

Food is a guaranteed hit when it comes showing your appreciation. In bigger companies, giving budget to each team or department for a meal, and in smaller companies, setting aside a budget for everyone to get together allows them swap their stories of the year in a more relaxed environment.

Being lucky enough to have our Wellbeing Café in our London office, Ursula and Monica, who cook healthy food for us each day, make a festive feast each year. It gets everyone in the office together with the appreciation being turned back on Ursula and Monica with a standing ovation and big round of applause from those who enjoyed the food! Including me, I might add.

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The Christmas party

A much debated aspect of the holidays is the Christmas party. Some companies prefer to avoid them at all costs whilst others embrace them with open arms, and neither are wrong – it all comes down to the culture of your company. I’m a big advocate of getting as much of the company together as possible to celebrate Christmas in some form or another.

If you’d rather avoid a party which brings the potential alcohol related slips then you could try another route, such as splitting your company or department up into teams and having a lighthearted “pub quiz.” You could even give each member of the team a free drink for taking part – it’ll definitely have a slower drinking pace than a free bar!

If a tree is put up in the office, does it make an impact?

You bet it does! Putting up a Christmas tree in a focal point of the office, where both employees and visitors can all see it, is a great way to spread festive appreciation throughout your workforce. You could even buy a mini-gift for each person, put it under the tree, and call everyone around it at a certain time to receive their gifts.


Adding a personal touch

With a tree up in the office, you can decorate it and the rest of the office with personalised ornaments. We did this in our American Boston office, and the results were fantastic. Our Boston crew are a small team with a lot of new faces so each personalised ornament was chosen to show off each their personalities. There was everything from a pair of lacrosse sticks to wine and cheese, as well as a Diet Coke and basketballs.

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Saying “Thank You” with a card

A handwritten card wishing people a “Merry Christmas” and a big “Thank You” for the efforts over the year goes a long way. If your company is too large to have your CEO handwrite cards for everyone, try encouraging line managers and department heads to write cards for the individual members of the team. You could even post them home for a bigger impact! Handwriting not an option? A digital eCard through your employee recognition platform can spread merriment across the offices — we design new ones every year.

I'd love to hear more ideas. Feel free to share your favourites in the comments, below. 

Robert Hicks

Robert is the Group HR Director at Reward Gateway. While running is his top way to unwind, he also loves going to gigs, watching football and cricket, and is known to enjoy the odd ski weekend.

Group HR Director

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