Why Businesses Need a New Holiday Playbook this Thanksgiving

As published on Medium.com

This Thanksgiving, it is more important than ever to offer employees a little extra recognition and show that you care.

Traditionally, small holiday cash bonuses and a cliché Christmas party are what most businesses settle for to thank employees before rolling into the next year. But this year has been far from traditional. Hiring has all but stopped, and it is increasingly difficult to retain the employees you do have. On top of that, it has become harder simply to do an assigned job.

For example, customer service representatives and other client-facing personnel are used to the holiday uptick in call volume and special requests. But this year, with increased shipping delays and smaller teams, volume is expected to surge and interactions to become more contentious. The real kicker, too, is that the prospect of quitting a job without any alternative lined up is no longer an unacceptable option, making employee retention even more challenging.

So how do you fight this two-headed dragon? On one hand, it is hard to hire and keep employees, but on the other, conventional means of appreciation just won’t cut it.

Let’s try flipping the problem on its head.

With inflation, labor, and supply chain issues swirling, employees may feel powerless or that their employers are bending to other pressures ahead of addressing employee concerns. So instead of scratching your head trying to come up with some new, creative way of thanking your employees and keeping them happy, why not just ask them what they want?

According to recent data, over 8 in 10 employees have ideas about how their company can improve, but over a third of all employees believe that their company doesn’t listen to them.

So, the first piece of ‘thank you’ must start with asking employees how you can help them right now — what do they need? Whether through an anonymous survey or small focus group, reaching out will not only signal your interest in what they have to say, but also likely lead to better ideas for how to retain and assist your workforce.

Next comes follow-through. After fielding ideas from your employees, it is key to follow through on some version of at least one. This immediately builds trust and lets employees know you are serious and that they have a chance to make a real, visible impact as a part of your team.

Now, employees are engaged and contributing, helping remedy their own difficulties and alleviating your headache from figuring out how to react to the current environment. But you can’t stop here. Your ‘thank you’ isn’t complete without some form of giving.

Year-end bonuses will always have their place, as will raises. But most businesses simply can’t keep up with inflation or other standard percentage benchmarks right now, especially as expenses skyrocket in every other category.

Enter noncash rewards.

From superlatives to years-of-service certificates to actual gifts, employee recognition and comprehensive points programs are the creative solution tailored to this moment. Whether you expand an existing program or start a new one, this type of solution checks all your boxes.

Employees are happy because you’ve supplemented their salary and any bonuses. You are happy because you’ve retained your employees and let them know you will adjust with the times and respond to their needs. Clients are satisfied, as you stand out from the competition and avoid the turnover chaos and out-of-sync workplace culture that is affecting quality of service in every industry.

But you can’t have one pillar without the others. A two-way relationship with your workforce is essential yet demands follow-through. Delivering for your employees on the business front will drive efficiencies that help you stand out, but this also requires a personal touch. Instituting recognition and earned rewards complete the circle by driving active engagement and future motivation, putting you clearly above your competition.

Managers have an opportunity to build lasting loyalty in the workplace at this unique moment in time. With headwinds on all fronts, employees who feel heard and see their businesses respond to their needs, all while offering opportunities for recognition and rewards, are more likely to stick around for the long haul and be more actively engaged. This Thanksgiving, businesses have a chance to deliver a new kind of ‘thank you’ to employees that will pay dividends for years to come.

At Quality Incentive Company, Rob is responsible for leading the company’s business development efforts in both the employee recognition and sales/channel arenas. He has more than 10 years of experience in the recognition and incentive industry, having served as president and CEO of Atlanta-based Loyaltyworks before joining QIC in 2011.