With the Thanksgiving holiday officially behind us, ‘tis the season for holiday celebrations with family, friends and of course, your employees.


While there are many ways to celebrate your employees – I can give a great example of how NOT to throw a holiday party. Back in thSteve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.pnge day when I worked at the big law firm with the big clients and made the allegedly big bucks, the firm decided to throw a big holiday party. They rented a beautiful room in a nearby hotel and planned the party for 1:00 in the afternoon.


We thought it was an odd time, but then concluded that we would go, have a few libations, and probably get the rest of the afternoon off. We tried to deny the additional strangeness of the proceedings when we were told that spouses were not invited.

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Then, the morning of the party, the weirdness continued: A memo went out stating that attendance at the party was mandatory. The final indignation was this, we weren’t getting three hours off to go to the holiday party, instead, we were expected to make up that time later. Many of us glumly went to the party, and then went back to the office to work until 8:00 p.m. that night.


Worst. Party. Ever.


The good news is, that sort of tin-ear management is more the exception than the rule. I find that most small businesses want to take care of their staff because it is in fact a small group and often employees become part of our extended family. The question is – how to do so without breaking the bank?


Here are 6 easy and affordable ideas you can implement to celebrate your employees this holiday season:


1. Extra time off: We are all so busy this time of year trying to get everything done that there are few things you can do to endear yourself to your employees more than giving them some extra time off, especially in the middle of the day. They can use this to go shopping, run errands, whatever. It won’t cost you much, but it sure will engender a lot of loyalty.


2. Create a gift-wrap station: Consider buying plenty of gift-wrapping materials and setting them out in a designated area for the staff’s use. Your people will appreciate your thoughtfulness and take advantage of your kindness.


3. Give reasonably-priced, thoughtful presents: We often say, “it’s the thought that counts,” and that proves to be especially true at work. If you run a small business, your employees know that you likely run a pretty lean ship, and as such, they likely don't expect extravagant gifts from you. But they do expect something. A bottle of wine, a gift card, tickets to a game – if your gifts to your employees are more thoughtful than expensive, it’s all good.


4. Holiday potluck: Throwing a party (like my firm tried to do) is all well and good, but it is expensive. Instead, consider having a potluck Friday. Have everyone make their favorite recipe and bring their treats in to share with the gang. They will love to show-off their best dish and you will love saving hundreds of dollars.


5. Awards: End-of the year awards are a great way to give people recognition for the work they do. The only caveat here is that you need to make sure that everyone gets an award, otherwise the whole thing could backfire resulting in bad feelings.


6. Other recognitions: Of course Dec 4 Pull Quote.pngeveryone’s favorite holiday recognition is a bonus, and if you can give one, go for it. But if you cannot, the second best sort of recognition is acknowledgment itself. This can take many forms:


  • Single people out in your company newsletter for a job well done.
  • Write a handwritten note to the family of your employees, telling their loved ones what a great job their dad (or mom or whomever) does and how important they are to your business. People love this.
  • Take out a notice in a trade magazine or website that your team reads regularly, telling the world how great they are.


The bottom line is that you don’t have to kill your bottom line to make this a happy holiday season for you and your team. (just as long as you don’t make your holiday party mandatory!)


How are you planning to recognize your employees this holiday season? Please share your stories below.

About Steve Strauss




Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.