10 Creative Ways to Thank Employees This Holiday Season

Holiday bonuses are nice but those are often expected. To really thank your team, aim for something that will surprise them

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This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources, and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

This is a week for giving thanks, something we usually think of in the context of our home and a gathering of family and friends around a traditional meal. But before you go off for that extra-long weekend, have you thought about how you might thank your employees this holiday season? Without them, you literally wouldn’t have a company.

Holiday bonuses are nice, and depending on your company’s practices may be expected. But here are 10 non-cash perks that will let employees know you’re thinking of them in a way a check can’t:

1. Give to a charity they choose.

Let employees know you’d like to make a donation in their name to a charity of their choice, either making a small donation available to each one or letting them vote on a charity to receive a more sizable gift. Message: We care about what you care about.

2. Serve them lunch.

One CEO I met tasked with turning around morale at a large company would actually stand in the company’s cafeteria once a month dishing out food to employees. In a smaller company you can order in food and then you and other top leadership can wait on employees, bringing them their dishes and picking up afterward. Message: We’re all in this together.

3. Help with the commute.

If you’re in an urban area where employees take public transportation to work, look into subsidizing those expenses. Many cities have special plans that save on your taxes while helping employees pay for their rides. Messaage: We appreciate you coming here every day.

4. Invite the kids to work.

During the Christmas school break or on snow days, invite employees to bring children with them to work. Set aside a space for them to play and arrange an on-site baby-sitter to watch the kids and perhaps take them outside for a snowball fight. Message: We know you have obligations outside work and we want to help.

5. Have a rotating trophy.

It could be a silver cup, the original prototype of your company’s product or even a beloved stuffed animal. Whatever it is, it should symbolize appreciation and achievement to your team. On the last day of the month, present it to an employee who’s done something exceptional for your company, his or her co-workers, or the community. On the last day of the following month, that employee will present it to another team member who’s done something exceptional. And so on. Message: Recognizing contributions is everyone’s privilege.

6. Give them time for their own projects.

Until recently, Google famously gave its engineers one day a week to work on a project of their choice. You don’t have to go that far, but one day a month, or a few days out of the year, invite employees to work on whatever they want, including volunteer or community work. Message: We care about what excites you.

7. Lend out your office.

Get out of your office for a week or two and let one of your cubicle dwellers use it instead. Encourage other executives with offices to do the same. Message: You’re valuable too.

8. Lend out your ride.

Do you have a fancy car that you use for sales calls or have purchased or leased for personal use to reflect your company’s success? Reward an employee who’s done something special by inviting him or her to drive it to a sporting event or business function. Message: We trust you.

9. Let Fido in.

If no one in your office is allergic, invite employees with well-behaved dogs to bring them to work. You may find some stay later when they don’t have to worry about rushing home to walk their dogs. Consider having a groomer come to the office as a special bonus. Message: We understand how much you care about your pet.

10. Offer a fitness program.

This could be a lunchtime yoga class, discounted gym membership, exercise equipment room, company hikes or bike rides, or even a fresh juice station. Gauge your employees’ preferences and fitness levels to determine the right mix for you. Message: We care about your health.
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