Peak Performance: Tips You Can Use
Volume 7,  Issue 12
December 2015
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Holiday Bonus and Gifts...One Size Doesn't Fit All!
Ah, the holidays.  Every year they seem to creep up on us faster and faster. As a practice owner or manager, your end of the year checklist seems to get bigger and bigger.  Some of the more challenging things to do at this time of year revolved around what to do for your team. These may include decisions about staff bonuses, gifts, and possibly even plans for a holiday party.  What can you afford to give your employees? What will your employees feel most rewarded by? 

For some practices, the answer is easy.  They do the same thing year after year (nothing wrong with that).  For other practices, the holidays can be more complex.  Either way, there is planning to do!

So what do employees really want from employers around the holidays?  Money?  Most likely yes!  But would your employees prefer something else?  If you are considering giving a low dollar bonus, you're probably better off buying a gift.  Most employees would rather have a heart-felt handwritten thank you note and a gift card to their favorite restaurant than a $20 check.
If you decide to give a monetary holiday bonus, keep this in mind.  If you give a bonus every year, it can quickly become an expectation rather than a reward.  This year's holiday bonus will set a precedent for subsequent years.  Be prepared to answer questions if this year's bonus is $50 when last year you gave $500. Also, remember that bonuses are taxable income and should be run through payroll. Most systems can "gross up" a bonus check so the net amount to the employee is any amount you choose.
Take longevity and the number of hours worked per week into account when you calculate how much to give.  Then share these criteria with the team so the employee with 15 years' tenure knows that her perseverance is both recognized and rewarded.  You always have the final decision on bonus calculation, as you know who has contributed to the practice most.
Some employers apply Christmas bonuses first to balances employees owe to the hospital, and then pay out only the money remaining, if any. If you plan to do this, discuss this with the employee in advance. Certain employees may rely on their Christmas bonuses to buy gifts for their families. If an anticipated cash windfall would be consumed by hospital debt, you will be known as "the Grinch Who Stole Christmas" for years to come. On the other hand, some employees may be relieved to know that their accounts are paid off.
What do most employees really want this holiday season? They want to know that they matter, that their work has meaning and they are appreciated. How do you accomplish this with a holiday bonus or gift? You listen! Throughout the year, really listen to what your staff talks about. For example, during an informal conversation, Cody mentions that his family has a game night every week. Emily frequently mentions eating at the same restaurant, and Nancy comments that she wants to learn how to quilt. These things can quickly be recorded on a note and placed in the employee's personnel file for future reference. Imagine how your employees would feel if they received thoughtful, personalized gifts from you. It shows how much you care! Will doing something like this require more coordination, time and energy on your part? Sure; but the benefits will far outweigh the effort you spend. Gifts such as these will enhance the emotional connection the team shares with the practice. 
Do something different for your team every year. If you have a holiday party, change the venue, have a theme, give out silly awards, or create a slide show with pictures taken throughout the year and include baby pictures of the team. Have everyone guess which employee it is in the photo. If you give gifts to your staff, give something different each year, such as additional paid time off, gift cards, money, a bottle of wine, Christmas dinner for the family, a gift basket or the latest techno gadget. Your team will know to expect something but will never know exactly what they will receive.
Our most important advice? Take some time to connect with your employees.  Make time to enjoy their company and relax!  Whether you throw a huge party outside of the practice or hold an intimate get together at your home, spend time with your employees.  Get to know them on a personal level and don't talk shop!  Showing that you appreciate your employees improves overall morale and increases their loyalty to the practice.  The simplest of gestures create the biggest impact. And you may just find yourself enjoying the process.
Summit Veterinary Advisors, LLC