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  • Writer's pictureNatalee Ovbiagele

Ending the Year with Cheer


With the end of the year comes a flurry of tasks for most organizations and their HR partners, as there are several important tasks that all seemingly happen at the same time - benefits open enrollment, annual performance reviews, bonus calculations, holiday gatherings, updating W2s, the list goes on.

But in the thick of things, we must weave in a healthy dose of holiday cheer. Let's face it, with an unprecedented year like 2020, it's the least we deserve. So, bust out the champagne bottles, pour it up, and give your virtual toasts! Your employees deserve to feel valued and uplifted, because this year has been a drag and beatdown.

Here are some ideas and suggestions for organizations looking to turning up the cheer at the end of the year -

Zoom Into the New Year With a Beer.

You probably can't plan the large holiday office party this year because of the pandemic, financial considerations, and safety reasons. But that's no excuse to stop the fun. There are other cost efficient and safe alternatives.

Try out a Zoom Happy Hour Social (BYOB, of course) where you have an opportunity to engage your remote workers for some fun. You can collaborate by doing some Holiday Trivia or a Scavenger Hunt (a race to finding things on the checklist, from your home). If you want to make it really festive, employees can turn on their video, dress up in Ugly Holiday Sweaters, and then vote on the ugliest one. If anything, the year has taught us the value of lightening up to get through some tough times.

Holiday Meals on Wheels.

If your company is like ours, we host a Holiday Meal every year, almost like a big family feast where we get fancy catering and eat a big proper meal. An alternative could be individually boxed meals. Just ask your caterer - they are trying to be creative to survive this too!

If your workers are remote - this is an awesome opportunity for you to support local businesses. Why not send a UberEats/DoorDash/GrubHub e-gift card to your employees so that they can order their favorite takeout from their favorite local restaurant? Want to share the meal together? Then set a meal date over zoom and eat your meal together (virtually). Try not to be the one with the ketchup running down their chin :)

Preach PTO.

When it comes to Paid Time Off, let your employees use it and encourage them to use it. They've earned it, right? I urge you to consider that. Whatever work that needs to be done - can't it wait? This holiday season, it's going to be important for people to take some time away from work to regroup and reset. Conversely, have all your people eaten up their PTO for time off while they were sick or juggling the kids around? Maybe offer them an extra day or two for the holidays without penalty. Such a gesture could really go a long way in telling the people, your employees, who serve as the backbone of any venture - you matter, and you are appreciated!

Get Personal, Write a Letter. And Be Real to Your Employees.

A lot of companies are going to have to communicate somber economic and financial news to their employees this year. For the first time in a while, this year, many employees will not be receiving bonuses. Some might have their work hours reduced. And many more will not receive raises. Organizations and their leaders must communicate these realities.

And how organizations communicate this sobering reality is important in reducing the effect on the holiday cheer. Business owners and executives might want to consider writing honest, personalized, and heart-felt letters to their employees while communicating these stark realities. It sounds a little old-school, but there is something special about a personalized letter.

The letters should be honest and human - transparency is key. Your people will understand. Too often employers feel the need to put false brave face. This often leads to false promises. Employees can see through these things.

Painting a rosier than real picture of your company’s financial reality only serves to dampen the holiday cheer. Don’t be a buzzkill. It sucks. But 2020 has taught us that -- we're all in this together and we need to keep-it-real. Your employees will understand. At the very least, they would respect the honesty.

Don't Skip the Performance Review.

Maybe you aren't able to give compensation adjustments for 2021, and that's understandable. But don't fail to talk about performance. Typically, we see compensation reviews go hand and hand with performance reviews at the end of the year. Remember that just because you can't do one, doesn't mean you shouldn't do the other.

Employees deserve to hear about their performance and to gain that useful feedback - and also their chance to give it too! The performance review is your opportunity to tell them verbally (which is so cheap, its free!) that they are valued and appreciated for their contributions. They stuck with you through this year - congrats, you got a keeper!

Prepare for the New Year.

My last suggestion and probably the most important one for you to consider is goal setting. I know, we want to move past 2020. But as hard as it has been, you must take the time to look back with your people. Who knows, there are probably so many little happy stories and gladiator moments hiding within the grim months. Review them with your people. And celebrate them.

Then, do some goal setting for 2021. It’s definitely going to be a better year (we hope!). Goal setting is the perfect opportunity for you to realign your employees and to set their eyes on the right targets and the future! Yes folks, there will be a future. Employees want to know what's going to be expected of them, enjoy being engaged in that process, and quite honestly - can use the distraction of focus from the pandemic.

Although this year had its challenges and wasn't what you were planning on, you learned something through the trials, you adapted, you grew. Wrap up the year by celebrating and acknowledging that. And while 2021 still has no guarantees, I urge all of us in business to remain hopeful and resilient. Don’t skip any opportunities for some much needed holiday cheer!


Happy Holidays!

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