Turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie… everyone knows the key ingredients to a perfect Thanksgiving dinner. But what about the ingredients for the perfect office Thanksgiving celebration?
This year, you don’t need to provide your employees a full-blown feast. Instead, focus on the reasons for the holiday: showing your appreciation, and encouraging them to give back to the community. To help you out, we’ve come up with a list of unique ways to put the “thanks” and “giving” back in your office Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is technically a holiday for thanks, so this is the perfect time to show your employees your gratitude. Here are a few ideas:
Organize a Team Activity
Instead of relying on the age-old catered lunch, try organizing a fun team activity. For example, last year, our team at Zenefits did a “Teamsgiving.” Each team member provided a potluck item and was assigned another member to present with a personalized gift of thanks. No need to break the bank – have employees make creative gifts for each other that show appreciation. Plus, it’s much more personal than your typical Starbucks gift card.
Have a “Thank You” Wall
A unique way to show your employees appreciation, and give them the chance to do the same for their coworkers, is to have a “Thank You” wall. Write Post-It notes thanking specific employees for something they’ve contributed to the office, and encourage them to do the same for each other. Another option is to do “holiday grams,” which is what we’re currently doing at Zenefits. We’re encouraged to submit three names of co-workers we’re thankful for, along with a message, and these “holiday grams” are displayed in the TVs throughout our office. The best part? Zenefits is donating $1 to a non-profit for every employee recognized.
Tell Your Story
Remember that play in elementary school where you had to dress up as a pilgrim and tell the story of Thanksgiving? This year, try telling your own story instead. Recruit a few employees to help you write and perform your company’s story in front of coworkers. Dress up, include some company jokes, ask for audience interaction – make it a fun and fresh way to celebrate your company’s history, as well as America’s!
Compete in Festive Games
Having your employees compete in Thanksgiving-related games can be a great way to bring the holiday spirit into your office. Try Pumpkin Bowling – find the roundest pumpkin you can, set up “pins” (toilet paper rolls, paper towels, water bottles, etc.) in the parking lot or hallway, and have a company-wide tournament. Present the winners with festive prizes like a turkey or homemade pumpkin bread.
Hold a Recipe Contest
To get your employees in the Thanksgiving spirit (not to mention save a few bucks on catering costs), hold a recipe contest where employees bring in their favorite Thanksgiving dish. Have scorecards for your employees to rate the items – winner gets to go home early!
Although Thanksgiving typically focuses on the “thanks” element, it just wouldn’t be the same without the “giving.” So this year, help your employees give back with these tips:
Facilitate Volunteer Time
This Thanksgiving, don’t just encourage your employees to give back – actually help them do it! Allow your workers to take time off to do a volunteer project. To say thank you (and to motivate other employees), have participants share pictures of their good deeds, then post them in the office.
Give Back as a Group
Help your company serve the community by participating in a volunteer activity as a group. Join a canned food drive, serve at a soup kitchen, build a house for Habitat for Humanity… the possibilities are endless. For example, this year, Zenefits has partnered up with SF Marin Food Bank for a friendly fundraiser amongst the tech community in hopes of helping them reach their goal of $500,000! Another plus: giving back as a group is great exposure for your company.
Sponsor an Event
Instead of participating in events put on by other groups, you can sponsor your own community event. Hold a dinner, carnival, or silent auction, and donate the proceeds to a charity of your choice. You can even have your employees vote on the organization they would most like to support.
Bring the Competition
While competition may not seem to fit the spirit of Thanksgiving, in this case it can be quite the opposite. Add an altruistic edge to those Thanksgiving office games mentioned earlier. Instead of giving the winners prizes for themselves, make a donation in their name to the charity of their choice.
Use Your Expertise
One of the best ways to give back is to use what is uniquely yours – that is, utilize your company’s skill set to help others. LinkedIn, for example, offers free resume counseling for veterans, while Kraft Foods provides food and nutrition expertise to help fight hunger in North America. Figure out what your company and your talented employees can offer to better serve your community, and put them into action this Thanksgiving!
This year, taking the time to show thanks for your employees and give back to your community is the perfect way to get in the holiday spirit. And, it will make your turkey dinner taste that much sweeter.
For even more tips on building a great company culture with your team, check out our latest eBook, The Executive Guide to Growing Your Business.
Note: This article was originally published in November 2015, but has been updated as of November 2016.