Small Business Guide to Holiday Perks (In Lieu of Holiday Bonuses)

Holiday bonuses have come to be expected, but that can pose a problem for budget-tight small businesses. Here are some other perks to offer employees.

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ideas for holiday bonuses in lieu of cash

Between buying presents, visiting family, and cooking for crowds, cash is tight for most people around the holidays, which is why holiday bonuses are highly sought-after. A 1,000 person poll conducted by Research Now SSI found that 41% of respondents ranked bonuses as their most preferred holiday perk.

However, the reality for most small business owners is that dishing out extra money to each employee at the end of the year isn’t always possible. In fact, 46% of respondents said their employers don’t give out any type of monetary holiday gifts, including bonuses.

So, if your reality is the inability to hand out holiday bonuses in the form of cash money– like many small businesses– you can try turning to alternative types of holiday bonuses. These can make your employees feel just as appreciated (and perhaps more so) as offering a lump of cash.

Where did holiday bonuses first come from?

The best place to start when trying to decide what to give your employees for their holiday bonuses is understanding the history of holiday bonuses. This means understanding needs they were designed to meet in the first place.

As sociologist Viviana A. Zelizer notes, “At the turn of the 20th century, US employers began substituting the traditional 19th century Christmas offerings to employees—turkeys, watches, candy, or gold coins—with a cash bonus… Gifts of cash were increasingly standardized, calculated as a percentage of the wage.”

As you can see, the genesis of the cash bonus was really just a kind thank you in the form of a small gift. Cash bonuses became a way for companies to match competitors’ higher wages and avoid employee strikes. However, that kind of appreciation can be shown in other ways besides cash.

What are some alternatives to cash holiday bonuses?

Forgoing cash bonuses give you the opportunity to be innovative as a small business owner. Have you been thinking about adding gym memberships or covering a portion of your employee’s cell phone costs as perks anyway? If so, consider holding off until the end of the year and announcing it as a team-wide bonus instead.

Another unique approach to holiday bonuses in lieu of cash is offering professional development opportunities to your employees. Yep, it’ll still cost you money, but it will keep the rewards business focused and benefit you in the long run to employ people who are advancing their skills and abilities.

If nothing else, clear-cut employee appreciation is always appreciated when it comes to holiday bonuses especially if this isn’t your strong suit year-round. Make it a point to sing their praises in front of colleagues and find other ways to recognize their contributions. Cash is used and gone, but the impact of praise from a boss or manager is one approach to holiday bonuses that will last.

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