Make it Mean a Little More

Get Personal This Yearend

Have you noticed all of the holiday decorations around your neighbourhood? What about the festive backgrounds on virtual meetings? People are looking for some joy and are trying to make the best of the ongoing situation.

But don’t be a downer this yearend. Plan a little something for your hardworking employees who’ve stuck by you through these less-than-perfect nine months. The ones who’ve converted their dining room tables into desks, who’ve worked in isolation away from the water cooler, who’ve spent endless hours on the phone with their internet providers…

“It’s been a really tough year for everyone — there’s been a lot of uncertainty, there’s been a lot of trauma and we’ve all been going through tough times. I think it’s important for employers to recognize and appreciate all that their team has been through together this year and that they’ve continued to show up and do their best despite what’s going on in the world,” said Nora Jenkins Townson, founder and principal of a Toronto-based HR consultancy Bright + Early in a November article on

Be Honest

Before going any further, there’s one caveat. If you’ve provided cash bonuses regularly in past years that staff has come to expect, you need to be honest up front, and let them know that this year will be different. You owe them that respect. And no employer wants a Cousin Eddie showing up at their home on December 24 to remind them that they are a crumby boss like in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

So, what can you do instead? Planning a virtual party might seem like the automatic go-to, but haven’t we all spent enough time in front of our computers this year? Is toasting your team with a cocktail held up to the camera really how you want to say, “I couldn’t have made it through the year without you,”?

Recognize Contributions

Let’s get personal, and I don’t mean going through HR files. What makes people feel truly valued isn’t a thoughtless one-hour alcohol-fueled gush fest, but a genuine acknowledgement of an employee’s above-and-beyond effort or sacrifice that helped you and your small business through tough times.

As Jenkins Townson points out, “For a lot of people, feeling recognized is very important, so if [employers] don’t have a lot of money to hand out bonuses this year, I think things like a handwritten card sent by a manager in the mail with all the things that they appreciate that [an employee] did for them this year works. . .. There’s a lot of heartfelt things [employers] can do, like a Secret Santa or a personal note, something more focused on human connection to make people feel more valued on a lower budget.”

Make no mistake though, some type of gesture is necessary and essential. A recent report showed that one in four Canadian workers is thinking about changing careers. If you employ four staff, someone could be looking at the door. Now is an opportune time to demonstrate your appreciation to their contributions, and your continuing support and commitment to their wellbeing and that of their families.

“People never forget what happens during a crisis so as employers are moving forward, the impact of how they’re making decisions and the decisions that they’re making impacts employees but also impact how employees view the employer,” said Paula Allen, global leader, research and total wellbeing at Morneau Shepell in a recent interview.

Low- and No-Cost Options

With all of these things in mind, here are a few ideas that could take the place of a yearend party or bonus in your small business:

  • Deliver a hot beverage, personal note, and herb garden to the home of your employee who loves to cook, or an IOU for a post-COVID sporting event for a sports lover
  • Hold a one-on-one meeting with each employee, and fill in the blank to the statement, “I really appreciated it when you ­­­__________,” “You’ll never know how much your work on __________ helped me,” or hold a group meeting where everyone listens in on each other’s accomplishments
  • Plan rotating half-days off or four-day workweeks
  • Boost your benefits plan to add additional paramedical services like massage or mental health support
  • Contribute towards standing desks, or a gym or online fitness membership

You get the idea. Whatever your budget, there should be something on the list that will resonate with your staff. Just keep it meaningful and personal.

And talk to us. Adjusting your benefits plan is easier than you think, and upgrades to your plan — or removing elements to free up funds for other benefits — can happen at any time.

Thanks from Us

With 2021 around the corner, everyone at Bensol wants to thank our for- and non-profit clients for their continued business this year. We’re a small business, too, and 2020 had its share of ups and downs for us. We’re here to help, so don’t hesitate to call us for your benefits solutions.

We wish everyone a safe holiday and a very New Year! We will close early on December 24 and reopen January 4, 2021 to give staff a well-deserved break. See you next year!