25 Ways To Recognize Your Employees During The Holidays

25 Ways To Recognize Your Employees During The Holidays

Enjoy a holly, jolly holiday season and end-of-year celebrations with festivities and activities for your entire staff. The holiday season provides a wonderful opportunity to bring everyone together and convey your appreciation. We invite you to use this guide of ideas to organize fun-filled celebrations and create long-lasting memories.

Decorating on a Dime

1. Decorating on a Dime

Bringing holiday cheer to the workplace can be done without elaborate fanfare. For a toned-down season, just decorate the office plants. Tie red ribbons with bows around the pots. Then, string small sets of lights throughout the leaves. Complete the decorating by hanging mini candy canes.

2. Using Their Senses

Challenge employees to use their senses and memory with a fun holiday game. Gather two dozen small office supplies from around your facility (paper clips, sticky notes, highlighters, etc.). Place them on a tray and cover them with a cloth. Then, collect several more small items and put them in a stocking. Give each employee a piece of paper and a pencil. Uncover the tray for 60 seconds, allowing everyone a chance to study the items. Then, with the tray covered, ask participants to write down as many items as they can remember. Next, have each person spend 30 seconds feeling the items in the stocking without looking, and then write down guesses as to the contents. Award prizes to the employees who get the most right.

3. Star Staff

This holiday season, show your employees that you know they shine! Hold a star-themed party. Sprinkle little silver stars on the tables and hang large silver stars on the walls. Freeze cranberry juice in star-shaped ice cube trays, and then float these flavored ice cubes in club soda. Use star cookie cutters to make star hors d’oeuvres out of bread and cheese. Serve star-shaped sugar cookies as well. Present each person in attendance with a gift of appreciation and your thanks for being a star all year long.

Gifts and Guessing

4. Gifts and Guessing

During this year’s holiday party, turn gift giving into a game. Ahead of time, have your staff members bring in photographs of themselves as children. Gift wrap an assortment of small presents, and place a photo on each gift instead of a name tag. At the party, let employees take turns distributing the gifts, requiring that they match the photos to their owners.

5. Eating Exploration

Give all your employees a chance to spend time in the different areas of your facility by organizing a progressive holiday dinner. Instead of going house to house like a typical progressive dinner, take everyone department to department. Have each department serve a part of dinner, such as hors d’oeuvres, appetizers, soup or salad, the main course, dessert, or coffee. In each department, hold a drawing for gifts.


6. “Tree”-cycle

If your facility has a decorated tree for the holidays, don’t rush to take it down after December 25. Turn it into a New Year’s tree. Remove your regular decorations, except for the lights. Start redecorating the tree with curling ribbon, bows, and small balloons. Add on party horns and top the tree with party hats. Remember to replace the tree skirt. Hand out New Year’s gifts around the first of January.

7. The Joy of Cookies

Cookies and holidays go hand in hand, so hold a cookie exchange. Invite your employees to the event by giving each person two recipe cards. On one, write the details of the party and ask that each person bring two dozen cookies. Include instructions that employees should write down their cookie recipe on the other card and return it as an RSVP. During your cookie exchange, serve coffee, tea, and soft drinks. Put out some cookies for sampling, and divide up the others for guests to take home. Have the cookie recipes available for those who want them.

8. A Great Deal of Fun

In our high-tech world, old-fashioned forms of amusement tend to be especially appreciated. Set aside an afternoon in which staffers can take a break from holiday stress and enjoy some card games. At each table, station a volunteer who can get games started and keep things going. Provide the rules for a variety of games, such as Rummy, Pinochle, and Go Fish. Send everyone home with a holiday gift.

Model of Teamwork

9. Model of Teamwork

Elves are known for diligently working together all year to reach a goal. So use elves and elf-sized things (miniature) in a meeting that celebrates teamwork. Rent or borrow an elf costume for the occasion. Decorate the meeting room with miniature toys (trains, cars, dolls) as well as images of elves. For snacks, provide mini muffins or mini cupcakes and brownie bites. Then, have each employee stand up individually, and thank him or her for being a great team member.

10. Sweet Competition

Give your employees the opportunity to showcase their baking skills by holding a holiday dessert contest. Have participants write down the names of their desserts in advance; use this list to create categories for the contest, such as “cookies”, “pies”, and “brownies”. When it comes time for the judging, enlist the aid of your non-participating employees. Ask them to sample everything and vote for their favorite in each category. Reward each winner with a “baking” gift.

11. Boughs of Holly

Pick a day to designate as a “holly-day.” On this “holly-day,” treat your staff to a holly-themed party. Decorate with holly leaves and berries. Use holly paper plates, cups, and napkins. As employees munch on red and green snacks, play songs that mention holly, such as “Holly, Jolly Christmas” and “Deck the Halls.” Raffle off prizes that have a holly design on them, which should be widely available in the month of December.

Joyful Noises

12. Joyful Noises

Bring joy to your employees and to members of the community who might need a little cheering up this holiday season. Arrange for your staff to spend an afternoon caroling at a local nursing home or hospital. Locate carol lyrics on the Internet and print them out for the event. Hold a short rehearsal so carolers have a chance to warm up their vocal chords and decide on the order of the songs. When back at the office after caroling, show your gratitude to your merry band of singers by distributing gifts of appreciation.

13. Fit as a Fiddle

Help your staff members keep their New Year’s plan of getting into shape. Organize a walking group that meets at lunch time or before work, or offer discounts at local fitness facilities. Then, develop an indoor company “Olympics” with an assortment of activities and events. Award prizes for your Gold, Silver, and Bronze winners, with gifts of appreciation for all the “Olympic” participants.

14. Tea and Tortes

December can be a hectic month, so offer your staff a chance to relax at a holiday tea party. Create centerpieces by filling teapots with candy canes. Place floating candles in teacups filled with water, and set a few of these cups on each table. Serve finger sandwiches and tortes to eat and, of course, tea to drink. Offer a variety of teas, including peppermint. Present each employee with a gift pack that includes tea and other soothing items as thanks for being so “tea”-riffic.

15. Musical Gifts

Each year, find a unique way to distribute gifts of appreciation during the holidays. Try playing a version of musical chairs called “musical gifts.” Start by gift wrapping items that aren’t too bulky, such as pen sets, travel mugs, and tumblers. Invite staff to a get-together, complete with snacks, decorations, and holiday music. Instruct everyone to pick out a wrapped gift and stand in a circle. Play a carol as you have participants pass around the gifts; when the music stops, each person keeps the gift in his or her hand.

16. Creative Cards

Homemade holiday cards are very popular, but some of your staff might not know how to make them. Set up a card-making class led by an instructor from a local craft shop. Provide basic supplies, such as cardstock, colored paper, markers, and stickers. See if the instructor can bring other craft items for the class to use, such as rubber stamps, holiday hole punches, and decorative-edge scissors. Purchase holiday centerpieces to set on the crafting tables. At the end of the class, hold a raffle to give away each centerpiece.

17. Secret Santa

Keep your staff guessing with a Secret Santa program. Find out who wants to join in, and have them write their names on slips of paper to be picked out of a stocking. Hang up stockings labeled with the names of participating employees. Have each Secret Santa place daily gifts, notes, and cards in the stocking of the person whose name he or she drew. Include your own token of appreciation by placing a gift from “Santa’s Elf” in each stocking. At the end, gather together all those in the program and have them guess their Secret Santas.

18. Angelic Staff

Let your staff members know what angels they are to work with by creating a special bulletin board. Start by putting a headline on your bulletin board, such as “We Appreciate Our Company’s Angels.” Then, gather the supplies needed to make “angels” to put on the bulletin board—one clear photo of each employee, paper doilies, gold pipe cleaners, gold foil paper, and glue. For each angel, form the doily into a cone shape. Cut the head out of a photo and glue it to the point of the doily. Bend a small piece of pipe cleaner into a circle for a halo, and turn the foil paper into wings. Attach all parts together in the shape of an angel. Hang the angels on the bulletin board and unveil the display on payday. Include a special note of “thanks” with each paycheck.

Aspiring Architects

19. Aspiring Architects

Carry on an old tradition by holding a gingerbread house decorating contest. Divide your staff into teams. Supply each team with a gingerbread house kit (available in stores or online). The kits usually include pre-baked house pieces, icing, and candy. Tell contest participants that they can use additional materials to make their houses stand out. Set a deadline and recruit a panel of impartial judges. Award prizes for the top three houses.

20. Shopping Adventure

Help your employees get caught up on their holiday shopping. Buy prepaid Visa gift cards that can be used to purchase gifts anywhere that accepts Visa. Place them inside holiday cards and distribute them to staff. Close the office a few hours early and take your staff to a nearby mall. If you have company vans, use them as transportation. If not, rent enough vans to hold everyone. Leave some time at the end of your outing for people to show what they purchased if they would like to.

21. Snow Day

Let it snow at a buffet luncheon held in your staff’s honor. Prepare snowball place-card holders in advance. To make the snowballs, start with 3” Styrofoam balls. Cut off the bottom of each to create a flat spot (so that it doesn’t roll away). Coat each ball with artificial snow paste, allow to dry, and then cut a slit on the top to hold the place card. Make the place cards out of blank business cards decorated with snowflake stickers. Then, sprinkle fake snow on the tables. After the main course, serve snow cones or shaved ice for dessert.

22. Be Kind to Animals

Get your employees involved in a project that benefits wildlife during the harsh winter—trimming an outdoor tree with bird seed. Inside holiday greeting cards, write an invitation to the event and distribute one to each person in the office. Have your group roll pine cones in peanut butter, then in bird seed. Provide peanuts (in the shells) and popcorn to be strung into garlands. Put someone in charge of slicing apples and oranges. The slices can be hung with pipe cleaners. When everything is assembled, take the animal treats outside to “decorate” a tree.

23. Making Memories

Create a lasting memento of the year that’s coming to an end. Put together a scrapbook using photos from company events. (The editor of the company newsletter might be a good source of photos.) If your staff is small, have prints made of each photo and build each scrapbook individually. If your staff is larger, build one set of scrapbook pages and make color copies to turn into scrapbooks for everyone. Along with the scrapbooks, hand out picture frames as gifts to employees so they can display photos of their own memorable events of the year.

24. Gotcha! Gathering

Sometimes a little deception can be a good thing. Announce to your employees that despite it being the holidays, a mandatory employee meeting is being held. But instead of organizing a meeting, hold a surprise holiday party. When the employees enter, yell “Surprise!” Then, give an inspiring speech that thanks employees for their hard work throughout the year and expresses how valuable everyone is to your company’s success. Hand out calendars for the New Year, and celebrate with holiday punch and treats.

Bright Asset

25. Bright Asset

Start a company tradition of choosing an Employee of the Year. Go above and beyond to recognize this individual with a real star! This can be done through the International Star Registry found at www.starregistry.com, which lets you name stars after people. Unveil the honor at a special end-of-the-year presentation. Also, acknowledge the importance of every employee with a unique gift of appreciation.