Employee Recognition

5 Ways to Demonstrate Gratitude To Employees This Holiday Season

All the signs are there.

The air feels a bit crisper and cooler. The scent of pumpkin spice lingers in coffee shops. Conversations about 2019 budgets float around the office. That can only mean one thing: the holiday season is approaching! We love the holidays at Blueboard because — while it’s important to demonstrate gratitude to your employees throughout the year — this season is an especially relevant time to show your team how much you appreciate their hard work.

However, as an HR leader at your company, you might feel a bit stuck. How can you demonstrate gratitude to your employees outside of the typical and — let’s be honest  — boring methods of saying “thank you” like the standard gift card or weekly staff meeting shoutout? To help you get the creative juices flowing, here are some fun ideas we put together of how to demonstrate gratitude to your employees this holiday season with employee awards ideas:

1) Host a holiday potluck.

Or give your employees a small budget for a gift exchange. Or plan a fun holiday movie and snack night. It’s totally up to you — the most important point is that you’re hosting an enjoyable activity to thank your employees, while giving the whole team a chance to bond. This is also a great opportunity to start a new company tradition, which can strengthen your existing culture and give employees something to look forward to every year.

Pro tip
: if possible, try to make the new holiday tradition revolve around the general interests of your employees. So if you have a team that values laughing and being silly together, put the budget into hosting an ugly holiday sweater party extravaganza! This will just be the bow on top of an already thoughtful “thank you” gift to your employees.  

2) Give a surprise day off.

No matter how much your employees love their jobs, nobody will argue with an extra day off! So if you’re comfortable with it, surprise your employees with a bonus vacation day and explain that it’s a token of appreciation from the leadership team. Your employees can use the extra time to take care of themselves, spend time with loved ones, or recover from all the holiday food and festivities.  

Pro tip
: Make sure to emphasize that this is an enforced day off. This means no emails, Slack messages, or meetings. Otherwise, employees may be tempted to stay partially checked into work, which is a common phenomenon, according to a survey by Zix Corporation that found 57 percent of full-time employees plan to work during holiday break. Give employees permission to unplug completely, and lead by example!

3) Encourage quality time.

Encourage the leadership team you work with, as well the managers of the company, to freely take employees out to lunch for one-on-one conversations. Not only is it more meaningful to express gratitude in person, but research by Leadership IQ found that — as people rise from one to six hours spent with their direct leaders — they become 29% more inspired about their work. So the more quality time leaders and managers can spend with their teams, the better.

Pro tip:
Encourage your leadership team and managers to be explicit about what they’re most grateful for during this one-on-one time. Lunches are nice, but there needs to be a meaningful conversation that goes along with it to truly fulfill the goal of showing thanks. This can also be a great time to discuss career plans and goals for the upcoming year to further demonstrate your investment in the employee.

4) Volunteer together.

You might be scratching your head at this one. How does volunteering with your employees demonstrate gratitude to them? Well unsurprisingly, employees want work to feel like more than just a paycheck, which is why 54% of employees who are proud of their company’s impact on the world were shown to be more engaged in their work. Helping them find a deeper sense of meaning — not to mention that giving back to the community has been shown to be good for both physical and mental health.

Pro tip
: Find a volunteer opportunity that aligns with the values and mission of your company. So if you’re a healthcare company, volunteer at a hospital and spend the day sharing holiday cheer with patients so your employees can see exactly who they’re impacting with their work everyday. Interacting with the real ‘end users’ can be a truly powerful experience for employees and is a unique way for them to feel appreciated for their work.

5) Consider the gift of experience.

Finally, if you want to go the extra mile, consider giving your top-performing employees the gift of experience with Blueboard. A poll from Gallup found that basic employee recognition and praise practices from leaders can be attributed to a 3% rise in national employee engagement levels. Use Blueboard as an employee incentive. You can only imagine how much improvement there would be if you rewarded employees with flying trapeze lessons or a tour of the Cayman Islands.

Pro tip
: Browse through our employee reward offerings to get a sense for some of our exciting options. No matter what your employees’ interests are, they’re guaranteed to find an experience that they’ll love.

The holidays are a truly magical time filled with delicious food, quality time with family, and lots of gratitude — so spread as much of the cheer as you can with the employees who work hard for your company throughout the year! Have any other fun holiday ideas? Feel free to shoot us a note at, or talk to us in the Live Chat window at the bottom right corner!

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