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12.09.05 Issue #196  
The "Perfect" Gift isn't always Green

Sally McKenzie, CEO
The McKenzie Company

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The calendar turns to December and there you are wishing you could skip right over this month. You know what’s waiting for you, like the ghost of Christmas past. You’ll be forced to look back on the last 12 months and make up in fell swoop for moments throughout the year when staff performance was less than stellar.  Bonuses for all, you tell yourself.  It’s quick and it’s easy. Actually, it’s costly and it’s foolish.

Holiday bonuses lure you in like that box of creamy chocolates. Once you start, it’s very difficult to stop, and soon you’re paying with bulging overhead. Most likely, you give the same amount or the same salary percentage to all employees and tack on an extra few bucks for Sue and Jane who have been with you the longest. What does that nice, fat check tell Sue who’s been there a long time but is as enthusiastic about her work as a CPR dummy, and Jane whose ability to perform makes FEMA look like a well-oiled machine.

What do you want that bonus to say to your employees? Great job or Happy Holidays?  Is it a gift? Is it a reward for good, mediocre, or poor performance? Is it hush money to keep the team from complaining when they have to skip lunch, stay late, or you forget to say thanks for a job well done?

If you’re going to give bonuses to your employees I recommend you tie them to excellent individual performance and make them part of the annual salary review. Rather than using them to show thanks and appreciation once a year, take 60 seconds to recognize at least one employee every day for something they did that you considered exceptional and share that accomplishment with the entire team during the daily huddle. Appreciation and gratitude given with sincerity, are priceless to the employee and don’t cost you a dime.

This holiday season, start a new tradition in your office. Sit down and write a personal note to each of your employees. Think about their contribution to the success of the practice and share that with them. The note can be simple and straightforward but must be completely sincere. During the staff holiday gathering hand it to the staff member with a sincere “Thank you.”

If you are giving holiday gifts, establish a budget. The gifts don’t need to be expensive but they should reflect that employee’s individual likes or interests. Gifts purchased en masse, such as those crates of oranges, are often viewed as meaningless tokens of obligation rather than genuine expressions of appreciation. Certainly giving gifts that are personalized takes time and thought but mean much more to the employee and the cost is less likely to sour your festive spirit. For example, consider tickets to the theatre for the Broadway enthusiast, enrollment in a Pilates class for your fitness buff, a gift certificate to a craft store for your scrap booking fan.

After the New Year bring in the team and tell them that you would like to involve the entire staff in developing a holiday party that everyone (including yourself) can enjoy next year. Provide a budget, designate a committee, and seek input from all. Then make a list of what you will do to show appreciation to your staff throughout the coming year. Consider the following:

  1. Give a rose for each year of employment on the employee’s anniversary.
  2. Send a handwritten letter to the employee’s home regarding their accomplishments and value to the practice.
  3. Treat the team to the movies and snacks.
  4. Create an “above and beyond the call of duty” award.
  5. Pay dues to auxiliary professional organizations for the employee.
  6. Schedule planning meetings off site at the zoo or a museum and allow time for the team to enjoy the excursion.
  7. Give extra paid vacation time between Christmas and New Year’s.
  8. Encourage all staff to catch each other going above and beyond. Share those “acts of excellence” with the doctor and the team.

Next year, rather than whipping out the check book to carve out a bigger chunk of the practice pie, sit back and enjoy the holiday season and the satisfaction of knowing you’ve shown your appreciation and thanks to employees throughout the entire year. 

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