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5 holiday gift ideas that will have your employees feeling valued

(EDITORIAL) The holidays are a great time to foster internal camaraderie and team spirit within your staff, including making your employees feel valued.

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Office Holiday Party: Being valued idea 1.

The holidays are a great time to foster the internal camaraderie and team spirit within your staff. One of the best ways to do this is by making your employees feel valued. There are many different ways to do this. If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling.

Start with the Right Questions

Before we discuss specific ideas, it’s important to start by asking the right questions. A few of the most important include:

What is your budget? Do you have a certain amount of time, money, or other resources that you can commit?

What are your employee’s shared interests? Make sure not to hone in on what would make one or two members of your staff happy at the expense of the interests of others.

Are you working in person or remotely? The current state of your office post-pandemic (remote, hybrid, or in-person) can have a big impact on how you show your employee appreciation.

Alright, once you’ve set some parameters, review the list of ideas below for some employee-focused holiday fun. And before you assume that these are boilerplate recommendations, think again. Sure, they revolve around common themes such as gifts and gestures, but each one focuses on a different creative or practical element that is ideal for the post-pandemic work environment. Oh, and don’t feel like you have to follow each option to the letter, either. Instead, use them as jumping-off points. Tailor them to your particular situation.

Two people looking at laptop in office for wrapping gifts.

Okay, ready? Let’s do this!

1. Brew Up a Classic

If you’re after a gift option and want to keep it simple, you can’t go wrong with coffee. A bag of coffee beans has near-universal appeal.

If you’re a smaller operation, you can even address each employee’s selection individually. If certain individuals don’t drink coffee, feel free to tailor the gift. Opt for tea or hot chocolate for the coffee-averse.

Coffee is also a good gift that adapts to the current times, as well. If you’re back in the office having in-person workdays, you can give your employees a bag of high-quality coffee right at their desks.

However, if you find that your teamis working remotely from different areas, you can adjust. Look for a good coffee subscription to send your employees. You can even pick one that is adjustable so that your employees can choose their own preferences.

Coffee being porched from pitcher into cup on table: Valued idea 1.

2. Get Something Silky

The next item on this list is great for any boss or team leader looking to find an out-of-the-box idea. Something silky is a great gift option for a few different reasons:

Silk is a diverse material that is used in everything from pillowcases and pajamas to scarfs and even eye masks.

There are many benefits of silk, such as helping with anti-aging or skin hydration. This gives it the appeal of a thoughtful gift.

Silk adds a certain luxurious aspect to any gift. If you give your employees a silk-themed gift, it can add a certain sense of finesse to a normal gift item.

Silk may not be the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to classic gifts. However, its trending appeal, many benefits, and variety of uses make it a unique way to show your employees that you care.

3. Give Some Time

If you feel like you don’t want to go the physical “gift” route, you can always opt for something even more valuable: time. Consider giving your employees an extra day or two off around the holidays this year.

By shutting down your business around the holiday season, you can show your employees that you value their time with their families.

Removing your business from your employees’ lives for a little longer can be less splashy on the surface. However, it can pay you back with interest in the form of loyalty and goodwill toward you as an employer.

4. Give Thanks and Shout-Outs

One of the simplest ways to give your employees a sense of value is to state it. Directly. To their face — or at least a computer screen during a Zoom call.

There are a couple of ways that you can do this. First, there’s the general “thank you” approach. This doesn’t have the same instant impact as a bag of coffee beans or a silk scarf. Nevertheless, the simple act of thanking your employees for their hard work can do wonders on their morale and their perspective of their workplace.

The other option is to engage in direct shout-outs. These should be targeted and specific. Don’t single out Larry and then start talking about how he’s “just been such a good worker and a great guy all these years.”

Instead, find real ways that each employee has impacted your company in a positive way. Then start dropping these shout-outs at random times to cultivate that happy, satisfied feeling amongst your employees.

Multi-member Zoom call on a Apple Mac laptop with a blue mug of black coffee next to it: Valued idea #4.

5. Do Something Together

Sometimes the best way to make someone feel valued is to spend time with them …outside of the workplace. If you feel that your team can use some fun social time together, look for a way to do something as a group.

Now, there are a few things to take into consideration here. First, try to do this on company time without disrupting workflow (i.e. plan ahead) if you can. It’s a tall order. But if you ask your employees to give up their valuable free time — around the holidays, no less — the request is going to come across as an inconvenience rather than an appreciative gesture.

It’s also important to adapt this “group activity” mentality to your circumstances. For example, if you’re all together, go out for a meal, head to a bowling alley, go to the movies, or even volunteer in the community.

If you’re working remotely, set up a group watch party session where everyone can tune in together to enjoy a holiday classic. You could also set up a time to play some online interactive games together over a Zoom call.

Two people in an office prepping to wrap gifts.

There are plenty of ways to show your employees some appreciation this holiday season. You can show your recognition through tangible gifts like coffee or silk. You can acknowledge your staff through shout-outs and verbal thanks. You can show them that you care through extra time off or even a group activity or an online game night. Whatever makes them feel the most valued!

Whatever you choose, make sure to remember those criteria questions. Don’t follow your own interests or the desires of a few. Consider what gift or activity will truly make your entire staff feel valued and seen this holiday season. That way, you can start next year with everyone in a positive, healthy, engaged state of mind.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. When he's not consulting, glued to a headset, he's working on one of his many business projects. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Opinion Editorials

Shady salary transparency is running rampant: What to look out for

(EDITORIAL) Employees currently have the upper hand in the market. Employers, you must be upfront about salary and approach it correctly.

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Man holding money in the dark representing false salary transparency.

It’s the wild wild west out there when it comes to job applications. Job descriptions often misrepresent remote work opportunities. Applicants have a difficult time telling job scams from real jobs. Job applicants get ghosted by employers, even after a long application process. Following the Great Resignation, many employers are scrambling for workers. Employees have the upper hand in the hiring process, and they’re no longer settling for interviews with employers that aren’t transparent, especially about salary.

Don’t be this employer

User ninetytwoturtles shared a post on Reddit in r/recruitinghell in which the employer listed the salary as $0 to $1,000,000 per year. Go through many listings on most job boards and you’ll find the same kind of tactics – no salary listed or too large of a wide range. In some places, it’s required to post salary information. In 2021, the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act went into effect in Colorado. Colorado employers must list salary and benefits to give new hires more information about fair pay. Listing a broad salary range skirts the issue. It’s unfair to applicants, and in today’s climate, employers are going to get called out on it. Your brand will take a hit.

Don’t obfuscate wage information

Every employer likes to think that their employees work because they enjoy the job, but let’s face it, money is the biggest motivator. During the interview process, many a job has been lost over salary negotiations. Bringing up wages too early in the application process can be bad for a job applicant. On the other hand, avoiding the question can lead to disappointment when a job is offered, not to mention wasted time. In the past, employers held all the cards. Currently, it’s a worker’s market. If you want productive, quality workers, your business needs to be honest and transparent about wages.

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Opinion Editorials

3 reasons to motivate yourself to declutter your workspace (and mind)

(EDITORIAL) Making time to declutter saves time and money – all while reducing stress. Need a little boost to start? We all need motivation sometimes.

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Clean work desk representing the need to declutter.

It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few years. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob, an un-alphabetized bookshelf, or that we’ve put off ‘declutter’ on our to-do list for too long.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, taking time to declutter can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those 3 things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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Opinion Editorials

How to identify and minimize ‘invisible’ work in your organization

(EDITORIAL) Often meaningless, invisible tasks get passed down to interns and women. These go without appreciation or promotion. How can we change that?

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Women in a meeting around table, inclusion as a part of stopping gender discrimination representing invisible work.

Invisible work, non-promotable tasks, and “volunteer opportunities” (more often volun-told), are an unfortunate reality in the workforce. There are three things every employer should do in relation to these tasks: minimize them, acknowledge them, and distribute them equitably.

Unfortunately, the reality is pretty far from this ideal. Some estimates state up to 75% or more of these time-sucking, minimally career beneficial activities are typically foisted on women in the workplace and are a leading driver behind burnout in female employees. The sinister thing about this is most people are completely blind to these factors; it’s referred to as invisible work for a reason.

Research from Harvard Business Review* found that 44% more requests are presented to women as compared to men for “non-promotable” or volunteer tasks at work. Non-promotable tasks are activities such as planning holiday events, coordinating workplace social activities, and other ‘office housework’ style activities that benefit the office but typically don’t provide career returns on the time invested. The work of the ‘office mom’ often goes unacknowledged or, if she’s lucky, maybe garners some brief lip service. Don’t be that boss that gives someone a 50hr workload task for a 2-second dose of “oh yeah thanks for doing a bajillion hours of work on this thing I will never acknowledge again and won’t help your career.”  Yes, that’s a thing. Don’t do it. If you do it, don’t be surprised when you have more vacancies than staff. You brought that on yourself.

There is a lot of top-tier talent out there in the market right now. To be competitive, consider implementing some culture renovations so you can have a more equitable, and therefore more attractive, work culture to retain your top talent.

What we want to do:

  1. Identify and minimize invisible work in your organization
  2. Acknowledge the work that can’t be avoided. Get rid of the blind part.
  3. Distribute the work equitably.

Here is a simple example:

Step 1: Set up a way for staff to anonymously bring things to your attention. Perhaps a comment box. Encourage staff to bring unsung heroes in the office to your attention. Things they wish their peers or they themselves received acknowledgment for.

Step 2: Read them and actually take them seriously. Block out some time on your calendar and give it your full attention.

For the sake of demonstration, let’s say someone leaves a note about how Caroline always tidies up the breakroom at the end of the day and cleans the coffee pot with supplies Caroline brings from home. Now that we have identified a task, we are going to acknowledge it, minimize it, and consider the distribution of labor.

Step 3: Thank Caroline at the team meeting for scrubbing yesterday’s burnt coffee out of the bottom of the pot every day. Don’t gloss over it. Make the acknowledgment mean something. Buy her some chips out of the vending machine or something. The smallest gestures can have the biggest impact when coupled with actual change.

Step 4: Remind your staff to clean up after themselves. Caroline isn’t their mom. If you have to, enforce it.

Step 5: Put it in the office budget to provide adequate cleaning supplies for the break room and review your custodial needs. This isn’t part of Caroline’s job description and she could be putting that energy towards something else. Find the why of the situation and address it.

You might be rolling your eyes at me by now, but the toll of this unpaid invisible work has real costs.  According to the 2021 Women in the Workplace Report* the ladies are carrying the team, but getting little to none of the credit. Burnout is real and ringing in at an all-time high across every sector of the economy. To be short, women are sick and tired of getting the raw end of the deal, and after 2 years of pandemic life bringing it into ultra-sharp focus, are doing something about it. In the report, 40% of ladies were considering jumping ship. Data indicates that a lot of them not only manned the lifeboats but landed more lucrative positions than they left. Now is the time to score and then retain top talent. However, it is up to you to make sure you are offering an environment worth working in.

*Note: the studies cited here do not differentiate non-cis-identifying persons. It is usually worse for individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community.

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