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How to Reward Employees When Budgets are Tight

Clock4 min. read
byVexxit Staff onDecember 20, 2020

There is a clear disconnect between Canadian employee and employer expectations when it comes to holiday rewards. How can you make your employees feel appreciated this year when budgets may be tighter than ever?

We’re just going to come out and say what others are thinking. Not everyone will be sad that your awesome annual office holiday party is cancelled this year.

Last year around this time – before covid lockdowns were even in our vocabulary – ADP Canada released the startling results of a survey that revealed “a clear disconnect between Canadian employee and employer expectations when it comes to holiday rewards.”  

Turns out, the most common reward provided by employers was a holiday party (40 per cent), followed by gifts (16 per cent) and extra time off (14 per cent). However, nearly a third of Canadians said they’d prefer extra time off, while less than a quarter said they would like a holiday party or a gift. 

“This study highlights the importance of having open conversations with employees regarding holiday rewards and incentives to manage employee expectations,” said Heather Haslam, VP Marketing, ADP Canada. “By taking the time to gain a better understanding of what employees want and how they prefer to be rewarded, employers can help increase employee satisfaction and engagement.” 

After the kind of year we’ve all had in 2020, and with budgets stretched tight, it's more important than ever to make end-of-year rewards personal and meaningful. Some ideas:

  1. Start with one-on-one conversations to find out what matters to each employee; 

  2. Work with suppliers and clients to barter for products, services, gift cards or employee discounts;

  3. Organize a food or toy drive among your team to boost morale and help a local community;

  4. Most of all, be honest if the annual bonus cheque isn’t possible this year.

“For a lot of people, feeling recognized is very important,” Nora Jenkins Townson, founder and principal of Toronto-based HR consultancy Bright + Early recently told Benefits Canada. “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.”

For parents working from home, having time off while the kids are off school and running around their ankles might be the best gift of all. Last year, software company Proposify in Halifax closed its office for two full weeks over the holidays. As CBC reported, allowing employees to be off for the entire school break gave parents focused time with their families and removed any child-care challenges they might face.

As Ms. Jenkins Townson said, “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.”

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