It’s the end of the year, which for many employees means holiday bonus season. Originally, monetary holiday bonuses were intended as appreciation for employees -- and help with the extra expenses they incur this time of year.
But is a bigger paycheck once a year still the best way to engage employees and acknowledge their hard work?
A 2015 Glassdoor survey of more than 2,000 employees found that 79 percent of respondents would prefer new or additional benefits, instead of a pay raise. Considering that preference, then, here are five unique bonuses employees will appreciate more than extra cash -- bonuses they can benefit from year 'round, long after the holidays have ended.
1. More flexible schedules
Holidays are busy times for us all, whether because of shopping and gift-wrapping, or family get-togethers while the kids are off from school. So, the next time a holiday approaches, don't keep employees in the office instead of with their families.
Allow employees flexibility on when and where they work during holidays or any particularly busy time of year, to help them better manage stress. Flexible schedules also show employees that their hard work is appreciated and their personal time is respected.
2. Personal concierge services
Who wouldn’t love the chance to avoid the holiday shopping mobs? Personal concierge services that handle errands like dry cleaning drop-off/pick-up or grocery shopping make employees’ lives infinitely easier.
While concierge services make a great holiday bonus, they can also be used to reward employees year-round. If an employee performs particularly well one month, help him or her relax with a service that will mark everything off that out-of-office to-do list.
The nice thing about this perk is that it not only motivates employees to work hard but also gives them less work to do out of the office. Many employees feel that when they receive time off, they should spend it doing things they have to do around the house. But providing them with someone else to do those things lets them spend their time doing what they want to do.
3. Gym memberships.
In a 2015 Virgin Pulse survey of more than 1,000 full-time employees, 28 percent of respondents ranked staying healthy as the number one factor affecting their overall well-being and satisfaction.
Help employees get and stay healthy by incorporating gym memberships into their holiday bonus. Look for gyms that have a wide variety of services and locations, so employees can customize a wellness plan for their needs. For example, while Jerry might enjoy running and nutritional education, Tara might prefer yoga classes.
4. Help with health insurance
In the Glassdoor survey, health insurance was the number-one benefit employees valued more than a pay increase. Even if an organization does not offer insurance through the company, it can help employees cover healthcare costs with a holiday bonus that covers premiums for a set number of months.
Unlike one big holiday bonus check, a check covering employees’ insurance for several months helps them over a longer period of time. Extending this benefit past the first of the year also shows employees that they are being rewarded for their constant performance rather than the one-time bonus of a standard holiday gift.
5. The ability to pick and choose benefits
With so many bonus choices out there, perhaps the best option is to let employees pick and choose which benefits they want. That may take more organization, but letting employees customize their bonus ensures that they will appreciate it.
This is especially important in a diverse workplace. A 2015 MassMutual survey of more than 1,500 employees broke down employees’ benefit preferences, based on different demographics. For example, 47 percent of Gen X employees ranked help with retirement as their favorite benefit, but only 35 percent of millennials did. And while 27 percent of women valued tuition reimbursement benefits, only 18 percent of men did.
Let employees select the bonuses they receive, not only during the holiday season, but whenever their performance deserves recognition. Sometimes, they may choose the cash. But if that’s not the right motivational bonus, they deserve more options, in order to remain happy at and satisfied with work.
Related: How I Handle My Bonus Responsibly