Stocking Stuffers

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:35 pm

Employers who are not giving holiday bonuses to their employees this year may be doing so at their own risk. That’s because their competitors probably are giving bonuses. An exclusive Small Business Times survey of members of the CEO Roundtable of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce indicates that nearly 75 percent of the executives plan to provide holiday bonuses or other additional compensation to their employees over the holidays. Sixty-seven executives responded to the unscientific survey, which was intended to provide southeastern Wisconsin employers with a benchmark to evaluate their holiday bonus programs. CEO Roundtable members are the leaders of companies with five or more employees. According to the survey, 90.2 percent of the responding employers who will issue holiday bonuses will give as much or more as they did last year. Furthermore, 41.2 percent plan to give larger holiday bonuses this year.

In real dollar terms, 32.8 percent will give holiday bonuses of $500 or less, 28.4 percent will give $501 to $1,000, and 10.4 percent will give more than $1,000. The financial performance of the company is the largest factor cited by employers in determining the amounts of their bonuses.

In addition, nearly 80 percent of employers treat their staffs to a holiday party or dinner. Other holiday perks cited by the responding employers include gifts of turkeys, hams, extra vacation time, shopping sprees and gift certificates. Christine Meyer, business manager at Burkwald & Associates Inc., a Pewaukee-based consultant service company that specializes in employee benefits, retirement plans, succession planning and fringe benefits, believes that having an employee recognition program during the holidays is important.

"If you look at it in the same way as we do, we have great people that work here," Meyer said. "It’s a nice pick-me-up over the holidays, and it’s very much appreciated. And it’s part of our retention program here. We have good people, and we want to keep them and reward them for doing a good job." Meyer said the Burkwald & Associates’ employee holiday bonus for this year will be the same as last year’s bonus, but the company will provide a larger bonus in February, when the firm’s fiscal year-end bonus is paid out. Holding an annual holiday celebration for employees and their spouses is also an important employee retention opportunity for companies, because it both builds teamwork and enables co-workers to meet each other’s spouses, Meyer said. Barbara Bartlein, a Milwaukee-based business consultant and motivational speaker who helps companies develop their personnel to maximize sales and profitability, said employers who reward their employees with perks such as holiday bonuses will receive returns on those investments in staff loyalty, retention and performance.

"When you talk to employees, two things are important – flexibility and being appreciated," she said. "The employers doing those things are going to create loyalty. And that results in good customer service, not just being able to hold onto people." Noting that nearly three-quarters of the executives surveyed plan to give bonuses or other holiday compensation this year, those who do not run the risk of alienating their workers, Bartlein said. "Employees have the expectation that all their hard work should be rewarded," she said. "It’s very disheartening to see the company doing well and that you’re not appreciated." Holiday parties and other employee gatherings serve two tangible and worthwhile purposes, Bartlein said.

"I think it’s important for (employees) to be recognized," she said. "Another bonus is that it helps them connect with each other and network and build teamwork. It helps tear down boundaries and helps employees value each other for team building." The results from the SBT survey indicate a growing willingness of local employers to provide extra holiday compensation to their employees. Nationally, according to the 2004 Small Business Monitor by OPEN from American Express, 53 percent of small businesses planned to give holiday bonuses in 2004 and 51 percent planned to give pay raises. American Express will release its 2005 survey results later this month. Bret Mayborne, director of economic research at the MMAC, said he was not surprised to learn that three-fourths of the employers who responded to the SBT survey plan to give some type of holiday compensation to their employees.

"My gut reaction is that holiday bonuses are almost looked at as almost an expectation by employees. It’s almost looked at as a universal benefit that is expected," Mayborne said. "It’s something that employers can offer in their tool box to keep their people. It’s something that has become almost considered standard or normal. The (75) percent doesn’t surprise. I think it more becomes a question of extent," Mayborne said. Mayborne also said he was not shocked to learn that 41.2 percent of the employers surveyed plan to give more in holiday bonus compensation than last year. "I think part of it deals with the (improved) health of the economy. I think that in part might be an explanation why a significant portion of them are ramping it up this year," Mayborne said.

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