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News, tips, and advice for small business owners

4 Ways to Increase Year-End Employee Engagement

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Anne Perisho

A group of happy employees with their arms in the air excited about work.

According to a recent study done by TinyPulse, 43% of employees would be willing to leave their companies for a 10% salary increase, and only a quarter feel that they are highly valued at work. The holidays are approaching, and there’s no better time to treat your employees to something that makes them feel special and appreciated. As much as we look forward to the year-end festivities, it can be a stressful time for a lot of small business owners, especially in the retail industry, as you may be pushing to meet year-end quotas and sales targets or just dealing with frazzled holiday crowds. To make sure your team survives the last few months of the year with their sanity intact, it might be a good idea to think about some opportunities to increase employee engagement and ensure they feel supported. Employee engagement doesn’t have to break the bank. Even small gestures go a long way towards keeping an employee happy and working towards your company goals.

Holiday Parties

Planning the perfect holiday party can seem like a huge headache and may seem like more trouble than it’s worth. However, they can be very important for increasing company morale, and when done correctly, are a great way to boost comradery between employees. If your business has more than just a handful of employees or those that work in shifts, chances are they don’t all work together every day. A holiday party is a great way to get others to mingle outside of the people they see day in and day out, and if you allow them to bring their spouses or partners, it’s a great way to make them feel like they’re part of a family. Providing conversation starters or interactive games will help break any tension or awkwardness between those that don’t know each other so well. Just remember, if you serve alcohol, don’t overserve, and make sure everyone has a safe way to get home.

Additionally, try to keep holiday parties as non-denominational as much as possible. Rather than having a Christmas party, have a Winter Celebration or Year-End party. That simple step of staying inclusive will help others feel more welcome, no matter their faith.


According to a recent survey, 38% of small business owners were planning to provide their employees with a cash bonus during the holidays. If you can afford it, giving your employees an end-of-year bonus can really make someone’s holiday season. You don’t have to dish out huge amounts of cash for it to make a difference either – bonuses are discretionary and can be based on performance, so you don’t have to bankrupt your company to give your employees a little bump. The holidays can be a very expensive time, so every little bit could help make the season all that much merrier for your employee’s family.

It’s important to note that you should always payout your bonuses through your payroll system as opposed to under the table because your employees will need to declare that income on their tax returns. Finally, keep in mind that bonuses are considered supplemental wages, meaning they are taxable compensation subject to income tax withholding and FICA, whatever amount you give is subject to a supplemental tax deduction. To find out more details about supplemental wages, the IRS website has a wealth of information on the subject.

Fringe Benefits

As a small business owner, you may not have a lot of additional capital on hand to dole out huge bonuses for each employee, but offering other types of fringe benefits could be a great way to give your employees a little extra bump in their day-to-day lives. Fringe benefits can take a variety of forms, ranging from health insurance to employee discounts. A common fringe benefit seen in the food industry is a free or subsidized meal for employees during their work shift.  Larger companies like Alphabet, the parent company of Google, provide a free commuter bus service and a free cafeteria. While you may not have the extra cash on hand to hire a bus to transport your people to and from work, offering other benefits like meals, lodging at a nearby hotel for nights spent working late, or coupons to local establishments could be a nice perk that keeps your team smiling through the tough times. One of the easiest ways to make employees happy is to supply them with food, so bringing in lunch the week of the holidays or supplying them with treats during a stressful week can help to boost their mood.

Similar to bonuses, there are certain payroll requirements to follow when offering fringe benefits. The IRS website is a great place to look when trying to understand taxes related to fringe benefits.

Employee Awards

Employees like to know that they’re appreciated and valued. According to TinyPulse, only 26% of employees report feeling ‘highly valued’ at work. Providing recognition for outstanding work is one of the best ways companies can keep their employees engaged and motivated to do their best work. If you’re hosting a holiday get-together, use that time to call out employee achievements and milestones, and highlight outperformers. Hand out ‘awards’ for best customer service, best team leader, best at bringing in office brownies or whatever makes your employees feel like you’re paying attention to their efforts. You can also encourage employees to do the same for their co-workers – leave out blank thank you cards and encourage your staff to fill them out and leave them on each other’s desks. While it may not seem like much, little things like this can give your employees something to work towards and make them feel special.

Bottom Line

The holiday season is meant to be a wonderful time of the year, but it can also be incredibly stressful for your employees. During busy times like these, it’s important to remember that your employees are a valuable component of your small business, and keeping them engaged and happy will help them continue to perform during the busiest and most frantic of times. Additionally, dedicating some time and money to give back to show them how much you appreciate their efforts might be just the thing that gets them through this crazy time of year and keeps them on your payroll.

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This website contains articles posted for informational and educational value. SurePayroll is not responsible for information contained within any of these materials. Any opinions expressed within materials are not necessarily the opinion of, or supported by, SurePayroll. The information in these materials should not be considered legal or accounting advice, and it should not substitute for legal, accounting, and other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. If you require legal or accounting advice or need other professional assistance, you should always consult your licensed attorney, accountant or other tax professional to discuss your particular facts, circumstances and business needs.