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Delighted female in Santa hat smiling and showing gift box to online friend while celebrating Christmas at home

Five tips for motivating employees and celebrating the festive season in 2020


This festive season will be unlike any other, so with a challenging year behind us, and a limited budget to play with, what ways can we find to celebrate the holidays with our employees this year? 

24th Nov 2020
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As an HR leader, finding the perfect way to wrap up the end of the year has always been a challenge. How do you figure out what’s right for an increasingly diverse workforce, in a more cost-conscious environment?

Especially at the end of such an extremely challenging year, it’s important to picture what reaction you want to receive from your employees.

That being said, compared to this year, the challenges of prior years were a ‘walk in the park’ as the expression goes. With companies no longer being able to hold face-to-face holiday parties, team lunches, or end-of-year award events, what do they do? Many businesses are also struggling financially, so how do they let their employees know that they  appreciate them without their usual budget?

As with every other challenge you’ve faced in 2020, I’m confident that you can figure out what is the best way to handle it. To help you, here are five tips.  

1. What are you really trying to do?

First, before jumping into solution mode, it’s important to pause for a moment and ask yourself ‘what am I really trying to do’? In prior years, common answers to this question would have been:

  • Celebrate the holidays
  • Mark the end of the year
  • Thank employees for their contributions
  • Have fun and come together

Are these the same now? Has the order of importance changed? Based on what’s going on in the world, at your company, and in your employee’s lives, review if/how the answers have changed.

2. How do you want employees to feel?

One of my favourite quotes from the wonderful poet Maya Angelou is: “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel”.

This is so true, and for this reason it’s important to also ask yourself the question, ‘how do I want my employees to feel?’ when setting your objectives. Especially at the end of such an extremely challenging year, it’s important to picture what reaction you want to receive from your employees, and develop your plans with this in mind.

3. Re-think and reinvent how you deliver your objectives

Next, it’s time to re-think and reinvent how you’ll deliver against your objectives. The good news is that, as my spinning instructor often says at the end of a class, ‘you’re more bada** now than you were at the start’. The same is true for you now. Remind yourself that you’ve gotten this far by re-thinking and reinventing employee experiences, so I’m confident that you can do it again now.

The other good news is, as I’m sure you’ve already discovered, there are so many ways to do this by leveraging technology, bringing so much to your employees in a virtual setting. From online games, activities and competitions that you can run in-house, to bringing in companies who have pivoted their services to provide virtual experiences such as cooking classes, theatre, magic shows, escape rooms, craft classes, music and so much more – there are so many possibilities.

rewards hub link

4. Deliver in a diverse and inclusive way

Before finalising your plans, it’s absolutely critical to address and meet the needs of your diverse workforce in order to achieve your objectives. Whether it’s diversity in religion, culture, or even in how people are feeling about the holidays in general based on how the year has impacted them personally, it’s important to pause and bring this into your actions.

For example, when brainstorming with one company on how to address diversity during the holiday season, we discussed having virtual events where employees could share their traditions, foods, etc. to respect differences, raise awareness, and give everyone a voice.

At Missguided, they created special holiday eCards and banners to appear on their communications platform so that colleagues could celebrate Diwali, Hanukkah and Christmas together.

The bottom line is that when it comes to anything involving the diverse needs of your workforce, talk to them to understand their differences and wishes, and weave this into your design and delivery.

5. You don’t have to spend a fortune

Finally, I thought it was important to say that you don’t have to spend a fortune to deliver on your objectives. In fact, if there was ever a time when employees would understand tighter budgets, it’s now. So if you don’t have the budget for holiday bonuses or large gifts, remember it’s the thought that counts and get creative with what you do. To help you, here are examples from three companies:


Misguided have created a digital ‘Totally Terrific Treat Tree’, which will sprout daily prizes. Colleagues will enter a draw to win one of the many daily prizes from the tree, ranging from gifts that cost just a few pounds to those that are more substantial, such as a box of brownies or a luxury candle.

They’re also running a ‘Snow Place Like Home’ competition, which gives colleagues the chance to submit and vote for their favourite holiday decorations and Christmas trees.

Speaking of competitions, they’ll be running their ‘Awesome Pawsome Pet Show’ again this year, which is their very own virtual pet show. The winners will be featured on specially designed eCards, with a donation being made to an animal charity for each of these cards sent.

Awesome Pawesome pet show


At Teleperformance, they’re also doing a variety of low-cost but high-impact things to support their employees during the holidays. Since they also love their competitions, they’re having lots of different ones during the holiday season, giving employees the chance to win prizes and get involved, including sending all employees scratch cards, something that everyone loves.

They also haven’t forgotten their employees' children, as they’re providing them with Santa letters and wish list templates, as well as sending out Santa letters and Christmas-inspired activity packs.

Eve Sleep

At Eve Sleep, they’re also holding special competitions as well as having a ‘Secret Santa’, which is when employees are randomly, and secretly, assigned a person they buy a low-cost, but often comical, gift for.

They’re also having a virtual wreath making class, where employees will be sent the parts, and together will learn how to make a lovely wreath.

So that’s it from me. I wish you all the best in figuring out what’s ‘right’ at your company, and stay tuned for my next article sharing tips and examples on holiday events and holiday wellbeing.

Interested in this topic? Read Winter celebrations: it’s the most cultural time of the year.

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