Building positive relationships with customers is essential to business success – and the same holds true for employees. Many employers overlook the importance of showing appreciation to their staff, yet appreciation ranks high on the list of qualities workers deem most important in a leader. A study by Dale Carnegie found that 87 percent of workers said it is important for bosses to show sincere appreciation for who they are and what they do.

The holidays are the perfect time to let your staff know that you value their hard work. Your company maybe in a position to offer yearly bonuses to employees who have met specific goals. However, if money is not an option for your business, there are plenty of ways to express your gratitude without taking a hit to your bottom line. Here are six budget-friendly ways to celebrate the holidays – and your team – this year.

1 – Party In-House

Renting space to host a holiday party can be expensive. Instead, have your company get-together in your own office, shop, or facility. Not only will this lower the cost, but your staff are likely to feel more relaxed in a familiar space. Consider closing early on a Friday or have the party after work one day during the week. Order in food and beverages, plan some festive games or activities, or have a Secret Santa or White Elephant gift exchange with a cap of $20.

If you’re set on having a company party offsite, consider scheduling it after the holidays. Ringing in the new decade will give you more choices in terms of location, and prices on everything from caterers to DJs are likely to be lower. A post-holiday celebration can also help your business avoid a January slump by giving employees something to look forward to.

2 – Organize a Holiday Outing

Many businesses are opting to pass on parties and celebrate the season with a company outing. Get the team together to take in a local holiday light display or look into group discounts for ice rinks or museums. Team activities like bowling are great for building camaraderie. Be sure to involve your employees in the planning process, asking for their input to determine the most popular options and soliciting volunteers to organize the details.

3 – Get Personal with Gift Cards

Purchasing holiday gifts for your entire team can be a daunting task, and giving everyone the same gift can appear impersonal. Gift cards are easy to buy and they allow you to personalize your gift for each member of your team. There are cards for everything from books and tech gadgets to coffee and smoothies, so you can choose cards that show how much you care and specifically what you appreciate. Determine a dollar amount that is relatively significant – for instance, an employee who always comes to work early can get a lot of mileage out of a $50 Dunkin’ card.

4 – Provide a Perk

While you may not have the funds for holiday events or gifts, there are benefits you can offer that don’t require a large outlay of cash. Perks like negotiating a discount at a nearby gym or buying lunch for the office one day a month cost far less than company-wide bonuses, and serve as an ongoing reminder of your appreciation. Introduce an education-stipend program or offer to pay for employees to attend a conference, take a class, or learn a new skill. Another popular perk is giving each employee extra paid time off. Determine whether an extra day or half-day of PTO is something your company can afford.

5 – Give Back

Doing something charitable may provide a bigger boost to company morale than a holiday party or financial bonus. Consider donating to a cause that aligns with your company’s mission. If you already participate in community outreach activities, you may have an organization in mind to support in a greater capacity during the holiday season. If not, work with your team to initiate a food drive, a winter coat collection, or a fundraiser for a local organization. Allow staff to take time off to volunteer at a soup kitchen or shelter. Giving back as a group not only supports neighbors in need, but it can be a powerful team-building activity.

6 – Say Thank You

Despite the belief that a paycheck is thanks enough, if you’re a company owner or manager, expressing your appreciation is a greater motivator than money for many employees. Remember that when it comes to acknowledging the most valuable asset in your workplace, the words “thank you” can be extremely powerful.

Thank your staff for the job they’re doing, and let them know you value their dedication. Whether it’s written or verbal, public or private, be specific. Mention important contributions, challenges that were overcome, or the positive impact their work has had on the company. Spending a few moments expressing your gratitude not only boosts each person’s self-esteem, it also creates a positive organizational culture and may lead to better morale and increased productivity – not just during the holiday season, but all year long.

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