For many employees, the end of the year brings to mind holiday bonus time, right? ($$$!) But not all companies can afford to be so generous. However, just because you might not be able to give your employees a big fat check this holiday season, it is important to think twice about how to show your appreciation. Replacing your annual holiday bonus program with the dreaded Jelly of the Month Club (insert other bad gift choice here), and then failing to communicate the new program to your employees, is not suggested.
See this clip from "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" for evidence. In it, Clark opens what he believes to be his annual holiday bonus check. But he quickly finds out that his holiday bonus (which has already been earmarked for the purchase of a highly coveted in-ground pool) was not a check or cash, but a membership to the Jelly of the Month Club. Anger and rage ensue.
So what's wrong with jelly? After all, it is delicious and has many uses, no? Let's discuss.
First, let's address the biggest problem here -- lack of communication with employees. You must keep your employees informed.
Clark wasn't mad that he received the Jelly of the Month Club subscription because he didn't like jelly. He was angry because it wasn't what he was expecting.
To keep employees engaged and happy, effective communication of company changes and updates is crucial. If you are going to change the company bonus structure, make sure employees are aware of the changes, preferably well in advance of when bonuses are paid, to set expectations properly. Even though no one likes hearing bad news, especially when it comes to money, this will earn you the respect of your employees.
Second, be realistic about how your employees feel. Ask employees what makes them happy, don't guess.
Clark's company thought that since they were going to cut costs by not handing out bonuses, they could find a low-cost replacement (i.e. a Jelly of the Month Club subscription) to keep employees happy. Don't get me wrong. Low-cost initiatives (such as casual dress days, remote work arrangements, bring your pet to work policies, flexible hours, etc.) can have a big impact on employee happiness and satisfaction. But companies should take the time to find out what matters most to employees.
If you have to get rid of your bonus program, ask employees for feedback on what will keep them engaged and happy. Will they appreciate the Jelly of the Month Club subscription, or is an extra vacation day the way to go?