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Feeling valued: holiday gift or gifts of appreciation every day?

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We're more than halfway through the holiday season.

Are you still thinking about gift ideas that will let your employees know how much you appreciate them? Will you select turkeys or bonuses, or both?

A company recently stopped giving holiday gifts to employees. For five consecutive years, the CEO made sure all employees had a turkey for their Thanksgiving tables.

The CEO became so frustrated with the barrage of emails, phone calls and visits to his office by employees inquiring about the status of “their” turkey, that he went cold turkey on gift-giving.

The CEO said, “I understand. The employees want to make plans for their holiday meals, but don't they realize the turkeys were intended to be a gift, not an entitlement? The fact that they now expect a turkey every year, takes the joy out of giving for me.”

Would it have made a difference if the gift varied from one year to the next? Did the consistency of receiving a turkey make it feel like receiving a “paycheck?”

What nonmaterial gifts were given to the employees during the rest of the year? Was the turkey-giving the only time the CEO spent with employees?

How else was the CEO making his employees feel valued?

If the culture of a business is not focused on care and concern for employees throughout the year, giving a turkey at the holidays is just that – giving a turkey. The positive effects and gratitude for the gift will soon be forgotten, and employees will revert back to feeling like the boss doesn't care about them – “we're just here to make money for the company.”

On the other hand, if the company culture consistently demonstrates how it values its employees, throughout the year, employees will not feel they are owed something during the holidays or any other time.

This is not to advocate the end of gifts to employees. But think about the feeling someone gets when the boss takes time to stop by and ask how his/her day is going, what's enjoyable about a new assignment, what ideas he or she has for improving a process, or how he or she is coming along with the fitness program.

The boss is giving the employee a gift of time and caring, and making the employee feel special.

Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club, was a master at engaging employees and making them feel important and part of the team. Walton could walk into a Wal-Mart store, know the associates by name and engage them in conversation about their role in the company, their family or other things that were relevant to them.

If Walton were alive today, probably he would find it very difficult to know the names of all 2.2 million Wal-Mart and Sam's Club associates without referring to their nametags. But, back in his day, every associate knew Walton cared about the people that helped grow his businesses. Associates felt like they had received a gift when Walton visited their store.

Credited with saying, “The key to success is to get out into the store and listen to what the associates have to say,” Walton was the consummate walk-around manager and gift-giver.

What gifts are you giving to your employees? How are you demonstrating that you care about them, and value their contributions?

Do you bark out orders, or do you spend time mentoring? How often do you connect with your employees – daily, weekly, monthly, yearly or never?

If your connection to your employees is limited and you are not including yourself as part of the team, you may be creating a situation where employees will be expecting a turkey or bonus at the holidays to make up for a lack of feeling valued.

It takes a conscious effort to get out of your office and walk the floor, or go into the field to talk with the people who are helping you make your business successful. The best part of this concept is that it is never too late to start.

Your No. 1 role as a business owner, business leader and manager is to help your employees grow. It's the only way your company can have sustainable results, and it's the right thing to do.

One of the best ways to help your employees grow is to give them “gifts” on a regular basis: mentoring, coaching, training and sharing your time, vision, knowledge, experiences and guidance. These are the gifts that keep on giving.

What you teach one employee will turn into a lesson that he or she will teach to a co-worker, family member or child.

Once you throw the first pebble in the water, the ripples will continue to form.

I am fortunate to have had a few good bosses, starting with my parents, who became great mentors for me.

The bosses who never gave the gift of their time never got my best efforts. As much as I am a person who always puts 110 percent into everything, they only got 100 percent and missed an opportunity.

Are you missing opportunities with your employees by not giving the best gifts that will have the most lasting effects?

Bonnie Sussman-Versace – business leader, entrepreneur and principal of Focused LLC in Wyomissing – is dedicated to developing leaders, enhancing cultures and improving sustainable performance for individuals, teams and organizations. Learn more at focusedllc.net, and she can be reached at bversace@focusedllc.net or 610-301-2194.

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