Industry Market Trends

The Giving Spirit: Workplace Holiday Bonuses

Dec 27, 2012

Good news for employees this year: There's a better chance that you'll get a bonus than there was last year, and it'll probably be a nicer one. Even employees of smaller companies can look forward to more spending money courtesy of their employer this holiday season.

A recent CareerBuilder study found that 46 percent of employers expect to give their employees holiday bonuses this year, up from 40 percent last year and 33 percent in 2010. In addition, about 20 percent say they'll give a bigger bonus this year than they did last year.

"Companies are in a better position this year than they were last, and they realize that giving back to employees does boost morale and could be a good retention tool going into 2013," Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, told Forbes.

Smaller companies are feeling the Christmas spirit too, and will be giving more bonuses than in recent years. An American Express OPEN Forum survey of 501 companies with fewer than 100 employees found that 35 percent of small business owners will give Christmas bonuses (up from 29 percent last year), and that their employees will get about a 9 percent increase in their paycheck.

"Business owners see the value of gift giving," Alice Brendin, a small business advisor to American Express OPEN, told CNBC. Some of the more popular gifts that companies hand out to employees include wine and fruit baskets, USB sticks, flashlights and 2013 calendars.

That's nice, but as observes, there is still a long way to go before employers match pre-recession bonuses. In 2005, 54 percent of small businesses gave bonuses, while 33 percent gave raises during the holidays. Last year, only 15 percent gave raises.

Even clients are benefiting from increased Christmas cheer. According to OPEN Forum, 51 percent of company managers at the 501 small businesses surveyed are giving presents to clients this year, an 8 percent increase from 2011.

In another positive, the office Christmas party is making a powerful comeback this year.

Global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas conducted a survey of human resource professionals that found that more than 83 percent of the companies they work for will hold a Christmas party this year, up from 68 percent in 2011. Moreover, 17 percent plan to spend more money on their party than they did last year.

Other surveys have pegged the number of companies throwing Christmas parties for their employees at closer to 60 percent, but most research indicates that more companies will give a Christmas party this year than did so in 2011.

Ten percent of those who say their company is throwing a Christmas party say they didn't get one last year "due to the economic downturn."

This is despite the fact that CareerBuilder found that only 40 percent of employees plan to attend their office holiday party. A similar survey conducted by Glassdoor found that a measly 5 percent of workers said the office Christmas party is their most-coveted holiday perk, even with an open bar.

Interestingly, the Glassdoor found that a cash bonus is, in fact, the most desired Christmas perk among 73 percent of respondents. A raise in pay took second place, while paid time off, grocery gift cards and working at home for a year rounded out the top five benefits. Other answers included commuter subsidies, stock shares and gym memberships.

When Glassdoor asked employees what their 2013 New Year's resolutions for work were, apart from the usual responses ("Get a raise," "Develop more leadership skills" and "Take all vacation time"), 2 percent said "Get my boss fired."