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Whether your employees have been naughty or nice this year, employers need to think about delving out holiday bonuses. Don't confuse a holiday bonus with a performance-based bonus though. A performance bonus is something your employees expect for their hard work. A holiday bonus however, is your chance your chance to show employees you care and value them. And that's a big difference. 

If you hear 'bonus' and your mind immediately goes to 'money' – and money is something your company may or many not be short of – think again!

A couple of years ago the Harvard Business Review conducted a study about motivating employees, specifically around holiday bonus season. The experiment consisted of two groups, one group received a cash bonus of seven dollars, while the other group was given a gift-wrapped water bottle valued the same as the cash bonus. The researchers found that the money had little impact on how quickly and efficiently the employees worked, in fact, they worked with the same productivity as they did before. The group that was given the water bottles, on the other hand, increased their work rate by 25 percent. 

Why did employees react this way?
The employees who received the gift wrapped water bottles felt that this gesture showed their employer cared about them, and reciprocated with more work. The money however, was a gift that employees believed didn't take much thought or care at all. 

What can you do to show appreciation?
If your company is strapped for cash, showing appreciation for hard work doesn't have to come in gift form. Hosting a holiday party, or an office potluck will show your employees your company appreciates them. A party is also a great way to bring your company closer together, as everyone can cut loose and get to know each other, which helps boost loyalty. A personalized thank you note also goes a long way. Taking the time to write out appreciation is an extra special way to show employees you care. 

The bottom line is, a holiday bonus doesn't have to break your company's bank, but showing some form of gratitude towards your employees will help increase loyalty and productivity. Don't stress about bonuses this year, the HR solutions for gift giving are simple and affordable.