End of Year Expectations
It is the climactic scene in the movie Christmas Vacation. The arrival of the long-awaited holiday bonus that has been discussed all movie; the expected check already spent with thoughts of how the entire family will enjoy its proceeds. In the scene, everyone gathers around Clark Griswold, their faces full of expectation and excitement. Clark excitedly tears open the envelope to find it’s not his expected big money check, but instead is a one-year membership to the Jelly of the Month Club.
Cousin Eddie exclaims, “That’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year!”
“That it is, Edward. That it is indeed.“
While 2020 is a year of low expectations, there are still expectations. And 2020 year-end bonuses are all about rewarding your employees if possible and meeting the expectations that do exist… despite the pandemic, despite the economic hit, despite the shake-up to businesses.
The expectations this year are not for giant bonuses. As an employer, you may not be able to offer anything – and if that expectation has been managed, that is okay. Most have not spent ahead in hopes of a big end of the year payout. The main expectations that employees have from their workplaces? Honesty, transparency, and fairness. The holy trinity of a good employer in the midst of uncertainty and change.
People want to believe in good things and they want one of those good things to be their employer. I have talked often in previous writing about the changing mentality of the workforce and a re-evaluation of what is important to employees in the new normal. Honesty is at the top of the list. As we recover from the pandemic, a higher price will be placed on a company with integrity than in the past. Employees have higher expectations from their employers and will not continue to work for companies they do not trust. Companies need to be consistently forthright and truthful to employees, even for small details, to make it possible to believe the big messages that require more faith. Especially when it comes to tangible items like compensation and bonuses, employees need to believe the validity of why a company may not be able to give a bonus this year.
This is a big one. And the reason it is so important is because people want to know what is going on. Where companies in the past could be more guarded with their information under the guise of protecting the employee, today’s workers expect information. My advice: give it to them, even if it is a difficult message. With all the unprecedented changes and surprises of the last year, there is a need for as much clarity and information as possible. The week before Thanksgiving, we conducted a poll where more than 50% of respondents did not know if they would be receiving bonuses. That is an astounding percentage a mere six weeks before the end of the year. In the same poll, 63% of respondents said that a bonus impacts their plans to leave the company within the next 6 months.
If you are wondering where your company needs to demonstrate transparency, simply discover where your employees have uncertainty. While you may not be able to give the desired answer, the reality is that any answer is usually welcomed over the unknown. And the good news about having a transparency issue is that it is often easy to fix. Simply tell people the truth.
Fairness is an issue I think we are going to hear more about in the coming months. Part of the reason there is an increased push for honesty and transparency is because the two combined result in employees’ feelings about fairness.
There is a mixed bag going on with 2020 year-end bonuses that is impacting both loyalty and longevity for companies. On one side, people know it has been a tough year for businesses. If those employees trust their companies and have been informed that bonuses have been reduced or eliminated, the employees are still content if it is believed to be a short-term problem. And people that know their companies have been hurting are extremely touched by even small bonuses that are believed to be sacrifices by their employers.
On the flip side, there are those who believe 2020 has still been a profitable year for their employer, but that their company is not fairly distributing bonuses either to be conservative looking towards 2021, or because they are using 2020 as a scapegoat. That is a difficult pill to swallow. Our recent survey found almost two-thirds of respondents believe they are unfairly compensated. And for the group that believes their company is taking advantage of the pandemic, there is anger, distrust, and a clear desire to exit the company.
Which brings us back to the movie Christmas Vacation which sums up the expectations for honesty, transparency, and fairness when Clark complains about his lack of bonus to his boss:
“Thanks for telling us. I was expecting a check and instead I got enrolled in a jelly club. Seventeen years with the company – I’ve gotten a Christmas bonus every year but this one. You don’t want to give bonuses, fine. But, when people count on them…”
Tell your employees what they need to know. If it is rooted in fairness with a plan for the future in which they can believe, you have a good chance your employees will stick with you. Be the company they can count on, because that’s the gift that really keeps on giving the whole year.