The year has almost ended, and your company has exceeded the goals it set a year ago. You, as a small business owner, played a major role in steering the ship, but your employees also contributed to the success. 

There are many ways to recognize your employees for a year of work well done, and while cash bonuses may top employee wish lists, they're not the only option to reward and thank your employees. Some recognition strageies are more clever than others and not every idea will be a fit for every company. Consider each choice on this list and remember that you can mix and match. The goal is to make your employees happy and to do something that shows your appreciation to build morale heading into the new year.

Workers toast with glasses at a holiday party.

There are lots of ways to thank employees for a great year. Image source: Getty Images.

1. Time off from work.

Not every office or small business can shut down between Christmas and New Year's. That doesn't mean you can't offer employees some time off between the two major holidays.

You might consider simply awarding every worker bonus vacation time to be used like regular vacation times. It's also possible to schedule a partial shutdown or a rolling shutdown (where a skeleton crew keeps the lights on) during your slow season.

Offering workers a week off in May might not be as immediately gratifying as telling them to take Christmas week off, but it's still a big offer. And, by not having the time off come immediately, you give your staff a chance to make plans.

2. Cold hard cash.

If you're able to do it, rewarding people with cash is the easiest option. Be careful with your approach becauseit should be clear the money is a special, one-time bonus, based on the company's financial circumstances.

Be thoughtful in how much cash you award, because some employees may compare amounts between themselves, and if they consider it unfair they could harbor ill will. 

3. Get clever.

Sometimes a gesture of gratitude can be an outside-the-box idea. Find something special that benefits your whole company, like installing a new, high-end coffee maker or adding a vending machine that sells snacks at a price, subsidized by you.

How about planning a family picnic or barbecue for the summer, or taking your whole team and their families to a local sporting event, or amusement park. Whatever you pick, consider whether it's an activity most of your staff (if not all) will enjoy. If your team prefers an escape room to a baseball game, take that into consideration.

Be gracious

Gifts, trips, time off, and cash are appreciated, but those are not the only ways to thank employees. It's important -- especially at a smaller company -- to take the time to thank people personally. Have a moment with each worker and let him or her know how their work has helped move the company forward.

Ask questions and find out what your employees' goals are for the next year, then consider what you might do to help them reach them. Be a gracious boss, and make it clear that you value your staff as people who you hope to see grow and succeed.

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