I remember the first time I was asked to help with an employee relation’s initiative. I was in the role of an executive assistant in the finance department at the time, and was sent down to help pass out ham to the employees as they left for the Christmas holidays. This should be fun, right? Not so much.
If only I had been able to help the year before I might have had a WHOLE different experience – no pun intended…you’ll get this in a minute. The previous year and ALL of the previous years, my company passed out WHOLE country hams. Country ham for a Christmas breakfast is an absolute must in the south, so this had been a real treat.
Whether it was from financial constraints or a slow economy, I do not remember, but on this particular year, someone had made the decision to downsize this greatly appreciated gift of a country ham to one slice of ham. Yes, I said ONE SLICE.
As employee’s clocked out, we handed them one slice of ham in parchment paper instead of the typical whole ham. No one said anything negative, and I am sure some said “Thank you.” However, we were not long into our give-away when someone discovered that all of our single slices of ham had been tossed into the trashcan that happened to be located next to the employee entrance/exit. So, in essence, after the employee graciously accepted his piece of ham, he tossed it into the trash receptacle on his way out.
Even though I did not work in Human Resources, this was my first HR lesson when it comes to employee appreciation – If you have to downscale an employee relation’s initiative or benefit, it is sometimes better to just eliminate it altogether. There are those years that we’ve all had to reconsider a program, but if it comes to either gutting it or eliminating it…eliminate, eliminate, eliminate! Otherwise, it is just insult to injury.
I am not sure why those employees really trashed their slice of ham. Maybe the wax paper wasn’t conducive for transporting a slice of ham home? Perhaps they were too embarrassed for us…”Hey, honey, here’s a slice of ham from the factory to fry up in the morning.” Could it have been an insult?
Although, this employee relations gesture was considered a huge fail, the good news is that it has provided me with a litmus test when having to make difficult decisions regarding minimizing or eliminating beloved employee relations programs. When faced with this type of decision, I ask myself if what’s left of the program is equal to a slice of ham. If so, I eliminate.
Meanwhile back at home…
Christmas shopping. Ugh. I wish I was one of those moms who really got into the holiday spirit, but seriously, if I did not even decorate, it would not bother me. Bah-humbug. Don’t get me wrong, I am into celebrating Jesus’ birth, but when it comes to the commercial part, not so much.
My daughter had picked out the new LeapPad for her number one gift. Yeah, her and every other child in the U.S. Originally, I did not realize how popular it was until I went to shop for it…four times, and each time it was SOLD OUT!
Now, this LeapPad thing had become a serious moving target, which by the way, left me calling Target every single morning to see if a new shipment of toys had arrived. If I got a yes, I would leave work (early lunch) and head for Target. When I was finally able to get my hands on it, I leaped for joy! Finally, I had caught the LeapPad!
I took it home and happily wrapped it. On Christmas day, my daughter excitedly opened her gift and then she, too, leaped for joy! She probably played with it all of three weeks, and then it just sat in her toy box alongside all of her other Christmas gifts.
Something had to change. I was never again going to go through that crazy gift buying frenzy and nonsense again. This is when I decided to shake things up a bit.
Enter the next Christmas. For this particular year, I asked my daughter if she just wanted to pick out some items or would she rather be SURPRISED??? Take note – this only works if 1) your kids are still young enough for you to coax, 2) you really downplay the “pick out some items” option, and 3) you really build up the SURPRISE option. Feel free to grin real big, clap your hands and do a little jig when asking them this question. Because they will yell back, “SURPRISE ME!!!” Oh, it was music to my ears!!!
And then, like a champ, you will say, “Okay!” and gleefully walk away to make your own list of what your child needs and will enjoy without sending yourself to the poor house or looney bend. You are welcome!
This tactic worked wonders for many years for both of my daughters. There is an art to maneuvering employee ralations/appreciation plans just as there are to getting our kids to enjoy and appreciate traditions that everyone can happily live with. I am not comparing employees to kids, but how companies use employee relations programs to make everyone feel appreciated, just like traditions make our families feel loved at home.
When making changes that tug at the heart strings, take time to think through the alternatives, the presentation of a new idea or negative news, and how you can introduce new ways to demonstrate appreciation. Employee morale is important, and can be easily damaged with something as small as one slice of ham.
This month’s slideshow will walk you through the best ways to make negative changes. There’s a multitude of articles out there about how to communicate benefit reductions, but few that address general employee appreciation initiatives and the process used to for decision-making, roll-out and recovery when they must be downsized. Enjoy, and take note!
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Award-winning author Gina Duke is a wife, mom and the principal of a human resources firm specializing in recruiting, training and strategic planning for the automotive industry. Through her book, “Organizing Your Prayer Closet: A New and Life-Changing Way to Pray” (Abingdon Press), she imparts 1 Peter 4:7 with the gift of structured prayer journaling. You may also follow her on Twitter and Instagram @TheGinaDuke.