Crack Out the Santa Sack - 8 Ideas to Boost Employee Engagement This Festive Season

Crack out the Santa Sack - 8 Ideas to Boost Employee Engagement This Festive Season

Christmas is just around the corner (less than 4 weeks to be exact) - and dashing through the snow toward you is a one-horse open sleigh. It's time you climbed on board. It's time you saw the value in building employee engagement and morale during the festive season.

The tooth about employee engagement

Employee engagement is on everybody's radar. With global engagement scores only sitting around 65% (Aon Hewitt, 2016), chances are you’re still trying to figure this one out for your organisation.

Employee (dis)engagement has a huge impact on business due to its documented cost on productivity, employee turnover, disputes, absenteeism, and even presenteeism (where they’re technically ‘present’ but don’t make any real effort to do the job).

One in every 3 of your employees is disengaged. That’s a big deal. And disengagement is contagious. Like summer colds - when one ning-nong decides they are too important to stay away from work to recover, so they selfishly come into the office and infect everyone around them. And then suddenly everyone is sick…

A disengaged employee is actively working against you.

The truth is, we all just want to be happy where we work. After all, we spend 2/3 of our life there! So, why shouldn’t it be freakin’ awesome?

May Our Days Be Merry and Bright

It's time you got jolly with the fat man!

Because the festive season is the perfect time for you to re-connect with your people and show them you genuinely care. It’s your chance to really shine as leaders – humanise yourself and have some fun with your team!

And I’m not just talking about organising another lame Secret Santa – where it's guaranteed one person won’t show up on the day leaving another without a gift, and at least one person will walk away disappointed with their ‘keep calm and carry on’ coffee mug (so they then become next year’s Christmas Grinch).

Personally, I’m a big fan of Christmas and love the anticipation, surprise, and delight of Secret Santa. But – it’s not for everyone. So, let's explore some other ideas!

8 Ideas to Boost Employee Engagement During the Festive Season

1. Introduce your own ‘Festive Awards’

Show some personality and run a peer-nominated awards program with a quirky festive twist. Like ‘Joy to the World’ (for the happiest person in your workplace), ‘Christmas Grinch’ (for the person least enthused about Christmas), ‘The Kevin McAllister’ (for the most resourceful person). The team's acknowledgement of that employee's strength and value to them will be a huge morale booster for everyone involved.

Organise a festive morning tea to announce the winners (there's not an office on Earth that doesn't enjoy a good morning tea).

2. Decorate the work space

Whether you’re a fan of Christmas or not, whether you believe in it or not, who doesn’t love coming into work the week before closure to see reindeer vomit splashed all over the walls, doors, and ceiling? Is that just me?

Better yet, try making it into a competition for the best decorated pod (team building and happiness factor all tied up). If you’ve got a diverse workplace, make it a different theme to Christmas (like a celebration of all beliefs; famous movies; best songs of 2016).

Make it your own. And -

3. Speaking of shutdowns…

Where possible – shut down! Have a compulsory closure period and force your people to spend time away from the office (this includes emailing from their phones!).

And, while you’re at it, send them home early on the last day! Don’t be an a-hole – ain’t nothing getting done after 1pm on Christmas Eve. It’s good for employee health and wellbeing, and means you’ll have happier, healthier employees return to you in the new year!

4. Shout your team lunch (or just a sneaky summer cocktail if you’re on a budget)

In all my years working for the machine, I don’t remember ever being taken out to lunch by the boss in recognition and appreciation for my work. Actually, once.

What a lovely surprise. Y’see – I’m driven by love and recognition, especially at Christmas. Shout me lunch and thank me for my long hours, hard work, and contagious cheerfulness during the shitstorms and I will love you forever.

5. Bonuses

Always an option, but more and more these days people are motivated by intrinsic rewards (

Still, if your company has the money to afford this – go for it. Gift cards and hampers are also great as they can ease the financial burden at home. But, whatever you do, don’t just drop it onto their desk like Secret Santa on his Xmas run, hand write a card with personalised gratitude for service and well wishes for the new year ahead.

6. A fun one – LUCKY DOOR PRIZE!

The fifth person to get out of the lift on the last morning of the working year gets a ‘lucky lift prize’.

Make it a delightful surprise. Make it magnificent. Make that person the envy of their peers!

But seriously, a random act of kindness for the sake of making someone’s day will honestly make their day. Perhaps even their year.

Be kind. Be generous. Bring smiles to many.

7. Arrange a charity drive

As humans, we are hard wired to feel good when we help others. It’s true. The more we give, the more we feel happy and fulfilled with our lives.

So, give your people a leg up with some good old fashioned altruism. Arrange for a food, toy, or charity drive to help the disadvantaged over the festive season. But you lead it; don’t just throw the responsibility to someone else!

If you’re in Brisbane, my personal favourites are the Brisbane Youth Service, Rize Up, and the Smith Family.

8. Bake off!

Because it wouldn’t be a festive party without a bake off! And nothing gets the players playing like a healthy competition.


  • Best gingerbread house decoration
  • Truffle-off (there are no losers with truffles)
  • Best festive treat


Make Your List and Check it Twice

There you have it. Eight easy ideas to boost spirit and engage with your people as the year winds down.

Pick from these or create your own - but make your list of engagement activities and use this festive season to genuinely connect with your team and show them you care.

Let's channel the spirit of Father Christmas and spread good cheer and genoristy! And remember to carry your intentions into the new year, too ;)