Your veterinary team members work hard, and they’ve been subjected to unprecedented stressors in recent years. Recognizing team members year-round increases job satisfaction, but the holidays are a great time to ramp up your efforts to ensure the whole team feels valued. You may think you need flashy, creative ways to honor your team, but you don’t need to always reinvent the wheel. Put a fresh new spin on reliable classics with these five reimagined ways to recognize and reward your team members these holidays.

#1: Facilitate peer appreciation with heart-felt thanks

In my career as a veterinary technician, I can remember a handful of times when I felt genuinely appreciated—not with grand gestures, free lunches, or bonuses, but with short-but-memorable messages that a co-worker scribbled on a post-it note and stuck to my workstation. These notes that expressed sincere gratitude meant more to me than anything the higher-ups did or said. Why? Because these people were in the trenches with me, and were the only ones who could understand the full value of my actions. Of course, you should thank your team members—sincerely—when you see them go above and beyond, but peer recognition likely has a bigger impact. This holiday season, implement a system where team members write one another appreciative notes that they place on a community bulletin board, or read aloud at a designated time each week or during your holiday gathering. 

#2: Host a holiday employee awards ceremony

Remember the dundies on The Office? Michael hosted the party at a restaurant each year, and awarded each employee a silly title. You can play on this idea to help employees feel truly appreciated for the things they do better than anyone else, and let other employees vote on the awards. Who’s the best at taming problem clients? Who has the best phone voice? Who can hit a vein after everyone else gives up? Which team members are role models in low-stress handling? Let employees know that their unique role is essential to the team’s success.

#3: Give team members gifts they actually want

Gift-giving is nothing new, and certainly makes some team members feel seen and appreciated for their daily efforts. However, gifts your team members don’t like won’t have an impact. In one of my previous practices, each person received the same corporate-branded item for the holidays. Impersonal gifts feel forced and insincere, and can cause cynicism rather than the desired effect. This year, find out what your team actually wants. Does your team want to go to a group event—perhaps a concert or comedy show? Do they want to choose their own gifts using your Amazon account? What do they want to do for the—optional—holiday party this year? Give your people what they want.

#4: Invest in team member growth

Perhaps the best gift you can give this holiday is an investment of your time, energy, or resources in each team member’s personal and professional growth. Sit down with each employee to discuss their goals, interests, and desires, and collaborate with them to develop their long-term path. Educational costs and time commitments can hold people back from their next career step, but financial and emotional support from the practice can go a long way. Team members will feel truly valued when you help transform their strengths into significant practice contributions, and they will develop confidence along their skill-building journey.

#5: Give team members time to recharge and refresh

Many people feel overstretched and overwhelmed with family, work, financial, and social obligations during the holidays. Reward employees for their jobs well done by allowing them to use paid floating holidays, a novel incentive they likely haven’t experienced. Floating holidays give team members more control over their calendar without worrying about losing hours of pay or using sick days. You can also promote rest and relaxation by offering discounts on group subscriptions to mindfulness apps, hiring a massage therapist to give shoulder massages in the office, or hosting a yoga class at your next team meeting.

This holiday season, focus on sincere, authentic words and actions to recognize your veterinary team members. Impersonal, cookie-cutter rewards can feel forced, and your team members will notice and feel unappreciated. What makes your team tick? What do they want and need to feel appreciated? Use the answers as a starting point to build your team’s ideal recognition program.