published Thursday, November 26th, 2009

Businesses deftly figure how to give gifts to staffers this year


by Amy Williams
Audio clip

Sheila Boyington

Sheila and Dane Boyington’s Chattanooga company has had a great year, so as the holidays get under way, they are making sure their employees are rewarded.

They threw a big party at The Chattanoogan hotel for their staff and plan to give them incentive pay or bonuses at the end of the year.

“It doesn’t cost the company that much money, but it certainly raises morale,” said Mrs. Boyington, co-owner of educational software company Thinking Media.

However, while Thinking Media was able to give bonuses this year, small businesses across the country are trimming or cutting employee gifts from their holiday budgets, according to a recent survey.

Fewer small-business owners, about 35 percent, are giving employee gifts this year, compared to 46 percent in 2008, according to an American Express small business report. About 31 percent have plans to give year-end bonuses, and only 16 percent will give raises.

Some business owners are opting to give gift baskets or chocolates this year instead of cash, a trend seen at Chattanooga chocolatier Bountiful Harvest on Hixson Pike.

Bountiful’s owner, Andrew Beattie, said he has noticed an uptick in the number of businesses looking for gifts for employees and clients.

“People are feeling more confident after holding back (on gift buying) last year,” he said.

At Real Estate Partners, the owners have come up with a way to reward agents and to create incentive for 2010. Real estate agents at the firm will receive an additional commission on their first closing next year, said Adelia Mosley, marketing director for Real Estate Partners.

“We wanted to do something that would be tangible and real, and would give the agents some motivation to jump-start their business next year,” she said.

Thinking Media, meanwhile, even goes so far as to give employees’ children gift certificates.

It’s something Mrs. Boyington remembers from her own childhood, when her father worked as an engineer in a plant.

“It’s important that we recognize the value of the spouses and the families that support the employees,” Mrs. Boyington said.

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