As part of the American Booksellers Association’s “Top 10 Things to Know About...” educational series, ABA CEO Allison K. Hill and ABA CFO PK Sindwani provided tips for booksellers in need of morale boosters and self-care ideas this holiday season.
Booksellers looking for self-care and mental health resources can take a look at “COVID-19 and Mental Health: Taking Care of Ourselves and Each Other,” published in last week’s BTW, as well as this week’s article on meditation. Booksellers can also reference previous ABA education on balancing employees’ mental health needs with business concerns.
Here are the top 10 things booksellers should keep in mind:
- During the holiday season, morale boosters help make staff feel supported and like a team, and it also makes the season fun. Morale boosters are also a great way to thank employees for their work.
- Consider giving out an annual most valuable player award voted on by the whole staff. Have staff write their nominations and reasons for choosing the person, and after the winner is announced, share the names of all the nominees as well.
- If social distancing, find virtual ways to keep staff connected, such as hosting online employee appreciation days.
- Create a bulletin board (virtual or in-store) where staff members can share what they’re thankful for this year.
- If possible, consider giving an added holiday discount to staff this year.
- Consider hosting a socially distant or virtual holiday party with activities for staff.
- Host a friendly competition for staff to participate in, such as a contest to see who can hand-sell the most books. Give the winner a prize, such as a gift card.
- Look for community volunteer opportunities for staff who are able to participate.
- Offer staff the opportunity to take breaks and recharge during the holiday season.
- Food always helps! If you’re able to, consider buying a meal for staff or provide snacks when working in-store.
Here’s a more detailed recap of what Hill and Sindwani had to say:
Allison K. Hill
When I was at Vroman’s and Book Soup, I always loved planning morale boosters for the holiday season — ways to help staff feel supported, help them feel like a team, and make the season fun. Managers helped come up with ideas, and every year we:
- Awarded an annual most valuable player award voted on by the whole staff. The prize was a gift card and a big sign in the break room and on the sales floor so customers could congratulate them. Everyone wrote nominations and the reason they were nominating the person and dropped it in a box. You could nominate as many people as you wanted for going above and beyond during the year. At the end, the nominations were shared with the nominees so even if they didn’t win they had a chance to read the nice things their colleagues said about them.
- Hosted two employee appreciation days during the holiday season. We’d announce the MVP and we’d have breakfast and snacks — fruit, nuts, candy, sodas — in the breakroom and order pizza and salads for lunch and dinner. It was nice for everyone to know that they didn’t have to worry about meals those days when the sales floor was busy.
- Featured an annual gumdrop guessing contest. We filled a jar with gumdrops and people guessed how many gumdrops were in the jar. It sounds simple and silly and cheap, but people loved the competition and guessing who was going to win. Sometimes you’d walk by and there would be someone just standing there staring at it doing complicated calculations in their head.
- Created a bulletin board where people could post what they were thankful for (around Thanksgiving) or what their favorite part of December was (whether it was a certain holiday tradition or something unrelated to the December holidays altogether).
- Participated in an annual food drive for a local food pantry. Different departments competed with one another. The department that brought in the most food won the honor of judging the annual holiday cookie contest…
- Hosted an annual holiday cookie contest. Staff would submit cookies for judging and for sharing with each other.
- Gave an extra 10 percent on top of the regular staff discount for the holiday season. Staff each received four coupons that they could use themselves or share with family and friends.
- Bought pizza on Christmas Eve.
- Hosted an annual holiday party in early November to thank everyone in advance for their hard work ahead. Some years it was as simple as a buffet and karaoke in the store or a bowling alley. Other years we rented an event space at a Mexican restaurant and had dancing and dinner. The budget depended on the kind of year we’d had, but it was always fun.
- I thanked my senior management team before the holidays every year by taking them to breakfast at a local restaurant the Tuesday before Thanksgiving as my personal holiday gift to all of them. It became a tradition we all looked forward to. By then the holidays were planned and in motion so we could take an hour to sit with one another and just eat and laugh and hang out.
- Our CFO hosted a decorating contest every year for the accounting department. Everyone decorated their cubicles and outside judges (our banker was a judge one year) voted on the winner.
- One year we fixed up the break rooms as a holiday present for staff. A new coat of paint. A toaster oven. A tablecloth. Simple and inexpensive but meaningful since staff spent a lot of time in that space.
- Here's what I learned: These boosters during the holiday season are really important for morale, for team building, and to make people feel appreciated. They don’t have to cost a lot; the effort alone means a lot to people. And you can never go wrong with food!
- We also did some of the same things as Allison, such as hosting lunch for all employees on Christmas Eve and holding a holiday party. I also gave out bonuses most years.
- Since my staff was not as big as Vroman’s, I fed employees whenever we had staff meetings.
- Additionally, we had a few friendly contests after the holiday season, such as March Madness. In the month of March, we stocked up on all the books that employees wanted to hand-sell that month and the person who sold the most got an award, such as AmEx gift card or gift card to their favorite restaurant. We also had a similar contest during the summer.
- We had a One Book One Store contest every year, usually in January or February. We picked one book that everyone loved and hand-sold. At the end of the month, if we reached a certain number sold, we either all went out to dinner or I gave out gifts to everyone. At Christmastime, I’d have a stack of about 10 different books from all the different genres that staff picked earlier in the year that we could hand-sell.
- Having a good morale is very important for a bookstore, especially during holidays. That makes working long hours during holidays more bearable!