As organizational development folks study employee engagement at great length, I suggest a simple tool to enhance morale — birthday benefits.
Just this month, my office job employer has treated two of our team to birthday cakes. We were even asked in advance what kind of cake we’d like best — so there was even an element of choice! Plus, even the person who wasn’t having a birthday could look forward to the break of enjoying a slice of cake together. It’s a win for everyone at work.
As I sat enjoying my second “small” slice of chocolate cake at the office in under two weeks (we’re not talking about all of the slices I ate at home for my own birthday), I wondered what other examples of birthday employee benefits I might find.
Entrepreneur suggests the following in its 10 Benefits Employees Welcome and Every Company Can Afford:
“1. Birthdays off.
Everybody has one, so consider giving employees a paid day off to celebrate their birthday or perhaps a floating holiday instead.”
Of course this is #1. Why doesn’t want their birthday off? Or at least a day off of their own choosing?
On one HR site supporting the “paid birthday holiday” an employee relations-themed blog noted that the majority of departments celebrate with cake and singing, but the birthday holiday “sends a great message.” This shows the organization doesn’t view the birthday in terms of workers “getting older, benefit costs going up and efficiency going down.” The author even suggests the holiday might be given only to employees after three years of service to cut costs.
Piping up on this same Birthday Holiday idea, a separate HR voice added another perspective: “Some people may not work well on their birthday as this is when they would like to have a big party and celebrate throughout the whole day. By giving them that day off, they get to have that day of rest and relaxation that may prove quite beneficial.”
Birthday at Work Pitfalls
Really, where is the downfall to offering this one extra way to celebrate the employee?
Apparently there remain concerns. The Society for Human Resource Management featured consideration of whether or not to recognize employee benefits in a 2015 blog. The article began:
“Recognizing employee birthdays can be a low-cost yet personal and special way to recognize employees. It can also be a means to upset employees or lead to allegations of unlawful discrimination if not handled correctly.”
Apparently this “seemingly harmless act of celebration” could:
- be seen as a violation of privacy, a misuse of HR files
- pressure employees to pitch in for cakes and gifts they can’t afford
- be at odds with employee religious or birthday beliefs
I didn’t know about the last one. Now I’m going to have to track down the religions prohibiting “the celebration of holidays and other events, including birthdays.” Another blog…Oh, it’s Jehovah’s Witnesses. The SHRM tells us in another blog they believe it is a sin. I guess I might know that if I ever answered the door when they called.
Great Birthday Benefit Ideas
One thing this article made me sure about is my complete disinterest in being in HR. I can embrace the advice to always ask first and respect the birthday celebrants wishes for privacy or not. Still, I’m much more behind the great ideas a SHRM LinkedIn post on the topic generated:
● Electronic birthday cards, especially at large organizations.
● Surprise decorations at the employee’s desk.
● Lunch with a manager.
● Gift cards to popular stores or restaurants.
● Cash gifts based on years of service.
● A company contribution to a charity of the celebrant’s choice.
Monthly celebrations, perhaps with a cake, that acknowledge all workers born in that month.
Except perhaps that last one. By now my loyal readers can be sure I don’t want to have to share my birthday with others — not even work colleagues…sorry (not sorry).