Weekly Wrap: Bonuses Are Back, a Unionized TSA, & Zappos Goes Vegas

I’m generally a skeptic when people point to signs that are supposed to show that the economy is getting better, but here’s a sign that’s pretty hard to deny: companies have started giving holiday and year-end bonuses again.

A Year-End Holiday Practices Survey of HR executives at 300 U.S. employers by publisher BNA, found that 41 percent of companies “will give employees some type of year-end gift or bonus this holiday season, up significantly from the historical low of 33 percent of employers who did so in 2009.” And they add that, “this marks a reversal of a three-year decline in holiday gift giving.”

The survey also found that company-sponsored holiday celebrations are up (76 percent say they will hold one, compared to a 10-year low of 67 percent in 2009), that more employers will allow spouses or guests to attend such celebrations (52 percent compared to 47 percent last year), and that more organizations will participate in charitable activities this holiday season (64 percent versus 59 percent in ’09).

The fact that companies are giving holiday bonuses and year-end gifts again is certainly a big plus given that Hewitt reported last year that only 24 percent of organizations were giving bonuses at Christmas 2009, down from 42 percent at Christmas 2008.

And, despite how tough a year that 2010 has been in so many ways, even the negative rhetoric seems to be down somewhat, too.

Last year, I blogged about a Wall Street Journal story on how to cope with a less-than-hoped-for or non-existent bonus. It was a real sign-of-the-times story, and although some of the advice from the “experts” quoted by the Journal seemed off base, the comments attached to the story by readers were spot-on given how terrible Christmas 2009 seemed for so many.

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As I noted then:

Actually, the comments from readers on the Journal’s how-to-cope-with-a-bad-bonus story were the best part of it, and here’s one from somebody named “Dave Heller” that jumped out at me:

“This year your possession of a job is your bonus. If you can’t figure that out, 10,000 souls are waiting to slide right into your seat. Let’s have a sense of perspective here. It won’t be long before salary cuts will be the norm across America. We can’t expect to all get wealthy by selling each other financial services and hamburgers. As a nation, we don’t make anything anymore except debt.”

The fact is, “Dave Heller” is right. As much as we can all bitch and moan about the lack of a holiday bonus this year, those of us gainfully employed should feel happy to just have a job given the millions in America who don’t.

Yes, we’re all singing the Christmas bonus blues, I’m afraid, and as much as I hate saying it, the best way to cope with this fact is with advice you already know: Appreciate your job, keep plugging, and know that like with all things in life, even this Big, Bad Recession must eventually pass too.”

A year later, those words of wisdom seem to be spot on. The worst of the Big, Bad Recession has passed, and things seem like they are starting to get a little better, as my colleague John Zappe points out over on ERE. Add this BNA holiday practices survey into the mix, and you get a sense – finally – that perhaps we are starting to see some real and sustainable economic movement.

That would be a holiday bonus we all can celebrate.

Of course, there’s more than holiday bonuses in the news, and here are some other workplace-related news items you may have missed this week. Yes, this HR blog is a weekly round up of news, trends, and all sorts of information from the world of HR and talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • Zappos says Viva Las Vegas. Few companies receive the kind of press coverage as trendy shoemaker and employee-friendly Zappos has over the last few years (before and after the acquisition by Amazon), so this latest news should not be a surprise: Zappos agreed this week to move from suburban Henderson to downtown Las Vegas. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Zappos will move 1,000 employees into the city’s current and soon to be vacated City Hall, which will then be remodeled and turned into the company’s corporate headquarters. It’s right next to the city’s Fremont Entertainment District (where the Golden Nugget and downtown casinos are located), and the newspaper says that, “room to grow is one of the reasons Zappos sought a new location, and one projection said the company could have as many as 3,000 employees downtown in 10 years.”
  • Managers are working the holidays. The holiday season is not only a busy time, it’s a time when most companies need even more help than usual. And that’s why, The Miami Herald reports that “most senior managers say they will forgo time off between Thanksgiving and New Year’s beyond employer-provided days off…Blame the economy, the job market and the calendar. Most managers say they are too nervous or overloaded with work to take more than a day off through the end of the year.”
  • Unionizing TSA workers. Hate those TSA checkpoints and pat-downs? Well as The Wall Street Journal reports, “if you think TSA is dysfunctional and unpopular now, wait until it unionizes. This month, the Federal Labor Relations Authority ruled that 50,000 TSA personnel will be allowed to vote on whether or not to join a union with full collective bargaining rights. The American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union are already gearing up their campaigns to win over the screeners.”
  • 100 years of wealth, health, and progress. It’s easy to get down sometimes, especially given the long and lingering recession, so that’s why it helps to step back and take a longer look. This marvelous video by Hans Rosling, a professor of global health at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, shows just how much the world – and the lives of the world’s workers – has improved since 1810. It is guaranteed (in less than five minutes) to make even the most gloomy skeptic or dour HR pro feel a little bit better about things.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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