Santa Claus may be the face of Christmas, but the real heart of his operation is his elves. They work tirelessly year-round to ensure children around the world get their gifts. That makes them Santa’s employees. As with any workplace, their employee experience deserves to be examined.
We’ve chosen a handful of Christmas movies in order to do a deep dive into the employee experience in the North Pole. We’ll judge each movie on the following criteria:
- Working conditions
- Company culture
- Trust in leadership
- Opportunity for growth
- Health and well-being
2003’s Elf follows a man named Buddy, who is a human raised as a Christmas elf. He eventually leaves the North Pole to meet his human father. But before that, he works alongside the other elves at Santa’s workshop.
- Working conditions — Santa’s workshop in Elf slightly resembles a factory. The workshop is a little bare and cold. Elves sit at a table all day, hunched over their work. They’re expected to make around 1,000 toys a day. Those are pretty exhausting conditions.
- Company culture — The elves featured in Elf rally around Buddy. When he’s upset that he can’t keep up with other toymakers, they point out his other strengths. Even though he’s not technically an elf, they embrace him as one of their own.
- Trust in leadership — The elves appear to place their complete trust in Santa. Spirits are high whenever he visits the shop.
- Opportunity for growth — For the most part, Santa’s workshop seems to be a reasonably flat organization. However, the character of Ming Ming appears to be in some sort of leadership role, proving that there is some room for growth within the organization.
- Health and well-being — While the elves appear to be happy and healthy in Elf, there’s no way that working that long in an uncomfortable setting is healthy.
Takeaway — The elves in Elf are happy and supportive colleagues who respect their boss. However, management could stand to update their workshop with more comfortable working conditions.
The Santa Clause Franchise
The Santa Clause follows Scott Calvin as he falls into the role of Santa Claus. He visits the North Pole on his first night on the job. Because of that, he gets a good taste of the way that his predecessor ran his workshop.
- Working conditions — The North Pole in The Santa Clause is a well-oiled machine. The workshop is massive and well-staffed; different teams are working on different aspects of toymaking. It doesn’t hurt that Santa’s workshop is gorgeous in The Santa Clause movies as well.
- Company culture — The elves in The Santa Clause appear fulfilled by the work they produce for Santa. Head Elf Bernard is a tough boss at times, but he still cares deeply for the elves that work under him.
- Trust in leadership — In what appears to be the norm for holiday movies, the elves completely trust Santa. While there was a little dip in brand trust when a toy Santa temporarily replaced Scott in The Santa Clause 2, the elves are incredibly loyal to their supervisor.
- Opportunity for growth — Bernard’s role of Head Elf proves an opportunity for growth in this version of the North Pole. With so many different teams within the workshop, it’s safe to assume that there are leadership roles within those individual teams as well.
- Health and well-being — The elves in The Santa Clause movies are so healthy that they physically appear as children, despite some of them being hundreds of years old.
Takeaway — The Santa Clause offers a pretty stellar employee experience for its elves. The main area for improvement would be in employee-supervisor communication.
Fred Claus follows Fred, the older brother of Santa Claus. After years of not being involved in Santa’s life, Fred begrudgingly visits his brother for the holidays. While he’s in the North Pole, he gets to know some of the elves that work for Santa.
- Working conditions — There’s an underlying level of stress in Fred Claus’s version of the North Pole. Following the team’s dwindling performance, an efficiency expert named Clyde is brought in to assess Santa and his elves. He even attempts to sabotage the elves, adding to the level of stress they face during their busy season.
- Company culture — The clip above shows the elves engaging in a party that gets out of control. Santa walks in on the loud music and dancing, and he’s pretty shocked by what he sees. This just goes to show that the elves are far too stressed in Fred Claus, which could lead them to become unhappy employees. Their stress bubbles up in inappropriate ways.
- Trust in leadership — The elves of course implicitly trust Santa Claus. However, Santa keeps some secrets from his elves, showing that he needs to have a little more trust in his employees.
- Opportunity for growth — Similar to The Santa Clause, Fred Claus features a head elf — Willie. This proves that there is some room for growth in this version of the North Pole.
- Health and well-being — While the elves physically appear to be healthy, the level of stress they face with their efficiency goals can’t be good for their mental well-being.
Takeaway — Of the workforces we examined, this North Pole has the most room for improvement. Management should set more realistic goals for elves, so their stress doesn’t bubble over during inappropriate times.
Of the three holiday movies we examined, The Santa Clause’s version of the North Pole sets the gold standard for elf employee experience. Elves are happy, and their teams are adequately staffed. They seem genuinely fulfilled by their work. No matter the industry, this is the employee experience that all companies should strive for.