A Hybrid Secret Santa @LiftOff LLC

Hustle and bustle of the Christmas season have begun. Christmas is that time of the year where all of us look forward to the fresh whiff in the air of cookies, cakes, and wine. At LiftOff, this time of the year, we reflect on all of the good and the bad of the year that has passed and prepare with renewed zest for the new year.

The year 2020 started off on a high note with a lot of new projects lined up and while we were on the high ride, COVID struck and pushed us onto a series of twists and turns.

The journey of having moved from a physical to a virtual office gave us an entirely new set of experiences and perspectives of working remotely and also through the insanity of a pandemic.

After many months of remote work, a few of us have returned to the office. The new challenge for HR is to find the right balance in employee engagement for employees on-premise and employees who are still remote.

Secret Santa

Therefore to continue the Liftoff tradition of Christmas we had to adapt the rules of this year’s Secret Santa. This new adaptation involved a new collaboration with engineers and Human Resources (HR).

To acknowledge and spread the Christmas cheer, we sent out an email teaser to set the mood and theme for this year’s Secret Santa. Once we set the tone for the game, the next task was to assign a Santa to each employee. Usually, Santa is done through a hand-picking of named chits, whereas this year given the hybrid (virtual + on-premise employees) nature of the game, we needed a new way to assign Santas to their Angels.

The teaser we sent out

After trying some of the readily available third party solutions online for Secret Santa, we finally decided to do the following:

Got a master list of all the employees mapped with their email IDs, first and last names into a spreadsheet and ran functions that randomized the names and do the assignments to email addresses.

Next was to communicate to everybody who their angel was. For this, we exported the readied excel as CSV and then uploaded this CSV to our Mailchimp account.

Mapped CSV columns to Merged Tags

To personalize the email we used Mailchimps Merge Tags. The separate columns of the CSV were assigned to their respective Merge Tags mainly: “To Merge Tag”, “Angel First Name”, and: “Angel Last Name”. Once we had the merge tags mapped to the CSV columns we had to populate these tags in-place in the email template that we designed for Secret Santa.

And then we waved our magic wand and our Santas “Reined” down upon us.

Email Sent to all our Employees

A couple of things we made sure of so everything went smoothly:

  • Everyone was requested beforehand to update their current addresses in our Company Contact List.
  • We limited the number of gifts to one, to avoid a logistical nightmare for Santas to ship their gifts out to different parts of the country.
  • In order to retain the personalization and mystery of the game, a simple guideline was for Santas to express freely their appreciation for their Angel and also to drop copious hints to guess who their secret Santa is.

The game culminates with a party that would be organized in the office with proper social distancing rules, of course, for the on-premise folks and a concurrent virtual connect for all the remote folks who would join with their choice of drinks and gastronomy. 🍻

In order to document the memories of this event, we created a custom hashtag stream on Google Currents and created a mini internal fun social media campaign for Secret Santa.

Wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2021🎉🎉

Author: Hema Kanna, HR & Talent Acquisition LiftOff LLC




We are business accelerator working with startups / entrepreneurs in building the product & launching the companies.

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LiftOff LLC

LiftOff LLC

We are business accelerator working with startups / entrepreneurs in building the product & launching the companies.

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