John Sylvester: Getting Christmas rewards right for employees

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Over Christmas, employee productivity levels in Europe fall by 63 percent and in North America drop by 52 percent. This is despite the fact that in some sectors, such as retail and distribution, activity levels ramp up massively during this period. These sectors take on lots of temporary staff over the holiday period and are faced with the twin tasks of motivating short-term hires while retaining valuable permanent staff through a challenging period.

Organisations in other sectors may see a dramatic fall in productivity due to staff holidays and lower levels of orders from customers who are winding down for Christmas. In professional services, for example, it is not uncommon to see a wind down period ahead of a two-week break, followed by a week in January where everyone gets up to speed again.

As Christmas approaches, organisations of all types may want to consider acknowledging high performance staff to ensure that they are retained. Research by Argos for Business of Christmas rewards recevied by over 7,000 people from across Britain’s workforce, revealed that over two fifths of employees receive no gift at all from their boss at Christmas. Over a third of respondents (39.5%) would prefer to receive retail vouchers from their employer at Christmas rather than an extra day’s holiday, favoured by 31.7 percent.

Employers who are addressing Christmas recognition and rewards are not all getting it right. A failure by employers to effectively plan and deliver end-of-year recognition leads to around a third (34%) of Christmas rewards being wasted, according to research by Edenred. Its ‘Reward and recognition at Christmas 2014: How to give an impactful end of year ‘thank you’ to employees’ report, which surveyed 1,000 employees, found that 34 percent of respondents have either lost, discarded or not received a Christmas reward from their employer. One in three (30%) respondents had never received a Christmas reward and a further nine percent of respondents could not remember whether their employer gave them a Christmas reward.

Where to start?

Rewards and recognition can be particularly effective around the Christmas period as they are often unexpected. Line managers will each have their own way of motivating their team and recognising good work, some more effective than others. HR can play a part by providing managers with a toolset, including a token of appreciation at year-end, to thank employees in a consistent manner. It is possible to outsource this to third parties who will provide stats on management usage and employee uptake.

All too often a thank you may manifest in a simple multi-retailer gift card. An alternative approach – and perhaps more effective – may be to focus on conveying why you feel your employees deserves this additional recognition and how you intend to present your Christmas treat. Make communications personal and relevant to the individual and give managers the opportunity to present the awards themselves.

Practical pointers

Here are some top tips for getting Christmas rewards and recognition right and seeing tangible benefits in your organisation:

  1. Rewards should offer choice for the recipient. There will likely be a broad demographic of employees in the majority of workforces
  2. Focus on communicating the reward rather than the value of the reward. Present the reward in front of peers to add value to the process
  3. Plan ahead. Christmas will be here before you know it and if you are going to make the most of your rewards you need to spend time now on preparing Christmas communications and preparing distribution
  4. Use Christmas rewards to position the organisation for 2016, injecting motivation ahead of the New Year period when employees traditionally consider changing jobs
  5. Consider offering terminal bonuses to keep temporary retail and warehouse staff onside until the end of their contract

There is strong evidence that employees respond well to overt recognition. 97 percent of employees responding to a Workforce Growth survey felt it was important to receive recognition and companies with official employee recognition programmes have 31 percent lower turnover rates, according to a Forbes report.

Furthermore, 80 percent of workers who have been appreciated are staying the course with their companies. Conversely, 55 percent of employees would leave their companies for a company that has a formal recognition programme. Christmas is a time for giving and an opportunity not to be missed when it comes to rewarding and recognising the employees that make the business tick.

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About John Sylvester

I can now claim over 30 years experience in the incentive and motivation agency business! After five initial years at Grass Roots I joined p&mm in 1989 and, following a management buy-out, the business was floated on AiM in 2004 as Motivcom plc. I sat on the main board through to its fully supported acquisition by Sodexo in September 2014. I continue on the board of the company with an objective to drive its integration with Sodexo and help realise the strategic benefits of being part of a larger international group.

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