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29 Nov 2016
by Iain Thomson

How to make your staff feel valued this festive season

Whether you like it or not Christmas is fast approaching and, if you haven't done it already then now is most definitely the time for HR professionals to make their final decisions about about Christmas rewards and how to make employees feel valued and recognised for their contribution throughout the year.


Employee motivation during the festive season

In research conducted by Sodexo, over one-third (37.8%) of employees surveyed said that receiving a Christmas perk or reward makes them feel valued and a further 29.3% said that a Christmas perk or reward helps keeps them motivated.

Christmas rewards are an important part of the reward mix. They are one of the year’s biggest opportunities for employers to say thank you to their employees, and they also act to motivate employees in the year ahead. A Christmas giveaway isn’t just for Christmas, it has longer-term business benefits too, including:

  • Improved employee motivation
  • Increased employee loyalty
  • Improve performance for the year ahead
  • Increased staff retention

What Christmas reward should you give your employees?

When it comes to choosing the right rewards for your employees at Christmas there is no easy answer. 

It’s important to consider why you are giving your employees a Christmas reward. Are you offering them a reward to improve employee motivation during the festive season, is it an end-of-year gift to say ‘thank you’, or it a performance-related incentive?

Whatever the reason for giving your employees festive benefits and rewards - you need to start with finding the right balance between giving something that is appreciated and something that can be delivered within budget.

Naturally, there are a number of options when it comes to giving festive rewards:

The Christmas bonus

The Christmas bonus was, and in many cases still is, a popular reward. A 2014 survey by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc found that nearly one in four companies (78%) of HR professionals surveyed planned to offer some type of holiday bonus or gift, and about half of the companies awarding bonuses planned to give traditional monetary bonuses. Sodexo’s own research has found that bonuses were the most important Christmas reward for 38% of employees who were surveyed.

However, while a holiday cash bonus can make employees happy, it often gets lost in their monthly outgoings or absorbed by debt. As a result, the reward has less impact as employees are more likely to use it to pay a bill than indulge themselves. Cash rewards do not have the same memorable qualities as other forms of reward.

Studies have highlighted that while Christmas bonuses are the most popular rewards chosen by employees, if you ask those same employees how they feel after receiving a gift or the financial equivalent cash bonus they generally report feeling better and more motivated having received a gift. 

Motivating Christmas reward ideas

Many employers either don’t want to offer pay rises or bonuses to their staff or don’t have the budget to do so. This makes planning your festive rewards more important than ever if you want to make your workforce feel valued. To help you, here are some of the best received Christmas reward ideas:

1) Gift vouchers and cards

These are always appreciated because they give your employees freedom of choice, and they cater for a broad range of tastes and preferences. Employees can use their vouchers or gift cards to treat themselves to an early Christmas present or to make their Christmas celebration even more special with additional food and drink.

Restaurant gift vouchers and cards allow employees to take their friends and family out for a meal, or enjoy a discounts on the move, when money can be tight due to other festive expenses. 

However, you need to consider the value of the gift voucher you are giving employees. Giving each employee a £5 gift card would probably do more harm than good, but £25 or more will be taken in the spirit with which it is intended.

2) Work-life balance

If you cannot afford to give gift vouchers or cards to all staff or host a Christmas party, don’t worry as you can take steps to help your employees manage their work-life balance during a very busy time of year.

In the Sodexo survey, flexible working or early finishes were valued as the most important perk over the Christmas period by 16% of employees.

Flexible working in the run-up to Christmas and over the festive period is a great festive benefit that improves motivation. Leaving early, starting late or having longer lunch breaks can help employees manage their festive arrangements, get their Christmas shopping done, recover from Christmas parties, and spend extra time with their family and friends. This means that they are more focused and productive when they are at work.

Allowing employees to work from home so they can be in to receive deliveries, letting them receive deliveries at work, or offering them a Christmas Concierge service can also improve an employee’s work-life balance during the festive period. 

3) Give the gift of time

After bonuses one of the most important perks to employees was extra holiday, according to the Sodexo research. Nearly one in five (18.7%) employees would like extra holiday during the festive period or a Christmas shut down. 

Offering employees extra time off at Christmas means that they will often return with higher motivation and morale in the New Year. The extra time off allows them to re-charge their batteries and completely switch off from work.

If shutting down over Christmas isn’t possible for your business, then a popular festive perk is a Christmas shopping day. These allow employees to take an extra day’s paid leave during November or December in order to get their Christmas shopping done or prepare for their Christmas dinner rather than face busy shops on the weekend or after work.

Other ideas to consider

More popular Christmas employee rewards from the Sodexo survey included:

  • The office party
  • Gifts
  • A relaxed dress code over the festive period
  • Free food and drink
  • Quizzes games and festive activities

Festive rewards and incentives help to engage and motivate employees, showing that their employer values their hard work during the year - and helping set the groundwork for the following year.

But HR professionals need to find the right balance between giving something that is appreciated and something that fits the budget. Combining Christmas rewards with your overall employee benefit and reward offerings will deliver the most impact and make a more effective use of your budget. 

Employees want to enjoy themselves at this time of the year, so giving the gift of time and helping employees manage the extra costs that are inevitable will make employees feel valued and recognised. As a result, it will have a significant positive impact on your employees’ morale and motivation during the festive period and well into the New Year.

Iain Thomson is director of incentives and rewards at P&MM Motivation, part of the Sodexo family.



This article was provided by P&MM Motivation, part of the Sodexo family.

In partnership with Pluxee UK

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