The gifts that keep on giving - What do your company 'presents' say about you?
So, Christmas has come and gone, so it’s the time of year when we look at our pile of pressies and think about how we can palm half of them off on someone else – I mean, re-gift them *ahem*. But what do the gifts that you give your employees (or more accurately, the benefits and rewards) say about you as an employer?
Generally speaking, I think we can split Christmas presents into some simple categories:
1) The gifts that reflect the recipient and what they would like – such as when you get your mate a bottle of their favourite tipple. Usually involve some thought (which is, after all, what counts).
2) The gifts that reflect you and what you like – such as when you give your latest squeeze a copy of your favourite book or CD, so that they can enjoy it too (and get to know you that bit more.) Can go down well or badly, depending on the gift…
3) The gifts that reflect what you would like the recipient to be like – such as when I bought a shirt for a now-ex-squeeze in a vain attempt to stop him wearing rugby tops all the time (maybe this is why he is now my ex…)
4) The gifts that reflect the sentiment “I couldn’t think what to get you so here’s a gift voucher/pair of socks”.
So what about the benefits and rewards that you give your staff – what category would they fall into, and which would they want to re-gift, given the chance? Here are a few (slightly tongue-in-cheek) examples to think about…
Cash bonuses – you may think this is a category 1 present, but in fact it is more of a category 4. To be fair, most people wouldn’t say no to a gift voucher or a bonus, but it does kind of give the impression that it’s minimum-effort, and it won’t be much fun to play with on Christmas Day. Financial rewards may make someone’s life more enjoyable at home (paying for a new TV, holiday, electricity bill etc.) but they won’t make much of a difference to their working life.
Training and development – often seen as a reward for good performance in some organisations, and yet as a penalty for poor performance in others! Definitely a category 3 present, as it is all about getting people to be more as you would like them to be… So should training be seen as a benefit at all, or simply as a basic requirement?
Enhanced provisions, such as additional leave or flexible working arrangements that go above and beyond the statutory entitlements. Arguably a category 1 gift, particularly if you have a flexible benefits system in place – people get things that they really really want (zig-a-zig-ah) and will actually use.
Individual rewards and incentives – small gifts such as event tickets, food and drink, gadgets or whatever. Note that this only works when it is definitely category 1, not 2 – I once knew someone who was gutted because her boss of several years gave her an expensive bottle of booze, despite the fact that she is teetotal. That definitely got re-gifted - to me :o)
Company merchandise or equipment freebies, from mousemats, mugs and bags to laptops and mobiles. Is this because you want your office to be a shrine to the company brand, want your staff to be walking adverts or be on call 24/7? It’s either category 2 or 3 here! And are you an ‘Indian giver’ – when they leave do you take it all back again?
Company events such as awaydays, annual ceremonies, Christmas parties and the like – probably also a category 2 if it is more about what you think is appropriate rather than what people would enjoy! I once organised a dinner/disco event for a small Northern engineering company of mostly long-serving staff, only to find that they actually wanted a hotpot-and-dominoes evening at a country pub. (A lot of hasty rearranging was done, but at least it was a cheaper night.)
The presents that we are most happy with are not always the most flashy – it’s the things that we can use and enjoy, that show some thought and consideration has gone into it. Santa asks each year what we’d like for Christmas – admittedly he’s sometimes a bit wide of the mark but at least he tries, which is appreciated. So the moral of this Christmas tale is, put some thought into your benefits package. You can even try asking your staff what they’d like, although you may need to manage their expectations a bit (Santa once made it clear to me that getting a pet dragon was very unlikely). But category 1 benefits are more likely to result in happy, productive and loyal staff - not just for Christmas, but all year round!
HR, employment law & training consultant for the Not-For-Profit sector
I am a fully qualified HR and training professional with over 18 years’ post-graduate experience. I am a Fellow Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, a qualified Specialist Employment Law Paralegal , & a registered...