Bosses who hand out bonus awards in December are less likely to see their staff get poached by other organisations or look around for other opportunities, according to new research.
In a poll of almost 1,100 UK workers, staff incentives consultancy One4All Rewards found that employees have a higher level of appreciation for bonuses awarded in December than for those issued at any other time of the year.
Almost half of the sample (46%) said that receiving a bonus or gift from their boss towards the end of the year would prevent them from looking for a new job. A similar proportion (45%) said that, under the same circumstances, they would be less likely to accept a new role if offered one.
One4all Rewards managing director Alan Smith said: “It’s interesting to see just how far a token bonus can impact on workers’ loyalty to their employer. Even if you just consider the amount of money that can be lost through recruitment costs when a member of staff resigns – never mind the softer negative impacts and knock-on effects that employees leaving can have, in terms of morale in the workplace – it is clearly something that is worth investing in.”
He adds: “Thanks to HM Revenue and Customs’ recent introduction of tax exemptions on trivial benefits of £50 per employee or less, it has never been more affordable for businesses to gift staff a little something to make sure they feel valued, ahead of the busiest time of the year for staff departures.”
Of course, one has to factor in the vested interest that Smith and his firm would have in touting Santa-style bonuses as a cure-all for workers’ seasonal job blues. And in a column for Elite Business magazine, John Attridge – CEO of business network BBX – makes a more rounded case.  In his view, leaders should implement a range of measures to forestall itchy-feet syndrome, such as:
• being in themselves positive and proactive;
• arranging a team activity for the month of January that gives workers something to look forward to and gets the year off to a flying start – plus…
• setting up regular status meetings with employees.
Is this a more realistic and fruitful approach than simply dishing out token bonuses as an end-of-year treat?
The Institute of Leadership & Management head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper says: “It often frustrates me that millennials are spoken of as constantly needy and craving appreciation, as if those yearnings are unique to just that single group. The fact of the matter is that everyone loves to be appreciated and recognised – and if you can’t show people at Christmas that you value and appreciate their work throughout the year, well – when can you?”
She notes: “This survey shows just how important it is to take advantage of the opportunity afforded by the festive season to say, ‘Thank you and well done – here’s a gift to see you into the New Year.’ Because it’s the only time of the year when you can do that for everyone in a way that plugs into a more general spirit of cheer and goodwill.”
Cooper points out: “Research we’ve published in the past, and are planning to repeat this January, confirms the large extent to which people come back to work at the beginning of each year with the intention of switching jobs. That should certainly worry leaders, because it means their workers are distracted. They’re scoping out job boards, polishing up their CVs, updating their LinkedIn profiles – and may, in some cases, even be going to interviews. You don’t want your staff to be distracted in that way: you should want them to stay with you.”
She adds: “If giving your staff something lovely in December helps them feel more engaged when they return to work in the New Year, I think it’s worth doing. Indeed, I can’t think of a single, persuasive criticism of showing people appreciation at Christmas just because you can. Watch this space, because we’re preparing to issue some advice for what leaders can do to keep their staff happy in January and beat those New Year blues…”
For further thoughts and insights on staff retention, check out the Institute’s report Beyond the Honeymoon
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