Keep staff spirits high this Christmas

{mosimage}Following the Government’s hard hitting spending review, public sector organisations will be forced to change their priorities in order to make less funding go a great deal further in the coming years. But where do efficiency savings really begin?

Encouraging behavioural changes among staff will certainly be at the crux of the situation. This will not only involve getting everybody on board with the changes in the first place, but the real challenge lies in keeping staff motivated in the face of major cutbacks on an ongoing basis.

This becomes extra difficult as it arrives at a time of the year when thoughts will inevitably turn towards the festive season. Many staff will probably begin to question whether the Grinch will be wielding an axe over the rewards budget for this Christmas as a benchmark for the year beyond. The motivational aspect of presenting gifts and rewards for Christmas and the end of year, however, is an important one. Cutting too many corners on this token of appreciation from employers, one that is always well received, could have serious consequences on the frame of mind in which valued staff return to work in the new year.

Rewards that don’t cost the earth
This said, while a total lack of celebrations would be notable by its absence, it need not be an extravagant cause. Instead, it is important to find a reward that does not cost too much, can be delivered with ease and is simple enough to cater for a variety of different tastes yet still offers added value and can be viewed as a worthwhile treat. So what’s the best solution?

As Martin Todd, head of corporate business at Signet, the world’s largest specialist jeweller, with UK brands including H. Samuel, Ernest Jones and Leslie Davis, says: “Due to the current economic climate and the pressure on budgets, flexible value for money gifting ideas are at the forefront of every budget holder’s mind. Every precious penny spent on a gift over the coming festive period has to be spent wisely and deliver to the target audience. With so many options available to choose from, why risk getting it wrong and wasting your budget when you can give the recipient the ability to choose for themselves via a gift card or voucher?”

The flexibility and range of choice that gift cards and vouchers offer is certainly a strong argument in their favour. Paul McRae, business development manager at The Voucher Shop, adds: “Gift vouchers continue to increase in popularity as a corporate Christmas gift as they have broad appeal and are a simple way for employers to cater for their employee population regardless of all tastes, preferences and beliefs.”

There are many alternatives available on the market too. From supermarkets to high street favourites, to experiences, days out and specialist interest, such as cinema and gardening, there is a voucher or gift card out there for almost everything. Here are some of the options:


Supermarkets have now diversified into a vast variety of product ranges and a gift card will allow its recipient to select from essential items, such as groceries, or from more luxury treats that are now found on supermarket shelves. Joanne Taylor of Asda Business Rewards says: “Supermarket gift cards and vouchers have always proved a popular reward at Christmas. Staff love the opportunity to treat themselves and their family. The breadth of product choice offered by supermarkets like Asda means that recipients can use their gift cards and vouchers to trade up to special ranges and luxury foods that they might not ordinarily choose.”

Sainsbury’s also operates within the corporate business sector and anticipates that Christmas, as with the consumer-facing side of the business, will be exceptionally busy. Anita Bourke, Sainsbury’s gift card manager, highlights again the importance of offering staff a Christmas gift: “Naturally, public sector organisations, as in the private sector, need to provide a Christmas gift, but rewards for public sector staff have to be handled carefully. Gift vouchers and cards can provide the solution. With bulk discounts offered by the majority of suppliers and with vouchers having a higher perceived value than cash, gift vouchers and cards can tick many boxes as an ideal public sector Christmas incentive.”

High street favourites
For many people, it is the shopping experience that adds significantly to the value of being given a gift card or voucher, allowing the recipient to browse the high street and select something special. Mark Towler of House of Fraser Business Incentives points towards this added value: “The public sector should look to reward with gifts that are exciting, truly aspirational and innovative.”

Love2reward is another member of The UKGCVA, offering multi-store high street vouchers among its product range. Its sales and marketing director, Martin Cooper, commented: “As uncertainty about the economy continues to impact upon negotiated wage settlements, we expect to see an increased spend on staff reward this Christmas. Public sector employers are looking for ways, other than a straightforward pay increase, to recognise the contributions made by valued employees.”

With the economic pressures that public sector organisations are under, it is worth looking at some of the additional cost-saving benefits that the latest gift cards offer. On this, Rob Froome of New Look Business Solutions makes some interesting points: “The public sector is looking to reduce costs and those brands offering best value will be in demand,” he says. “We recently introduced our Gift Card Management System, which delivers improved cost savings for our corporate purchasers – our gift cards hold no value until activated. Therefore they can be sent out via normal post, rather than conventional secure post. Our b2b customer benefits from improved cash flow, cheaper delivery, reduced stock-holding and greater flexibility.” Such systems are now common from retailers and gift card agencies such as P&MM and Edenred alike, offering added security and piece of mind that expenditure will not be wasted.

One-off luxury experiences have become very sought after as the gift with a difference; a hot-air balloon ride, spa treatments or even a gardening experience with Charlie Dimmock! Some of our members that operate in this sector include, Smartbox, SpaFinder and Acorn PLC.

Ilona Kogutiuk, business development manager at Smartbox, says: “In these austere times, a gift such as a memorable experience is perceived as being worth a lot more than the actual cost. It has a high perceived value in the eyes of the recipient, but a low actual cost to the giver.”

Cassandra Cavanah, executive director, SpaFinder Europe, puts forward spa treatments as an alternative: “A luxurious spa experience is an indulgence that not all people can afford – and therefore makes a great reward for employees at Christmas.”

Paul O’Brien, managing director at Acorne PLC, said: “This year organisations will take advantage of the bumper crop of added value deals and great offers out there to go the extra mile with corporate gifts. We’ve seen an upturn in the number of businesses turning from cash and shopping to experience-led gifts which allow recipients to take time out and seize the day, creating priceless memories for cost effective budgets.”

Denise Porter, business development director,, adds to the argument that cash is no alternative to offering more experienced based rewards and gifts: “An increasing number of companies are transferring from cash bonuses to vouchers for Christmas, due to money being perceived as less effective because it can get absorbed into day to day spend rather than used as a gift. Vouchers, on the other hand, offer users the ultimate in flexibility, enabling the employee to choose their own gift and make the incentive more rewarding.”
Specialist interest
Experiencial value is a key benefit of vouchers and gift cards, whether a once in a lifetime experience, the pleasure of shopping to choose a gift for yourself or, in the case of some types of specialist interest vouchers, the recreational time that can be enjoyed on their redemption. As an example of an organisation that offers such solutions, National Garden Gift Vouchers appeal to anyone with an interest in gardening and are redeemable at garden centres, nurseries and sheds throughout the UK.  

David Butler, general manager, National Garden Gift Vouchers, said: “In the current financial climate non-monetary rewards such as vouchers continue to increase in popularity, particularly during the festive season, as businesses struggle to offer the salary increases and bonus packages that were once the norm. The beauty of non-monetary rewards like vouchers is that they can tick a lot of boxes for all parties concerned. They can be ‘green’, promote wellbeing and physical activity and be family inclusive, as our gardening vouchers offer.”

Cinema vouchers are another alternative within this section of the market. “The level of demand for cinema vouchers as incentive rewards has been consistently high,” commented David Pearson, director of cinema voucher provider Filmology, part of P&MM, “quite simply because everybody enjoys a trip to the movies! The relatively low cost of offering cinema vouchers and the widespread popularity of film makes cinema an appealing proposition for employee rewards and corporate gifts.”

So there we have it. With so many cost-effective and interesting solutions out there, motivational cuts within the public sector need not go too deep this Christmas. The benefits of keeping staff morale high will ultimately aid in making the difficult times that lie ahead that little bit easier to get through.

For more information:

Supplier Profiles