Giving someone a gift is a tricky affair. You are never sure about your choice, even when the subject of your largesse is a close friend or a family member. For employers, however, this should be relatively easier. They could lean on their learnings over the past two years to design gifts - not in cash or kind - that can potentially re-energise their employees, keep them motivated and engaged as 2021 draws to a close. The Omicron variant has been a spoiler this Christmas, dampening festive cheer and derailing travel plans in the run-up to the New Year. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wax and wane, restricting social activities and further delaying a return to office, what can companies do to help their staff cheerily see off the crisis that continues to drag on?
Christmas has come just in time to help employers and the workforce find a reason to come together, even if virtually, and look beyond the endless curveballs that come their way. If you are still wondering how to make the most of Christmas at the workplace, well, Secret Santa is here with a sackful of ideas to make your employees happy.
If you are wondering how best you can reward your employees this festive season, here are some gifts that speak louder than the occasional monetary gestures:
Give Them Flexibility
Nudged by the pandemic and talent crisis, people have more choice and voice than ever before. Challenging the traditional ways of working, employees across the globe demand more flexibility.
An Ernst & Young survey revealed that more than half (54%) of employees from around the world said they would consider leaving their job if they were not afforded some form of flexibility in where and when they work.
The flexibility to work from anywhere and anytime will be a gift that employees expect from organisations in the new year.
This flexibility would also mean exploring newer arrangements of work. More companies will be seen exploring shorter workweeks. In the EY survey, 33% of employee respondents said they want a shorter working week altogether.
The demand for flexibility will also translate into other talent policies and benefits.
A new culture of work centred on flexibility can benefit both employees and employers. It will help companies to attract and retain top talent. Organisations that want to keep the best talent, need to put flexible working front and center of their talent strategy.
Work-life Balance Can Work Wonders
In a series of conversations hosted by McKinsey & Co. with key HR leaders on the workplace trends for 2022, one of the respondents emphasised how prioritizing work-life balance across all industries will impact the economy in fundamental ways. As the world of people and work will continue to swing like a pendulum between fully remote and hybrid, how organizations devise strategies to empower their people to maintain a healthy-work life balance will be critical.
In an increasingly digital world, burnout is commonplace with employees working long hours and this will negatively impact the productivity levels of the workforce. As a result, employee engagement will also fall but most importantly, so will their wellbeing. Employee experience and the wellbeing agendas are intertwined these days in an effort to make workplaces less stressful, more encouraging and inviting for their people and work-life balance will continue to play an important part. Employees rightfully ask for managers to pay attention to their mental health, to implement strategies which while flexible will also give them a proper break from working overtime. Such a culture is what the fresh talent of today also keeps a lookout for.
Although most of the time, the onus remains on employees to strike this balance between their work duties and other social engagements, evidence shows how organizations can play a role. From keeping separate channels for work-related communication, restricting employee hours to even encouraging vacation time, regularly reviewing workloads and having trust in your employees can be some of the simple but impactful ways.
Upskilling has been a major focus of talent management in the last two years, and it will continue to be a priority in 2022 as both organisations and employers alike seek to be more adaptable and agile in a changing world. And it’s not just about business needs; it’s about helping employees achieve their own aspirations.
As people gain experience and confidence in their role, they naturally look for opportunities to advance both vertically and laterally. They seek both personal and professional development, the chance to acquire new skills and take on new responsibilities. And of course, they look forward to the increased recognition and remuneration that comes with all these.
The gift of growth opportunities is so important that employees may leave if they don’t receive it. One study by Miami University researchers shows that stagnation is one of the top reasons employees consider leaving their current job.
On the other hand, being generous with professional development opportunities doesn’t just improve retention rates. Numerous studies have linked professional growth and development with individual engagement and performance, with overall team performance, and with broader business performance as well.
Build A Culture of Acceptance
To be able to truly learn, grow and thrive, one requires to be able to be themselves. However, to acknowledge their own strengths and development areas, and seek support to grow, what’s also crucial is an ecosystem that fosters such growth, free of biases and discrimination that fuel labeling one’s potential or dictating where they should be and shouldn’t. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the importance of community, belonging and acceptance of who we are, who people are, and how we can come together and build a more inclusive world. Especially as the socio-economic events brought to light the injustice, it also paved the way for many to show up as one, not representing a community but representing justice and fairness for humankind, irrespective of background and social identities.
From legal systems to workplace policies to open dialogue and much more, the shift to embracing our differences such that we pool them together to cement a stronger foundation that enables community, creativity and innovation, this has come to the fore. Employers are taking a more active role in empowering individuals and enabling collaboration across geographies, across functions, eliminating roadblocks and building a sense of psychological safety and acceptance for one and all. The perks of fostering a sense of community and belonging at an organisational level have been proven in the past, and the last 20 months only back that up. Give your workforce the present of acceptance, and see for yourself how that changes the performance and future of your business, people as well as the broader society.
A Friend, Philosopher, and Guide
It doesn’t matter which industry you are in, we all need someone who can listen to us, see what we are capable of and guide us to keep us on course in our professional journey.
Most successful professionals will probably tell you about that one person/people who helped them in their initial careers or guided them along in their professional journeys besides their individual hardwork and determination. They refer to them as Mentors.
Workplace Mentoring is a formal or informal learning relationship between a senior experienced employee and a new/inexperienced employee and has many mutual benefits for both employees and employers.
Besides being a great way to enhance and improve work culture at an organisation, mentoring boosts staff retention and encourages career progression among employees. Workplace mentoring not only helps facilitate effective knowledge-sharing but can also be used to develop new leaders for an organization and help succession planning.
Most employees, especially the millennials, consider career progress one of their top priorities. However, they often lack the experience needed to climb up the ladder. Research shows that millennials who plan to stay with an organisation for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor than not. A study by US firm Robert Half shows 86% of executives think having a mentor is important for career development.
Recognise & Drive
Since the pandemic, employee recognition strategies have been staple for sustaining an organisation's culture and are now widely recognised as a useful tool to motivate, communicate and acknowledge the workforce.
Reward recognition’s existence is bound with employee’s awareness of their own motivations. In the golden days, the employee trusted their organisation and managers with their welfare but in modern times, the workforce is already motivated to work albeit with prior knowledge of their priorities as well as the kind of reward they would be looking for once the tasks are completed.
But is just celebrating an employee's work anniversary or personal milestones enough? Great companies go further by reevaluating the ways they plan to reward their staff. Inspired companies focus on employee centricity and workplace experience quality by devising rewards programs like four-pronged peer-to-peer programs, creating company currencies for low-cost exchanges and more.
As per worldatwork.org, 32% of the companies have invested in recognition budgets since the pandemic compared to 21% in 2015. The leaders are proactively engaging themselves to illustrate how this HR element can play a significant role in kick-starting the road to organisational success.
As 2021 draws to a close, organisations can reflect on their year and understand that employees can bring their A-game when their wishes come true at the behest of workplace Santa. So moving forward, you can wish the best way out of the options above and hope that your company will acknowledge that. Let the festivity begin. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!