2021 will go down in the history books as a year of transition. The UK emerged from the pandemic, vaccinated nearly 70% of the population against COVID-19, and shops and restaurants up and down the country are looking towards a stable period after a difficult 18-months.
These are all positive developments, obviously. But it would be wrong to say this year has been completely straightforward. As the economy reopened, we saw challenges emerge that left even the most experienced economists perplexed.
The issue of labour shortages
One such challenge has been the labour shortage crisis which has hit virtually every sector and region of the UK. Last month, the Office for National Statistics illustrated this crisis with their latest unemployment statistics. They found there were 1.17 million job openings in October – almost 400,000 higher than before the pandemic.
Similarly, despite the end of the furlough scheme, the ONS found the redundancy rate was also largely unchanged and that some 2.2 million people started a new job between July and September.
The above statistics paint a picture few economists saw coming this time 12-months ago; workers now call the shots in the labour market, with employers having to improve pay and employee benefits to attract the best talent.
This situation should set off alarm bells for many businesses when you consider how many employees profess to being unhappy with their current employer. A recent study by Digiday found that only 23% of employees are very happy working with their employer, and only a few more (38%) believe their employer fully values their health and wellbeing.
Employers investing in wellbeing
There is a juxtaposition here, however, which is worth exploring. Employees’ feelings of dissatisfaction with their job come while businesses are pouring more resources than ever into wellness. In fact, a recent survey found that nearly two-thirds (62%) of UK employees still working from home said their employer has taken a genuine interest in their wellbeing and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The contrast between employers’ approach to wellbeing and how employees are feeling highlights the challenges many businesses face when it comes to retaining talent and the incoming holiday season is the perfect time to address this relationship.
The return of the Christmas party
Christmas is the season of giving and gratitude for those around you and the same goes for businesses. After a difficult year, many employees will be looking to their employers to recognise their efforts and show appreciation for the work they’ve done over the past 12-months.
A clear option available to businesses to show employee appreciation is the Christmas party. Having missed out on festivities last year due to lockdown restrictions, many workers will be eager to see a return of the annual celebration and a return to normality. After all, workers have had few opportunities to meet and enjoy a collective celebration.
How to show appreciation to remote workers
However, employers must be sure they recognise remote and office-based workers equally to avoid any team members feeling left out. While office-based workers may attend the Christmas party, some remote workers may be unable or cautious about attending the annual celebration. Businesses will have to get imaginative to show appreciation for these team members.
This is where gift cards and vouchers come into play. Not only are they a cheaper option than cash bonuses, but employees often prefer receiving a gift card or voucher over financial rewards. For instance, our whitepaper, What makes employees feel valued, surveyed over 2,000 employees across the UK and found that 75% of employees believe gift cards and vouchers make them feel valued or very valued. This was followed by own-choice rewards (71%) and team treats (64%).
Equally, gift cards and vouchers offer the flexibility and choice that 86% of employees said they like in their recognition schemes. Take the Virgin Experience Days gift card, for example, it can be redeemed at over 3,000 different experiences nationwide and covers a wide range of interests to ensure there is something for everyone, no matter where they are based.
The past year has been full of ups and downs for businesses, and as we enter 2022, retaining talent is more important than ever to secure a successful year. With labour shortages gripping every sector across the UK economy, employers must use this holiday season to reaffirm their support for their employees and remind them of how much they recognise their efforts. For business leaders when it comes to Christmas, be Santa, don’t be Scrooge.