By Rebecca Calladine, Commercial Director for Promotions and Incentives, The Grass Roots Group

It’s no surprise that January heralds the time for people to reflect on their lifestyle, after the excesses of Christmas have died down. For many, this might mean joining a gym or looking for a new challenge at work, for others it could signal the start of a new career. As a result, keeping staff motivated and loyal during the festivities – and beyond – can be a challenge for employers, with many turning to incentives schemes to help.

With research showing that two in five [1] people will look for a new job in January, backing the wrong kind of festive bonus could see businesses adding to the post-Christmas blues and effectively push employees out of the door.

Although January is a peak time for staff to put feelers out for a new job, the right type of incentive, used at the right time throughout the year can make the difference between staff remaining loyal or jumping into the arms of a competitor. To help businesses use incentives to best effect and aid staff retention, here are the five key principles when looking to implement an incentive scheme around the festive period.

Know your team
With many of us expecting some sort of gift from an employer at Christmas, showing that you know your team by not giving them the wrong type of present will go a long way in demonstrating that they are valued and help gain their loyalty and commitment as a result. By getting it wrong you could end up disappointing some and alienating others by giving them a case of wine, for example, if they are a non-drinker.

Use cash bonuses sparingly
There will always be situations and certain job roles where a cash incentive is a key motivator, but around Christmas time a non-cash gift is seen as a thoughtful gesture and can have a real impact upon morale and productivity alongside monetary incentives. When the holiday euphoria and socialising is over, the cash bonus will often be long forgotten, with many staff having spent the money on mundane household bills [2] or the Christmas food shop.

Keep it tangible
Research from the International Society of Performance Improvement has found that tangible rewards can increase employee performance by an average of 22%, with cash often whittled away on bills or swallowed up in every day living costs, making it an unmemorable gift. Top performers are also 31% more likely to consider non-cash incentives (including merchandise, travel opportunities and prepaid cards) a sales performance “must-have” [3].

Make it personal and memorable
Employees want something usable, not seasonal at Christmas. Long gone are the days of giving every employee a turkey at Christmas or a novelty gift. It can also be hard to meet all tastes within the team and buying individual, personalised gifts for each member of staff is just not logistically feasible or practical for businesses today. This is where gift vouchers and gift cards can be the perfect solution.

Give the gift of choice
Gift vouchers and cards are becoming more commonplace in rewarding employees at Christmas and throughout the year, with the market growing at between five and 15%, per year for over a decade [4]. They make it easy for the employer to give all staff a personalised gift and not unintentionally alienate people by giving a potentially offensive present.

[1] http://www.realwire.com/releases/Monday-7th-January-National-Job-Hunt-Day-2013
[2] Research findings from US market research firm Wirthlin
[3] http://v1.aberdeen.com/launch/report/research_report/9064-RR-non-cash-sales-incentives.asp
[4] UK Gift Card and Voucher Association (UKGCVA)