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Incentives and motivation: HR magazine's guide to Christmas perks

Motivating staff in the run-up to Christmas is an effective way to meet end-of-year targets. Yule-tide prizes or rewards also hold a lot of emotional clout, both in terms of seasonal goodwill and by helping people financially at a time when household budgets are often stretched to the limits.

"It is important to incentivise employees when they return in the new year," suggests Wayne Harrington, product manager, rewards and loyalty at employee benefits firm, Edenred. "Spreading the motivation programme across the festive period into the new year banishes January blues traditionally associated with the return to work and motivates staff for the year ahead."

Paul O'Brien, managing director of leisure voucher company, Acorne, says: "While companies may have tightened their belts in other ways, they are still investing in employee rewards to show appreciation for hard work and loyalty. Christmas is a popular time for rewarding employees and while the days of long-haul holidays and huge bonuses seem to be fading for the majority of firms, businesses are still keen to ensure employees feel appreciated."

Here - and in good time - are some ideas of how to spice up the festive season for your hard-working employees...

Cinema vouchers

The relatively low cost of offering cinema vouchers and the widespread popularity of film make cinema an appealing proposition for employee rewards and Christmas incentives, where the employer wants to show appreciation to, perhaps, all staff.

"With Christmas and the New Year period a popular time for visits to the cinema, particularly with the raft of films launching, offering cinema vouchers to staff in a Christmas incentive scheme means employers can help staff save money," according to David Pearson, director of UK cinema voucher provider, Filmology. "They are also benefiting from an enjoyable experience - a treat. With film offering such wide appeal and accessibility to all employers no matter what age, sex or marital status, cinema tickets can be the flexible incentive."

With blockbusters over the festive period set to include Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol with Tom Cruise and Jeremy Renner and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo starring Daniel Craig, there is a lot to look forward to at the cinema this Christmas, says Pearson.

Multichoice e-vouchers: Compliments Select

Having choice is a gift in itself, say incentive experts. Edenred has launched a new range of multichoice e-voucher incentives and an online platform for businesses planning their Christmas incentive programmes. Compliments Select gives staff the option to select what they like from a range of incentive rewards, including: Compliments Rewards - a multi-store gift card accepted at more than 140 high street retailers; Compliments Passport - a travel incentive reward scheme; Compliments Green - the UK's first fully-integrated ethical reward scheme, an 800-strong portfolio of reward options including clothing, experiences, organic wine, scooters and garden hammocks; and Compliments Experiences - offering more than 500 activities and experiences.

National Garden Gift Vouchers

National Garden Gift Vouchers has seen corporate sales increase by over 40% in two years, and these work well as a Christmas incentive or end-of-year thank-you. These vouchers are accepted at 2,000 UK garden centres, shops and nurseries and can be bought via a corporate discount structure (www.thevouchergarden.co.uk).

"In this financial climate, non-monetary rewards such as vouchers, gift cards and travel incentives are all increasing in popularity, particularly during the festive season, as businesses struggle to offer salary increases and bonus packages that were once the norm," says David Butler, general manager, National Garden Gift Vouchers. "The beauty of non-monetary rewards is that they can tick a lot of boxes for all parties concerned. For instance, National Garden Gift Vouchers are not only 'green' but also promote well-being and physical activity and can be family inclusive," added Butler.

Group experiences

Virgin Experience Days, part of Acorne, has a host of new experiences that would suit a group reward or celebration at Christmas. These include an exhilarating Circus Aerial Experience, where up to 12 colleagues can try out the flying trapeze, and the Can-Can Experience for up to 10 people to glam up and high-kick in cheeky French style. Or, for a real festive treat, a Deluxe VIP Night Out in London, complete with limo, bodyguards, paparazzi and a private table, might appeal to employers who want to give their best workers the star treatment.

"From bungee jumping to more mellow moments, including steam train journeys, wine tasting and river cruises, the group experiences take place nationwide and offer the opportunity for small teams to take time out of the office environment and enjoy doing something different," says Acorne's head of business development, Darren Ziff.