· Features

Rewarding employees at Christmas

In HR it’s part of the job to know whether employees have been naughty or nice. HR magazine has scoured the shelves for the perfect gifts, so you don’t have to.

The idea of giving your employees a little something to show you appreciate how hard they’ve worked all year goes back a long way – as far back as 1843, when Charles Dickens’ classic story A Christmas Carol was published. The term ‘Scrooge’ has even become a byword for a miser, after the miserable and mean character Ebenezer Scrooge, who finally saw the error of his ways and rewarded the loyal Bob Cratchit with a Christmas turkey.

Rebecca Calladine, commercial director, promotions and incentives at Grass Roots Group, says the festive period is the ideal time to reward and incentivise employees. “Christmas is a critical trading period for some businesses and a strong finish to the year may make the difference between targets being met or being missed,” she notes. “It could be seen as the most fruitful time of year as both spirits and footfall are high. For those businesses not affected by the Christmas rush, this is the perfect time to say thank you to their workforce for their efforts throughout the year and to launch plans for the year to come.”

It’s also important to make sure you personalise your Christmas present(s) and think carefully about who might like what. “Not thinking through the intricacies of gift-giving for a diverse workforce could end up causing more harm than good, so employers should take the time to select carefully,” Calladine warns. “With a wide mix of ages, cultures, religions, personalities and personal tastes to take into account, choosing gifts that will suit everyone is challenging.”

But you don’t necessarily have to splash out on lavish presents to reward your staff, says Angela O’Connor, CEO of the HR Lounge consultancy and former chief people officer at the National Policing Improvement Agency. “The sorts of gifts that people need at Christmas are twofold in my view,” she says. “Firstly, uninterrupted time out from the workplace so they can sleep, party, do the family thing or hang out with the cat.”

The second thing, according to O’Connor, is a little help with the extra costs that inevitably come at this time of year. “I like giving vouchers for food stores and supermarkets or hampers. Anything to make it a little easier to spread the budget,” she says.

Whoever you’re buying for, here’s HR magazine’s guide to the perfect gifts to show staff your appreciation for their hard work this year.

The stressed out parent

Bath treats – One thing every working parent is undoubtedly short of is time, especially for pampering themselves. Treat them to a Festive Friends gift box from Lush handmade cosmetics, perfect for a good, long soak in the bath. It contains all the festive characters from their Christmas range, including a butterbear bath bomb, hedgehog bubble bar, dashing Santa bath bomb and a penguin bubble bar (£14.95).


Spa treatment – If you are fortunate enough to have a bigger budget to play with you could splash out on an ultra-pampering treatment from the Lush spa. The Good Hour deep tissue massage undoes knotted muscles and de-stresses, leaving your employee ready to start the New Year afresh (£80 for 60/70 minutes, available at six locations across the UK).


Tickets to the local pantomime – Keeping young children entertained over the festive season can be something of a challenge for mums and dads. A couple of tickets to the local panto is sure to be a hit with parents and, most importantly, children. It will show your employee just how much you appreciate how well they juggle their work and childcare responsibilities. Check out your local theatre to see what’s on. You might even get to see a soap star or two if you’re lucky.


The stylish shopaholic

Department store gift card – A trip to a world-famous department store for a spot of retail therapy will always go down well with a fashionista. A Harrods gift card can be topped up with anything from £10 to £500 and gives recipients the chance to stock up on a coveted selection of designer clothes, shoes and accessories. If they’re not interested in filling up the wardrobe, there’s always homewares, the fabulous food halls and a renowned Christmas department to choose from. The card can also be used online.


Luxury leather goods – No man should be without a wallet this Christmas and the handsome Bleecker Accordion wallet (£215) from Coach, crafted in premium leather and available in four colours, makes for the perfect traditional ‘for him’ Christmas gift for work and play.


The foodie/budding chef

Cookery classes – Whether a kitchen novice or a gourmet whizz, the chance to brush up on cooking skills is a great gift idea. The Cookery School at Little Portland Street in London offers gift vouchers, from £50 to £500. Learn how to prepare shellfish, bake the perfect French breakfast pastry or whip up some hearty family favourites that will bring a smile to everyone’s faces.


Traditional Christmas hamper – Any foodie is sure to appreciate a basket of fine food and wine. Most retailers and supermarkets offer a selection of hampers to suit a range of budgets and many can be personalised. Alternatively, head to your local farmer’s market or wholefoods shop and create one yourself.


Thrill seekers

Skydive into the New Year – Booking your adrenaline junkie staff in for a skydive is a fun way to show just how much you appreciate them, and jumping 15,000 feet out of a plane will mean they start or end their year on a high. GOskydive offers a range of options from a £50 gift voucher to help cover the cost at its Salisbury airfield to a corporate skydiving experience for up to 60 people. 


Outdoor adventures – Outdoor adventurers will love the chance to do some zip-wire trekking or zigzag their way across a forest on a Tarzan swing or electric segway. Go Ape offers a range of different experiences across the UK. Prices start at around £30 per person.


Nature lovers

National Trust membership – For those employees who relish being outside and spend their lunch break in the local park, a year’s National Trust membership is perfect. Gift membership is available from £58.00 per year and provides access to over 300 historic houses, gardens and coastline spaces across the UK.


Keyring poncho – The poncho keyring is ideal for unexpected showers when you’re in the great outdoors and costs as little as £1.35 (for a multiple order.) Available in white, red, black, yellow and blue from Chilli Promotions. Makes a great present for the eco-warrior who has everything else.


The Generation Y’er

iPhone cover – Generation Y is known for its love of technology so a designer iPhone accessory should go down well. The Orla Kiely 3D Leaf Stem Case from Belkin helps absorb shocks and bumps from everyday use and looks great. Available from John Lewis for the iPhone 5 and 5s in green or grey, £17.95.


iKettle – Beat the morning queue for a brew at the touch of a button. The iKettle allows you to turn on your kettle from your mobile device then keep it warm for up to half an hour.  And, if that wasn’t cool enough, you can accessorise it with a range of brightly coloured ‘skins’ to match your kitchen. The app works using Wi-Fi and even asks if you’d like a cuppa when you get in from work.

£99.99 from major retailers.

Fitness fanatics

Gym membership – We all start the New Year with good intentions and if you don’t already offer a corporate gym membership, one could make a great gift for a health-conscious employee. The growing trend in so-called ‘budget gyms’ offers members pay-as-you-go or ‘no frills’ deals for as little as £10.99 a month. Members can choose from a range of optional extras, including fitness classes and a media entertainment pack.


Smoothie gift card – A smoothie gift card could be just the way to get your employee’s juices flowing. Boost Juice Bar offers a wide range of different juices, smoothies, crushes and snacks from its 50 stores across the UK. Gift cards are available from as little as £5.



Organic garden box – Green-fingered employees will love the chance to grow their own little garden with an organic window garden box. There are a range of different ‘garden’ gifts, from compact herb gardens and window boxes to small vegetable gardens, ready to be re-potted into a garden or planter. Vouchers for compact gardens start from £24.99.


Solar-powered charger – A solar powered charger, which can power most electrical handheld devices including iPhones and smartphones, iPods and tablets, could be an ideal Christmas present for the environmentally conscious employee. The solar charger takes power from photovoltaic panels or via a supplied charge cable that plugs into a computer’s USB. Prices start at around £20.


Further reading

The perils and pitfalls of the Christmas bonus