The Big Question: What festive rewards are you offering employees this year?

Louise McCabe, head of corporate responsibility at

The weeks leading up to Christmas are a critical trading period for Asos, with many departments working at
peak capacity.

As we near the holidays, the pressure in head office eases off and we are able to treat and thank our staff with some traditional Asos events – our extremely glamorous party, gifts for all and the now-legendary ‘Best decorated
department’ competition. The decorating frenzy has to be experienced to be believed.

We have had real fireplaces brought into the office, Santa’s grottos, a larger-than-life Trojan reindeer, and the entire 12 days of Christmas – partridge and pear tree included.

We have got a generous group here, so it is not just about the getting. There is also a lot of giving going on, too. Our gifts to staff are usually an edible or drinkable treat plus an Oxfam unwrapped or charity gift on behalf of each person. These both go down very well.

This year, December is our charity month, so we are hosting a series of fund-raising events. Staff are currently preparing for sample sales, bake sales, skill sales and party make-up sessions to raise funds to build a new children’s home for Udayan Care, an Indian charity that provides homes and education for orphaned or abandoned children.

Our Winter Wonderland Fair, complete with snow and mince pies, is this year’s workplace giving promotion. We have got a sackful of goodies for people who sign up on the day, and we are doing some matching of donations, too.

And don’t forget the mulled wine…

Mark Thompson, associate director of reward at Hay Group:

I am a little disappointed this year not to be working with my colleagues in our Delhi and Mumbai offices who have just returned from a Diwali celebration on the beaches of Goa, masquerading as a team-building event. This follows last year’s trip on safari in a Himalayan tiger reserve. By comparison, our offering back in Blighty of the chance to make a fool of oneself in the company panto at the 2010 Christmas party seems somewhat less enticing.

Still, we are pleased more or less to be back to normal and to be able to provide a good opportunity for over-indulgence in both food (pretty scarce last year) and drink (not much of that around in 2009 either) at an event to celebrate, if not a post-recession boom, then at least a return to something approaching normality.

We gave up with gifts a few years back after the fluctuating opulence of our annual hampers was interpreted as some kind of barometer of the organisation’s financial progress or, worse, management stinginess.

Gifts can, it seems, always be misinterpreted, as one of my old bosses (not at Hay Group) found to his cost when he started distributing red roses to all our female colleagues around this time of year. Even the ubiquitous bottle of
champagne can demonstrate a crushing lack of cultural sensitivity.

So events, dear boy, is what you should give your employees for Christmas. Make them fun – not too extravagant – and ensure that you are the one laughing at your colleagues on the stage and not the other way around.

Peter Reilly, director of HR research and consultancy, the Institute for Employment Studies:

As an evidence-based organisation that believes in best fit rather than best practice, our festive offerings have to
depend on the occupation or sector. So, as Father Christmas, this year, we are giving different presents for the different contributions to Lapland.

To call-centre staff, it has to be a box of doughnuts (a proven motivatory tool) with extra holiday jam for working those bank holidays. To the techies, anything with ‘i’ in the prefix should suit. The HR business partners will be looking out for the ‘s’ word*, but might just have to be content with a doable job description.

There will be no turkeys to public sector workers this Christmas, because they might be sensitive to the ‘voting for’ jibe. A guide to retirement planning might be better.

Bankers have had enough champagne and chocolates, so perhaps give them a weekend detox at a country house hotel. Humble pie will have to be shared this year between MPs, the England football team and tax-coding officials.

Oil workers might need an extra large supply of environmentally friendly solvent. BA cabin crew, London Underground drivers and BBC journalists can have a special Yuletide French translation of that great golden oldie ‘Men at work’. Finally, for the posties there is the traditional mince pie with an extra large glass of port to face the year ahead. Now, how do you spell mutualisation?