How to use benefits to boost engagement and motivation during a busy Q4


Need to know

  • Reward and recognition schemes can motivate staff to meet quarterly and year-end targets.
  • Employers should think about what benefits would help employees in the last few months of the year.
  • Physical, financial and mental wellbeing benefits can provide support for staff during a busy fourth quarter.

For sectors such as retail, the run-up to Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year. For many organisations, regardless of industry sector, it is also a time for making that final push to meet year-end targets. With this in mind, what can employers do to engage and motivate staff during this busy fourth quarter?

Recognise achievements and the right behaviours

Reward and recognition initiatives can help to incentivise individuals and teams to achieve set goals. However, for these to have their full effect, they must be well communicated. Do employees know what the targets are? Are they clear about how these can be reached? Have they been informed how they will be rewarded if they achieve them?

In addition to target-linked rewards, recognising those who demonstrate the actions and behaviours that will contribute to success can also be a powerful motivator. Ian Feaver, European sales and marketing director at OC Tanner, says: “Don’t just wait until the end of the quarter, notice the right behaviours along the way and people will perform better. It’s about the experience that [an organisation] provides along the way, and whether an employee feels appreciated on a day-to-day basis.”

Publicly celebrating and highlighting the reason why an employee has been recognised can help to reinforce these behaviours among the wider workforce. “When recognising [staff] or presenting awards, make it public, then other employees will see what they need to do to be recognised,” says Feaver.

Adding a social element to recognition can further engage employees, whether that be through peer-to-peer nominations, online reward and recognition platforms, or sharing recognition messages via social media or enterprise social networks such as Yammer or Facebook Workplace. Andy Philpott, sales and marketing director at Edenred, says: “Just seeing your name recognised on a platform that you know other employees are going to see is really powerful.”

Focus on what is meaningful and relevant

A good understanding of the workforce demographic at an organisation, team, and individual level can help to ensure that staff value the rewards they receive through recognition schemes or for reaching their quarterly and year-end targets. Philpott says: “Engage managers with this as well because they are close to their teams and have a good idea [of what they would value].”

Providing a choice can also enable employees and teams to strive for and enjoy rewards that best suit and engage them. “If an [organisation] is passing on choice, it shows that a little more care, attention, and thought has been put into the process,” explains Philpott.

Organisations should also consider their employee profile when arranging end-of year-events, such as team activities or the Christmas party. Nick Court, director at Cloud9 People, says: “Don’t put on a black-tie event if none of [the] employees are going to appreciate having to go out and hire a tuxedo. Make it relevant to the audience.”

Promote benefits that offer timely support

Offering and communicating benefits that support employees’ priorities and the pressures they are likely to face in the final few months of the year, could also help to enhance engagement in the workplace. Court says: “Make it relevant to the things that people really get engaged with around the back end of the year, such as Halloween, fireworks, and Christmas, and then [think about] how benefits can support that.”

This might include technology schemes or retail and leisure discounts, which help staff make savings on their usual areas of spend over this period, or simply reminding staff to take advantage of the leave they have acquired through a holiday purchase scheme.

The run-up to year-end can be a physically and emotionally challenging time, so providing employees with the tools to manage their wellbeing is key to maintaining high levels of engagement and performance. “If you think about wellbeing as financial, physical, and psychological, this is the perfect time to [promote wellbeing benefits]; there’s less sunshine, it’s dark, people are coming in to a very expensive month on the year, and they’re also coming into a quite stressful time of the year where they have to hit those targets,” adds Court.

Highlighting the benefits available through an organisation’s health and wellbeing programme that are particularly relevant at this time of year, such as employer-paid or discounted flu jabs, work-life balance initiatives, gym membership, and employee assistance programmes (EAPs), can encourage and empower staff to prioritise their wellbeing.

Financial worries can also loom large over the festive season and beyond. Indeed, research by MetLife Employee Benefits, published in December 2015, found that 25% of employees cite financial pressures caused by Christmas spending as a key driver of stress. Organisations can help staff to manage their finances by offering financial education programmes and access to products that support employees’ financial wellbeing, thereby limiting the impact financial concerns can have on employees’ health, engagement, and productivity.

Keep an eye on the year ahead

Many of the barriers to high levels of employee engagement and motivation, and the framework put in place to overcome these, continue to remain relevant through the fourth quarter and into the New Year. As Edenred’s Philpott notes: “A lot of businesses lose two or three weeks at the beginning of the year due to low morale; they’ve put all the emphasis at the end of the year saying ‘thank you’ but most people have forgotten that by the time they get back in January. How [they] can carry that feel-good factor and engagement through into January is a really important thing for businesses to be thinking about now.”