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How to strengthen workforce engagement this winter

4-minute read

Over half a million UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are spreading Christmas cheer among their workforces this year by putting on festivities and giving the gift of time, according to data from Barclaycard’s latest SME Barometer.

In this article we explore how you can boost staff morale and fortify your workforce going into the New Year.

Strengthen workforce engagement

While some may see Christmas parties as just a bit of fun, 41% of employers believe staff activities over the Christmas period are a contributor to retaining talent in the business.

Gifting your employees extra time off this Christmas

This festive period will be our first in several years without restrictions, and SMEs will be looking to make the most of this by gifting employees extra days off to spend with family and friends.

After a challenging few years, this is a way for businesses to reward employees for their hard work and boost staff morale – demonstrated by the finding that 1 in 10 SMEs will be looking to give employees additional holiday days this year.

Sharing the festive cheer

Business owners are embracing the merriment of the season by hosting parties (44%), closing offices between Christmas and New Year (41%) and rewarding Christmas bonuses (25%).

On average, business owners planning festive celebrations are spending £56 per head on staff this year. This exceeds employee expectations that employers should spend on average £45 per head.

And despite budgets slightly increasing (+4%) on 2021 figures, two fifths (41%) of business owners say they wish they could afford to spend more on their employees this Christmas.

While the ‘Golden Quarter’ festive period will be key, many businesses are already seeing both quarterly and year-on-year revenue improvements. 55% of small businesses are seeing revenue growth in Q3 2022 compared to the same period in 2021, and a similar number (51%) reporting growth from Q2 2022 to Q3 2022. This strength in performance is expected to sustain until the end of the year.

With a quarter of businesses looking to give Christmas bonuses this year, it’s clear the impact of cost-of-living on employees is front of mind for SME owners. Giving Christmas bonuses is a way for businesses to celebrate and share the success they’ve achieved in the past year with their employees, at a time when money concerns in the run up to Christmas will be at an all-time high.  

Strengthen workforce engagement

The gift that keeps on giving

The efforts of employers around the festive period do not go unnoticed by employees, with more than half (53%) of workers saying that the activities their employer puts on over Christmas helps them feel more content within their job. And a third (33%) of workers agreeing that if their employer offers activities to reward staff over the Christmas period they are less likely to look for another job.

Staff retention during this period is a key focus for many SMEs – particularly those in the retail (53%) and hospitality and leisure (44%) sectors, who agree that making employees feel valued over the festive period will help keep their business afloat in the longer term.

It has been another turbulent year for businesses and employees alike with the cost-of-living crisis biting. With SMEs gifting time to spend with family and friends, and a quarter looking to give Christmas bonuses, it’s clear businesses are looking at what they can do for their employees to keep spirits high this festive period and inject some Christmas cheer into the end of the year. 

Barclaycard Payments commissions YouGov to conduct its quarterly SME Barometer research. This quarter's study was conducted among 578 small and medium-sized business leaders and 202 larger businesses, with a nationally representative regional and industry sample, between 25 October 2022 and 1 November 2022.

Camille Adomakoh

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