Chris Ronald: How employees want to be supported this Christmas and beyond

It has been a tough year for employees. Just as we got through Covid, we were then faced with another challenge:the cost-of-living crisis. And unfortunately, there is little sign of it easing as we edge closer to 2024. This time of year is already tough, with the expense of Christmas and the inevitable gap between December and January payday, but employers can help to make things easier. Whether small gestures, or options to help salaries go further and spread costs. 

Blackhawk Network’s 2023 employee research, published in March 2023, uncovered a large discrepancy between the benefits employers offer and the benefits that employees want. More than three-quarters of employees (76%) are looking for more ways to save money on what they buy. More than half of employees (51%) reported that financial assistance with everyday spending on groceries was the top benefit their employers should be offering, followed by support for travel costs to work by car (37%), which is, in part, being addressed through hybrid working, and reducing costs of technology (30%).   

The Christmas sentiment

Christmas is a time when employees have a high expectation that organisations should be demonstrating to their staff that they are valued and supported, yet nearly two-thirds (61%) of employees do not anticipate getting a gift from their employer this festive season. Organisations are feeling the effects of an uncertain economy and cutting back on end of year discretionary spend such as employee thank yous. However, it comes with a risk: by not meeting expectations or disappointing employees, businesses run the risk of demotivating staff during the festive period and could trigger staff to rethink loyalty to the company in 2024.

One approach, multiple options for employee support 

With rising costs and economic uncertainty, it is natural for many businesses to feel like they do not have the cash for additional workplace perks and benefits. While non-financial recognition and financial rewards are still a must, additional support for employees does not have to break the bank. By offering meaningful and impactful initiatives, employers can help take off some of the external pressures staff face, while also ensuring that they feel valued and listened to. 

To see the most return on investment (ROI) from employee benefits, be it at Christmas or any other time of the year, the key is listening to and understanding employees. Choice is key; individuals in a business will have different wants and needs. Even though we are facing tough times, some employees might prefer a benefit which affords them a little luxury, while others may see help with day-to-day expenses or something for the family. 

For example, some employees may value a direct saving on Christmas groceries or presents, while others are more interested in spreading the costs out over time. 

Making employees salary go further

Employers can provide their staff access to salary sacrifice schemes saving money and spreading costs of high ticket items, or cashback cards are cost-effective ways to empower employees to choose what helps them most, with no cost for the employer. 

December and January are unfortunately financial pinch points for many families; the support an organisation provides to its employees needs to be all year round.

A final word to acknowledge that the spirit of Christmas dictates the value of blending tangible financial support and rewards, with thoughtful thank yous or even a surprise extra day off for Christmas shopping or to recharge before the festivities kick off.

Chris Ronald is VP of B2B Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at Blackhawk Network