As the days get longer and potentially sunny weather comes over the horizon, employers’ thoughts may well turn to how they can best motivate staff in the summer months.
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- Summer can be a good time to motivate employees by highlighting benefits such as childcare provision, health and wellbeing programmes and retail discounts and vouchers.
- Financial wellbeing is equally important during the summer months.
- Personal recognition or a ‘thank you’ can help boost staff motivation.
The summer months can be an ideal time for employers to focus on motivating their staff and using their benefits schemes to improve engagement. And it is an issue that should be high on their agenda. According to research by management consultancy Hay Group, published in October 2013, 44% of workers do not feel motivated.
The varying employee benefits offered by an organisation can often be utilised to create a summer motivation strategy.
In the summer months, working parents are even more likely to require benefits that help them balance their work-life responsibilities, such as childcare vouchers and flexible working arrangements, due to the lengthy school holidays.
Julian Foster, managing director of employee benefits provider Computershare Salary Extras, says: “Benefits are vital to motivating staff. The more diverse a staff body, the more motivations are likely to differ over the year. When summer comes, many will be concerned by balancing work with childcare.”
Working parents will respond well to benefits that appear to be tailored to their personal circumstances, so employers that highlight their childcare benefits in the summer months are likely to be rewarded with productive and loyal workers. Iain McMath, chief executive officer of Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Service, says: “Every employee is individual, so personal recognition works best. For staff with a family, allowing them to buy extra holiday in the summer could be really welcomed, even more so than money.”
Staff discounts and voucher schemes
Staff discounts and voucher schemes can play an important part in a summer motivation strategy. These can include discounts that help staff with summer holiday plans, such as travel insurance, but can also include experience vouchers, retail discounts and team-building days.
Andrew Johnson, director-general of the UK Gift Card and Voucher Association, says: “The optimum recognition scheme is about incentivising staff with something that will really motivate them.
“Although motivating staff is important all year round, some of [an employer’s] workforce may not be around or on holiday during the summer months, and it’s important for those still in the office to be rewarded.”
Seasonal motivation techniques
Employers can make good use of the warm weather to help build motivation. Arranging a summer barbecue or picnic can help engage staff, and can be done at little cost to the employer. McMath says: “A picnic or barbecue at lunchtime can lead to staff loyalty, and give staff something to talk about.
“Quirky ideas such as bring-your-children or bring-your-dog-to-work day, fancy dress, quizzes and games create a buzz in the office and around the business. These also get staff working together, speed up communication and increase productivity, because when staff are upbeat they focus more.”
Employers could also link events to wider organisational strategies, such as their corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda.
McMath adds: “Charity collecting is a really engaging activity [because] it gets employees to chose which charity they want to raise money for, and create a fundraising event.”
Health and fitness
Summer also lends itself to a focus on health and fitness programmes. A motivation strategy can, therefore, be tailored to include ways for workers to take advantage of the longer days, such as joining a bikes-for-work scheme. Computershare’s Foster says: “Some staff may book holidays, while others will turn their minds to whether the warmer weather means a new bike would help them get fit and have fun.”
Healthy-eating and weight-loss regimes or corporate gym membership can also help boost morale, and are popular among staff. For example, according to research published by group risk provider Canada Life Group Insurance in June 2014, 38% of the 900 UK employees surveyed would like to have access to healthy-living or weight-loss clubs at work.
Jeanette Makings, director of financial education services at banking group Close Brothers Asset Management, says: “Anything that helps staff wellbeing in the summer months, from employee assistance programmes [EAPs] to debt counselling to mental health assistance, is a great way to retain staff. These benefits also create a good relationship between staff and employers, and that kind of emotional connection is great for retention.
“Health cover is particularly valued for the ageing workforce, but at any age, during the summer, benefits such as gym membership, eye or dental care and discount vouchers are greatly valued.”
An employee’s engagement with their saving and retirement benefits can take a back seat during summer, as things such as holidays take precedence. Lesley Fidler, associate director at Baker Tilly Tax and Accounting, says: ”Pensions , for example, only become interesting when they become relevant to an employee, which tends to happen in later life. However, pensions are the most unappealing motivational benefit going; they are so sensible. It’s human nature not to be interested in them.
“During the summer, staff are thinking more about holidays and selling houses than their finances.”
However, it is important that employees do not become complacent about their financial wellbeing. “Through increased and improved communication, conducted online, face to face, visually and written, employers can engage staff with pensions,” says Close Brothers Asset Management’s Makings. “Contributing to employees’ pensions is also a great way to motivate.
“Having and saving money is important any time, but in terms of general wellbeing benefits the summer months bring about a time of reflection and time to think about ambitions.”
A summer motivation strategy can also consist of simple elements that have a significant impact on staff. Johnson says: “Getting the fundamental basics right, such as saying thank you and providing a clean and appropriate environment, are highly important for motivating workers.”
Fidler believes that simple motivation can be the most effective. “Motivation is desperately important as staff make a difference to a workplace,” she says. “Simple things, such as saying thank you, are great engagement tools, as well as good planning and general understanding of employees.”
McMath adds: “There is nothing better than being complimented for working hard, and recognition also causes employees to engage with the business. There can also be a huge increase in productivity if there is an emotional and personal aspect to staff recognition.”
Providing a focus on the many benefits included in a package, such as health and wellbeing, childcare vouchers, shopping discounts and retail vouchers, can boost motivation in the summer, but something as simple as thanking employees for completing work to a great standard can be just as valuable.
Case study: Summer parties motivate staff at Astellas Pharma Europe
Astellas Pharma Europe motivates its 550 UK employees in the warmer months by offering summer parties, sports facilities and flexible working arrangements.
The pharmaceutical organisation, which employs 15,000 people across 40 countries, engages its UK staff with an annual summer party, which employees can invite their family to. The parties are also themed. For example, the theme of its 2014 party was the ‘Wild West’.
Robert Wigmore, senior manager, reward and human resources at Astellas EMEA, says: “With about 25% of our employees having a family, a gathering where families and partners are welcomed is ideal and creates a buzz among staff.
“We had about 250 staff attend the 2014 party, which shows how popular and appreciated these are.”
Staff are also offered the opportunity to take up Astellas’s flexible hours policy, which is particularly utilised in the summer months.
Wigmore says: “Many employees being on holiday during the summer can make the office disjointed, which is why we make the most of the isolated environment we have. Our offices are located by a river and lovely fields.”
Staff can also take advantage of the on-site sports court, as well as take part in the Global Corporate Challenge, which the organisation has participated in since 2010.
In addition, Astellas’s corporate social responsibility agenda enables staff to take a day to carry out some improvement work in the local area.
For instance, Astellas staff help to redecorate and make improvements to a local special-needs school. Wigmore says: “This really resonates with employees because they get out in the open air and do something worthwhile. We help out the same place every year, which allows us to see how we have really helped [it] out.”