Johnsons of Whixley uses imaginative benefits to motivate employees

As one of the largest commercial nursery businesses in Europe, Johnsons of Whixley takes a flexible and imaginative approach to rewarding its workforce. Based between York and Harrogate, the organisation employs more than 90 members of staff, a number which can rise to nearly 200 during seasonal peaks, representing a flex of as much as 70%.

This fluctuation in size, and the extent to which Johnsons of Whixley relies on staff who are not present year-round, means that it cannot simply utilise long-term incentives and the promise of progression and pay rises to motivate employees.

The organisation does operate some attendance recognition strategies, as well as annual profit share bonuses, but these are not guaranteed. Graham Richardson, managing director, says: “Our reward and benefit strategy is incremental as well as recognising major success. The ability to offer benefits is proportionate to the size of business, but it is often the fact that [an employee has] been recognised [that is important], more than what you give them.”

Time is precious for Johnsons of Whixley’s employees, and initiatives such as early closure and extra holiday are particularly widely appreciated. The organisation also provides a number of ‘hot spot’ rewards to recognise strong performance, such as a period of intensive activity or working through gruelling weather. These rewards can be as simple as fish and chips or freezers full of ice lollies.

Richardson believes Johnsons of Whixley’s employees are aware of the stresses and limitations at play when it comes to remuneration from a smaller business, and states that they understand the balance at play, between the appeal of extra cash in their wage packet, and the need to preserve their own job security.

Therefore, a little and often approach can inspire motivation, and indeed facilitate a more personalised approach in the long run. “Showing they are acknowledged and valued as an individual is half the battle,” Richardson concludes. “Little and often creates the carrot incentive; this then coupled with a proportionate annual award sharing in general success is the correct balance.”