Are you paying end-of-year staff bonuses this year? Last year, a survey by consultancy firm, Deloitte indicated that up to 19% of organisations wouldn’t be paying out any staff bonuses at all, while 80% were significantly reducing their thirteenth cheques. With another tough year coming to a close, indications are that the traditional Christmas bonus is again under threat, as organisations strive to cut costs.
Not paying a staff bonus, however, can not only send the message that you don’t value your staff, but can create severe discontent in the workplace, particularly if they’ve come to expect their bonsella. Recognising your employees’ hard work, especially under the tough economic conditions many companies are experiencing right now, is crucial. It can lead to:
- The development of a positive working atmosphere
- Improved employee retention
- Better commitment to the organisation’s goals
- Improved customer service
- All of which ultimately leads to higher productivity and an improved bottom line.
But what if money is tight?
Is paying staff bonuses simply out of the question? Sending out an impersonal mass email, brutally informing everyone that no one will be getting thirteenth cheques, is not the way to go. Rather, break the news in an empathetic and understanding manner:
- Take the time to explain to your workers the financial pressures under which the company is operating
- Emphasise that you and your employees are part of a team and that you’re in it together
- Explain that, in the past, staff bonuses were paid at your discretion when the funds were available, and that when the good times return, so will the financial rewards.
Throw a Staff Christmas Party
While hard cash will always rank high on the staff wish list, there are ways in which you can reward your employees without money – throwing an end-of-year corporate party is one such way. While first prize remains a staff Christmas party at a nice lunch venue, if that’s too extravagant, consider these cheap office Christmas party ideas:
- Have a lunch picnic at the office – move the furniture, cover the desks with colourful tablecloths, decorate with a few festive items, order in some drinks and cocktail party platters (many grocery chain stores do decent ones at a good price), turn up the radio, et voilà…you’ve got yourself a staff Christmas party!
- Task your senior management team with serving drinks and snacks to the staff – they will enjoy the novelty of the rôle change
- Or, organise a skottel-braai breakfast at a nearby outdoor venue, such as a nature reserve, the beach or local botanical gardens…
- Write personalised letters thanking each employee for the contribution s/he has made over the year, listing specific instances, and hand out with small employee appreciation gifts, such as grocery store gift vouchers
- After the party, allow your staff to take off the rest of the day.
Queen cancels staff Christmas party? Yes, it’s true! Even the super-wealthy Elizabeth II of England has canned her staff Christmas party this year, blaming ‘the tough economic climate’. Not good for staff morale, Ma’am! With staff parties, pay increases and staff bonuses under tight control, maintaining employee engagement throughout the year is challenging. If you know that your organisation will be cash-strapped in the coming year, consider implementing these non-monetary incentives year-round:
- Give your employees the opportunity to work flexi-time or to do telecommuting (if it suits your industry) – being able to achieve a better work-life balance may actually be more attractive to some employees than a higher pay cheque.
- Provide additional paid time-off during the coming year, in lieu of cash incentives
- Reward achievements with an afternoon off
- Give your employees the day off on their birthday, or celebrate with a cake and a card
- Allow a casual dress code on Fridays
- Provide a catered lunch party once monthly
- For those who go above and beyond the call of duty, keep stashes of give-away items – for example, grocery store vouchers, spa vouchers, car wash vouchers or gym memberships
- Offer good staff discounts on your products or services
- Recognise good performance by handing out awards or creating an employee honour roll
- Offer title changes to staff members who show good performance – even if you can’t offer them more money, a more prestigious title will help their careers down the line
- Send letters to team members at the end of projects to express appreciation for the role that they played
- To encourage a fun atmosphere, have themed days which correspond with major events – for example, when the Springboks are playing, encourage everyone to come to work in green and gold
- Always be generous with public recognition of those employees who’ve done a good job.
The Payment of Bonuses
Keep in mind that, if the thirteenth cheque is part of an agreement, either as part of an employment contract or a collective bargaining agreement, then you are legally obliged to pay up. If a staff bonus is not part of a contract or agreement, then it’s considered to be a discretionary bonus. However, if discretionary bonuses have been paid for many years, an expectation of such is then created amongst employees. Be sure to inform your employees timeously that they will not be receiving thirteenth cheques due to the economic climate, in order to avoid claims of unfair labour practice.
Author: Franchise Finder, Online Directory of Franchises and Business Opportunities in South Africa