At this time of year, many of us have fond memories of writing our festive wish lists when we were kids in the fervent hope that we’d been good enough to receive a visit from the big man himself.
Fast-forward a few decades and while we may no longer be compiling our lists to Santa, we all still definitely have a few wishes for the festive season — it’s just that now they’re addressed to our employers instead.
So what do employees want to find under the tree at work this year? We surveyed 6,000 members of the public in the UK, US and Germany to find out — and we’ve got a sleighful of insight to share.
All employees want for Christmas is… more money
Perhaps unsurprisingly, financial rewards top the list for the most-requested gifts employees would like to receive from their employers. Around a third of employees in all three countries we surveyed requested a pay rise this year, with an annual bonus following a close second.
In the UK, 56% of employees would pick a financial reward over any other reward from their employer, while in the US, that number rises to 62%. In Germany, 48% of employees opted for a monetary gift.
However, while employees asked for an increase in their salary, it wasn’t as part of a change in status or role. Employees across all three countries are four to six times more likely to ask for an increase in salary over a promotion. As organisational structures have started to flatten out in recent years, perhaps this finding is a reminder that status and upward mobility at work are not as prized as they used to be — and that the desire for financial stability is taking its place.
Employees want more time away from the office for the holidays
As motivation to work wanes and employees look forward to a break around the festive season, it makes sense that thoughts turn to taking some time off.
Research shows that environment is an important factor in employee engagement — and that extends to a change in scenery.
On that note, given the choice, employees would rather have more time out of the office entirely than a better working environment. In the US, 21% of employees wanted either more time off or opportunities for flexible working compared to 4% who requested a better office environment or equipment. Almost a quarter of the UK workforce echoed this sentiment in favour of more time off.
This desire was particularly pronounced in Germany, 31% of respondents voted in favour of having more time off and implementing more flexible working policies. With German workplaces set to click off for the holidays later than most, perhaps it’s a sign to their employers to be more compassionate and give employees the time off they need as the busy holiday season hits.
Employees prefer puppies to promotions
There’s nothing quite like bringing your best furry friend to work with you, and with the rise of more pet-friendly offices including Google, Monzo and us at Peakon, it seems like this trend is here to stay.
Our survey respondents agreed, and ranked the prospect of getting an office cat or dog higher on their holiday wish lists than a promotion. With 7 to 8% of employees in all countries we surveyed requesting an office pet compared with only 5 to 7% requesting a promotion, the differences may be marginal, but Fluffy has the edge on a career upgrade.
Research shows that having a furry friend in the office is good for business, too — it not only reduces employee stress, but boosts happiness and productivity.
So a pay rise will make my employees’ holiday wishes come true?
Not exactly. The fact that money is top of mind for employees this time of year is not surprising — as we found out in a recent report, pay is the number one ranking topic globally at all times of year.
Yet despite the fact that employees are asking for more money, giving it to them won’t ultimately increase their satisfaction.
This is what Frederick Herzberg found out when he published his Two-Factor Theory in 1959. In it, he outlined two different forms of motivation that determine how and why we do things: Extrinsic and Intrinsic.
Extrinsic motivation comes from external rewards and influences, for example, being paid to watch and review a new film. Intrinsic motivation comes from an internal desire to do a task because it is personally gratifying.
Herzberg found that while extrinsic rewards will cause an employee’s motivation to fall, additional extrinsic rewards will not be able to increase it beyond a baseline level. That means that if you don’t pay your employees a comfortable wage then they will definitely be unhappy at work. However, paying them an excessive wage or a seasonal bonus will not unlock previously untapped levels of motivation.
Instead, the key to keeping employees satisfied and engaged with their work is to provide them with the means to be intrinsically motivated. On that note, it’s never too early to start thinking about the next holiday season — so here are three takeaways you can take with you into 2020 to help keep your employees motivated.
Peakon’s engagement resolutions for 2020
1. Give your employees a voice
One of the key things employees ask for from their organisations is more communication.
Effective communication can have a strong impact on employee engagement, because it creates a sense of belonging, and when your employees feel that there is a two-way dialogue with their manager and larger organisation, it paves the way for a transparent culture built on trust.
As a manager, encouraging your team members to provide their feedback, providing regular 1-1 time and showing them that you are responsive to it is key to maintaining high engagement within your team.
2. Have constructive discussions around pay
While giving your employees a pay rise may not be the answer to their happiness this holiday season, it does pay to have transparent discussions around salary.
Employees don’t leave jobs because they feel under-rewarded, they leave because they feel that they can’t talk about pay openly with their manager.
When employees feel appropriately rewarded for the effort, knowledge and skills they bring to a role, it’s reflected in their engagement. However, even when employees feel appropriately rewarded for their work, if they can’t talk about salary with their manager then it can cause them to become disengaged and hand in their resignation.
3. Show employees that their work is valued
Simple actions can have huge consequences and lead to a dramatic improvement in employee engagement — especially when it comes to our sense of recognition.
When managers give feedback and praise to employees on a daily basis, their employees’ sense of recognition increases dramatically. When employees understand what they have done well, it serves as a motivation boost, while understanding where improvements can be made provides an opportunity for growth.
However, the principle of all recognition is showing that you care and value their contributions — so take some time to find out what kind of praise your team members prefer.