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Why employee rewards and long-service awards are more important than ever

Why employee rewards and long-service awards are more important than ever

By Danni Rush, Chief Customer Officer at Virgin Incentives and Virgin Experience Days

Employee loyalty has been on the decline for years, particularly among the younger generations.

A 2017 study by recruitment and training firm, Cornerstone, found that 77% of millennials would consider a move to another town, city, or country as an exciting career move, and 42% said they expect to have three or more careers in their lifetimes.

Similarly, in 2019, a TINYpulse report surveyed 25,000 employees across 20 industries and found that 43% of employees would leave their jobs for a 10% pay increase and that a poor company culture was the main reason for declining job loyalty.

The impact of the pandemic on employee retention

However, these studies were conducted before the pandemic, and – as well all know – a lot has changed in the last year.

The spread of COVID-19 and the subsequent economic crisis and lockdowns has seen almost 10 million UK workers furloughed as of December 2020 and thrown the world into a recession only matched by The Great Depression in the 1920s.

The economic turmoil of the past 12-months might scare workers away from joining a labour market with few job vacancies, but this is not necessarily good news for employers.

Employers must remember that there is a crucial difference – which impacts both productivity and company culture – between a worker wanting to and having to stay in their job.

For instance, if a worker is having to stay in their job due to the economic climate then they may grow disaffected with their job, which could create a loss of productivity and damage workplace culture.

Danni Rush

Danni Rush

Similarly, when the economy does recover in the coming months, then a business could be hit with a sudden flurry of resignations as pent-up frustrations are released amid a buoyant labour market.

Businesses must be aware that this outcome is likely if they do not invest in their company culture.

Research from recruitment firm REED has already found that the majority of UK workers are not put off looking for jobs this year and are, on the whole, optimistic about their prospects, with over half (59%) saying they continue to seek new opportunities and over two-thirds (70%) saying they are willing to take a pay cut.

These figures will likely grow as the economy opens and more opportunities become available.

How employers can retain talent post-pandemic

For employers, the question then becomes how they can retain existing talent and prevent a mass exodus of workers in the midst of an economically challenging time.

Keeping existing employees happy to commit and grow within a business should be the core aim of any HR team.

Yet, our recent whitepaper, which surveyed 2,000 employers across the UK, found that 22% of employees have never received a reward from their employer. No Christmas bonus, no extra days off, and no long-service rewards.

These statistics should be setting off alarm bells when you consider that a separate study found that 66% of employees would resign if they felt unappreciated, rising to 76% among millennials.

This is something that employers will need to rectify to prevent a brain drain when the economy reopens in the coming months.

The value of long-service awards

One option available to employers is to create a bespoke offering which is tailored to the specific employee or the objective they are aiming for. For instance, rewards could be used to incentivise further sales, or team treats could help boost morale and culture.

Employers should also consider this approach for long-service rewards. Again, this should be tailored to reflect the employees’ contribution as well as their personality and preferences. Offering a reward which an employee could use flexibly would achieve this – such as the Virgin Experience Days Gift Card, which offers over 3,000 different experiences nationwide, including 115 virtual and stay-at-home experiences such as a virtual cocktail masterclass and a classic afternoon tea.

If an employer can get this right, then long service awards, along with a reward and recognition programme, can lead to increased employee happiness, a better company culture, and, ultimately, talent retention. However, if an employer decides not to act and continues to fail to recognise or appreciate their team, then they cannot be surprised when talent decides to look elsewhere for work and prioritises job opportunities that have reward and recognition schemes.

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