Engagement over the festive season

Engagement over the festive season

Christmas lights are up and the holidays are around the corner. Instead of winding down hospitality businesses prepare for the busiest time of year and employees prepare for the long working hours ahead. Customer service skills should not suffer as the business gets busier and miss the chance to create return business. Employee engagement becomes critical.


As recently reported in a Harvard Business Review article, Bain & company in conjunction with Netsurvey, analysed responses from 200,000 employees across 40 companies in 60 countries and found several interesting trends:

  • Engagement scores decline with employee tenure, meaning that employees with the deepest knowledge of the company typically are the least engaged.
  • Engagement scores decline as you go down the organisation, so you may have highly engaged senior executives but because of this they are likely to underestimate the discontent on the front lines.
  • Engagement levels are lowest among sales and service employees, who have the most interactions with customers.

Studies on engagement by Gallup also point to an overarching situation that needs to change.

  • Worldwide, only 13% of employees are engaged at work, that is, they are emotionally invested in and focused on creating value for their organizations every day.
    State of the Global Workforce, Gallup, 2013
  • Overall, among the 142 countries surveyed, 13% of employees are engaged in their jobs, while 63% are not engaged and 24% are actively disengaged.
    State of the Global Workforce, Gallup, 2013
  • “If employees feel that their organization takes a real interest in their development and offers frequent praise and recognition, they are likely to be engaged.”
    Jim Clifton, Chairman & CEO, Gallup

This year American Express sponsored forums on the subjects of employee recognition and engaging a younger workforce. Generation Y is a critical component of the hospitality industry – 48% of the hospitality workforce is under 29 years of age compared to 18% of the UK as a whole.

Hospitality businesses rely greatly on this segment of the labour market, with the vast majority of receptionists, waiters/waitresses, bar-tenders, housekeepers, concierge, bell-hops being aged under 30.

Motivated front-line staff is essential to the success of any service business. “Customer Interaction” and “Service Delivery” are two of the main differentiators which the hospitality industry endeavours to deliver over & above that of their competitors, especially around the holiday period. As the main provider of these deliverables, Generation Y is integral to the success of these.

So what can be done to engage these and other employees that hold a business’ success at stake? Does recognition link back to business results? Organisations with high engagement levels tend to experience a positive return on talent outcomes, customer satisfaction and essentially the bottom line.

The question is – with so many options to choose from, what are the most efficient for business and which are most appealing to employees?

There is no such thing as ‘one size fits all’ in terms of incentives. Broadly speaking, younger more junior recruits into the sector are looking for training, development and career progression. This demographic tend to look for opportunities to grow professionally, and if they’re to be given monetary reward then it’s preferable to receive a one-off cash sum or gift card. By contrast, more established professional managers tend to think more long term and look for greater pension contributions, travel expenses and similar long-term contributions.

Pre-paid gift cards for employees is the fastest-growing segment in the world is worth £5 billion in the UK alone (UK Gift Card & Voucher Association). Half of all B2B gift cards are now used by companies for employee reward schemes whereas only 20 per cent are used as part of a customer loyalty programme. They are also one of the most cost-effective options for businesses to manage logistically.

Whatever option chosen, it is clear that recognition and engagement are critical. Heading into the holiday season, motivated employees could make the world of difference.

For more information on American Express gift cards click here

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