Ho, ho, ho… nearly that time again. 🎅🎄
50 years ago, I was a small child.
I remember Christmas 1973 very well for several reasons. Not only Slade being number 1 in the good ol’ pop charts, or my desperation that Christmas day would bring a Raleigh Chopper (red/yellow, not that I remember every detail), but the complete over-stimulation of anticipating the family Christmas and all that went with it.
One of the annual highlights was discussing the Christmas turkey 🦃, then my father returning home from work on a dark winter night just before the big day with the still-chilled box containing the Who-Beast.
And what I also remember was the sense that the gifting of the Christmas turkey was received as an act of generosity.
Something given in recognition of all employees, regardless of rank, as the centrepiece of the family moment.
Also, being 1973, there were two significant factors in this gift.
Firstly, the cost of a turkey was significantly higher pro-rata than average wages today. Secondly, the oil crisis was in full swing which meant turkey prices virtually doubled that year.
The company my father worked for was very enterprising AKA financial highs-and-lows. Yet the turkey remained a constant.
What did this not-insignificant recognition of all employees mean?
For some it probably meant the difference of whether-or-not turkey would be on the table that year.
For others, it may only have been symbolic but for all it sent a clear message.
‘Enjoy a rest and quality time with your families’.
But that was 1973, a full half-century ago, things have changed.
Well, apart from the current oil crisis, turkey inflation and the Raleigh Chopper is back in production.
So, not much at all then!
And there is my point, in human terms nothing really changes.
Turkey was still a luxury in 1973, not an expectation. That the employer chose to provide the expensive centrepiece demonstrated a level of empathy with the wage reality for most workers at the most expensive time of year.
The turkey tradition has mostly long-since faded into the history books, along with many other family-oriented things (remember the company socials?).
For many good reasons. Society today, and family structures, are more diverse.
And some employers are reluctant to recognise people specifically at Christmas with good reason.
Because many people don’t celebrate Christmas; their festival might be in the middle of Summer.
Yet, something has changed at this time of year.
‘The festive period’ has become just that.
Three bank holidays joined by a few working days.
And for many workers this festival around the shortest day has become a chance for an extended break away from work, dedicated to catching up on friendships, relatives, and for many, a time to be with family without any other distractions.
This personal time is celebrated by many, regardless of faith.
And business has also evolved to factor in all but a fortnight of low productivity.
The end of the year now carries a business tradition of the annual re-set, ready to ‘hit the ground running’ at the start of the new year.
In 1973, the nuclear family was a norm. Most people wanted turkey.
Fifty years later neither are the case.
So, how today can you recognise your people and make it personal, not a tick-box exercise?
At this point, I could list the top 5 things you could do to recognise employees at Christmas.
Then again, you could trawl the internet and find 5, 10, 15 or 20 ideas for yourself.
So, I won’t.
You may have invested time this year, last year, or forever, trying to square the Christmas circle. Because, for your people, you are in search of the holy grail that might have once been the Dickensian goose.
Of course, for Bob Cratchit, it wasn’t just the goose.
It was the extra family day off, and most importantly, an employer who overnight transformed from exploiter to empathiser.
To the extent he used his wealth to transform the life of the whole family, particularly Tiny Tim. And there is the genius of Charles Dickens and the story he left behind.
What really mattered to his employee, at the deepest level, was his family, their wellbeing, and quality-of-life.
And there lies the challenge for every employer.
To truly personalise, understand and empathise with every employee.
If done with true authenticity, meaningful recognition can have a massive ROI for the recipient, and their employer.
And not just at Christmas, always.
Ticking boxes at Christmas is much easier, expensive, and with little-or-no ROI.
So, would you rather just tick a box, or make a meaningful gesture that makes your people feel truly appreciated?
Learning and Development Director
Dominic has worked closely with several big brands across different industries during his 20-year L&D career.
From the automotive sector as Head of Dealer Sales Academy at MG Rover, then into a consultancy role leading learning programmes for the Volkswagen Academy and Toyota Europe before working extensively with the NHS and Shell amongst other major brands.