The Big Question: What can employers do around the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee?

Alan Robertson, colleague engagement leader – recognition and incentives at Asda:

2012 is turning out to be a great year packed with some fantastic events, not least of which are the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. At Asda, thanking our employees for the great work they do is an important part of our culture, and it is at peak trading periods like this when our stores really come alive.

While others are enjoying the celebrations, we know that, across the country, our staff will be going the extra mile to deliver great service and fantastic value to all our customers. So, in addition to what we do every day, we are also going to recognise star employees who really shine as ‘Jubilee Colleague of the Day’ over those hectic few days of celebrations.

On each of these busy days in our stores and distribution centres, we will recognise the employee(s) who really shine by awarding them 10 star points, worth £10. These points can be redeemed through our online reward catalogue for a great range of rewards, from cinema tickets or flowers to money to spend in-store on an Asda gift card, helping our staff in tough times to save money on their weekly shopping, or even treat themselves to something nice.

We will also be offering some employees in the London area the chance to win a place on the Lambeth Bridge, with our partners at Fields in Trust, to watch the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant.

John Lionis, reward manager at Selfridges:

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee presents reward professionals with a unique opportunity to get creative and add an element of fun into the reward mix. As thousands of people join the celebrations outside, employers can lift employees’ spirits inside by adapting incentive and recognition schemes to the spirit of the day.

Input and ideas from less traditional reward sources, for example sales, marketing or creative departments, can help with this. Typical reward elements such as productivity, number of contracts, sales or efficiency indicators can be combined with celebratory themes to create a sense of fun.

If cash compensation is challenging for some employers, ideas such as a themed Jubilee raffle, prize draws, quizzes or similar initiatives will get people talking, create a buzz and will possibly do more for the spirits of the teams than achieving traditional targets.

In addition, let us not forget that the Diamond Jubilee is in itself a major recognition event, recognising the Queen’s 60 years in the service of the British people. Bringing it into the workplace is a great opportunity to say thank-you, and to celebrate the long-service heroes or employees who have really done something special.

Such events, carefully staged to reach maximum internal audiences by using the right communication channels, will create positive feelings toward the employer and a sense of care and appreciation that is so badly needed in the difficult economic times we currently live in.

Neil Conway, reader in organisational psychology, Birkbeck, the University of London:

It may depend on the employer’s position: does it want to endorse monarchist values or not? I have two views.

The first is that it is risky to do anything related to celebrating the monarchy. It is probably quite a sensitive issue as staff may feel strongly one way or the other, so any attempt to celebrate it may offend half the workforce while only mildly pleasing the others.

But the aggregate effect of such an initiative could be negative, as research shows offensive events have greater, longer-lasting effects on staff moods and attitudes than charm-offensive events. I guess most people do not expect their employer to do anything, and where there are no expectations, there is nothing to violate. But if employers do something, it will be unexpected and may violate some employees’ sensibilities.

My second view is to not reflect on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, but instead reflect on your employer’s jubilee. For instance, when was it established and does it do anything to celebrate its own jubilee? This is a much safer and more interesting option. Organisations do not typically celebrate their own jubilees, and this is a bit of an own-goal because they could foster staff feelings about the organisation’s history, aims, values, mission and achievements, and where the employee fits into this.

This concept – knowing how an employee fits into the organisation’s broader scheme – is known to relate positively to many motivational approaches. Such historical narratives often appeal to staff and make them feel part of a bigger picture. It is also an opportunity for a social knees-up at the employer’s expense.

Dilys Robinson, principal research fellow at the Institute for Employment Studies (IES):

A significant event like the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is a great opportunity for organisations to take stock, looking to the past (what have we achieved during Elizabeth II’s reign?), the present (what do we look like now, and what do we stand for?) and to the future (where are we going over the next 60 years?).

It might be a great opportunity to put together a short company history, for example, and put old photos and other memorabilia on display and/or on the intranet.

It is also an opportunity to celebrate in different ways, especially as the past few recessionary years have been rather full of doom and gloom for many people. This doesn’t have to cost a lot – maybe picnics or barbecues or fundraising events, all of which would bring people together in a social context.

However, organisations need to be sensitive to the fact that some employees (recent immigrants, perhaps, or ardent republications) may not have a strong identity with the monarchy, and could feel a little excluded. Their history over the past 60 years is interesting too, so perhaps their views could be included in the general celebrations, to offer a different perspective?

And let’s not forget that the day itself is a bank holiday, which I’m sure everyone will appreciate.

Michael Rose, partner at Rewards Consulting Partners:

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations will centre around the extended weekend – 2 to 5 June, with Monday and Tuesday as bank holidays. The approach an organisation will take will depend mostly on whether or not it has staff working over that time. With staff working over the weekend, making a TV available to watch some highlights can be appreciated.

With the focus being the weekend, there may be little pressure, or opportunity, to do very much in the previous week. Retail, service and other consumer-facing organisations may reflect internally on the approach †they take with their customers around branding or promotions. For example, red, white and blue may feature prominently. But this is likely to extend to no more than some paper hats and coloured icing on buns in the staff canteen.

While the majority of people will be positive about the Jubilee, we must also respect the views of people who would not see the commemoration of a monarch’s jubilee as something to be celebrated.

As it is the Diamond Jubilee, there will be an opportunity to run some reward or recognition programmes around the number 60. It will depend on the organisation, but 60 might become a target for something, or perhaps £60 as a daily prize for the week before the Jubilee weekend, or the first 60 people to do something. Organisations should be creative and take this one-off opportunity to inject some fun into the workplace.

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