As staff shortages are felt across all sectors of the economy, Ireland’s biggest firms have been treating workers to a whole new level of corporate gifting in an attempt to hold on to talent.

From luxury luggage, laptops, tablets and jewellery, to Smart TVs, popcorn makers and juicers, no expense is being spared as employers go the extra mile to honour staying power and show their appreciation.

Louise Lonergan, who supplies corporate gifts for firms such as LinkedIn, Google, ESB, Bus Éireann, Diageo and KBC, says “worker validation” is now as routine as health insurance, as companies strive to strengthen relationships in a world of distributed teams and working from home.

“Company culture has changed dramatically with the introduction of hybrid work so companies are asking how they can look after their staff . ‘Validation’ is the word that is used a lot,” she said.

“During the pandemic companies could no longer bring staff to Croke Park or out to a fancy restaurant so they had to revise their approach and say: ‘OK how do we look after our people?’”

Business at Lonergan’s firm is up 25pc since 2019 and she says firms are employing luxury “service awards” where “the specs get better” the longer an employee stays with a firm.

“Some firms are doing it because it’s the right thing to do but a lot are doing it because they have to when bigger companies can come along and offer more money.

“They can’t compete with that so they are firefighting. The cost of someone leaving — along with their experience and hiring and training in new staff — is huge, so spending several hundred on each staff member during the year to show they are valued is nothing in comparison.”

Gifts for longevity and goals reached, as well as personalised goodies and seasonal hampers, are being used to generate a sense of connection.

“Spotify playlists curated especially for a team and welcome mugs in a worker’s native language are some of the more personal gifts. In bigger companies the boss doesn’t have time to go around and pat every person on the back so this validates staff. It says ‘we see you’ and ‘we thank you for your contribution’.”

As unprecedented labour shortages are experienced across all sectors of the economy, it’s not just large firms who are following the trend.

Paddy Hogan, who runs the Nutbutter restaurant in Dublin, gave 17 of his staff tablet computers.

“The hiring market is really tough now in the hospitality business and trying to retain good staff is proving difficult for a lot of businesses.

“Thankfully we have been very lucky in that respect because I was in LA during Covid and saw early on that every business had signs up in their windows looking for staff, so I got straight on to the team back home and said ‘start hiring now’.

“From the start we were keen to build a positive culture. We pay well, probably slightly more than others, and make it a fun place to work so people would want to stay.

“As part of that we wanted to show our team we were really proud of the significant role they all played in helping to build the business to where it is today.

“So we gave a tablet to everyone who has been with us for over six months and then to everyone else we gave a €100 consolation prize.”

Source: Niamh Horan, Irish independent 

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