What Scrooge Can Teach Us About Valuing Your People

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As we venture into the festive period of food comas and drawing up new year’s resolutions, many HR teams are considering how to make their organisation’s people feel valued in 2024. While we will always stress the importance of referring to your people data to drive this strategy, in the name of the seasonal spirit we have taken a look at a Christmas classic for further inspiration.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens was first published in December of 1843. With the first edition selling out by Christmas Eve and it continuing to be a dependable seller over 175 years later, many who have not ever read the book still know the story. While the novella touched on many topics, Scrooge’s lack of care towards people, particularly his employees, is a driving force of the tale, and a fair few of the points made by Dickens still have a ring of truth and relevance today.

The (not so secret) to Retainment

In A Christmas Carol, Bob Cratchit represents the downtrodden and dissatisfied worker, embodying the struggles faced by many employees who work in demanding environments with little recognition or reward. Despite being paid very little, Cratchit also feels stuck with Scrooge due to having a family to take care of during a precarious financial situation. This reflects the sentiments many employees have voiced today, of feeling trapped in certain roles due to the economic uncertainty the UK cost-of-living crisis has bought on.

While some HR teams have prided themselves on providing high quality support during the cost-of-living crisis, many teams have lacked the funding or board support to deliver this kind of service. The UK has so far managed to avoid recession, but many families are still struggling. Going into 2024, people teams should aim to put in place formal practices and policies for helping their people, whether it be helping with childcare costs or going the extra mile to support anyone who may have faced layoffs.

Happy employees have been proven time and time again to be more productive and easier to retain, inevitably leading to positive financial gains and saved costs for the company. If these studies haven’t been enough to convince your leadership, you may be interested to read our article on Reporting for Change to C-Suite: A Guide for HR.

The importance of our environment

Dickens describes a scene early on in the novella where Scrooge rations the coals needed to heat the office during winter. Scrooge relegates his clerk, Bob Cratchit, to a minimal fire, expecting Cratchit to work in the cold.

The recent surge of return-to-office mandates has reignited debates around the pros and cons of working at the office, at home, or hybrid. Every person is different, so it seems only logical that organisations should prioritise flexibility in 2024 to ensure their people are in environments which are best for their wellbeing, engagement, and productivity. While some enjoy the buzz of the office, others enjoy the comfort of home. There are those that campaign for the value of face-to-face collaboration, while you’ll find no shortage of those that cannot imagine taking on the commute that would be required of them.

No matter what, 2024 should be the year for exploring what you can do to make employees working environments better. It could be as small as a new home office chair, to rehashing your whole work model. What’s critical is seeking the feedback of your people and utilising flexibility as your guiding light.

Respect work-life balance

On Christmas Eve, Scrooge makes Bob Cratchit, turn up to work, despite most other people in the community (who aren’t employed by Scrooge) being given some kind of time off. While this would have already left most in Cratchit’s position feeling dissatisfied, the fact he has a seriously unwell child at home, Tiny Tim, makes him feel even more low about his circumstances.

Post-pandemic, many re-evaluated their working life and began to rightfully recognise the importance of personal hobbies and spending time with loved ones. Additionally, the last few years has seen the entry of Gen Z into the workforce, who are leading the band when it comes to trends such as ‘bare minimum Monday’ and ‘quiet quitting’ if they don’t feel their employer understands the boundaries between personal life and working life.

The new year is the perfect opportunity to ensure managers and leadership are up to speed on what they can expect from their people’s time. It’s also a chance for assessing what policies or working models could be implemented to make sure the physical and mental health of employees is valued within the organisation and culture.

To conclude…

To avoid being visited by three ghosts (and a grumpy ex-coworker) on Christmas eve night, start mapping out your team’s plans now for ensuring the people in your business will know they’re valued in 2024.