From left, Zoo Advertising managing director Clint Hutchinson gets soaked by staff members Sarah Jesudason, Tim Fitt, Robbie Allison-Young and  Ali Gattuso.

From left, Zoo Advertising managing director Clint Hutchinson gets soaked by staff members Sarah Jesudason, Tim Fitt, Robbie Allison-Young and Ali Gattuso. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

YOU CAN give your staff a cash bonus come Christmas. Or, you can arm them with water pistols and let them open fire.

Kingston-based business ZOO Advertising whisked staff off for a Hamilton Island getaway last year. This year, staff voted to keep it local and partied on Friday with a rooftop celebration complete a band, pool toys … and the odd squirt for their boss.

''It's in the DNA of the business to say thank you [to staff] on a regular basis,'' managing director Clint Hutchinson said.

ZOO's shenanigans are an example of the mixed-bag nature of end-of-year staff rewards in Canberra.

Chief executive of the ACT and Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Chris Peters, said even businesses doing it tough wanted to retain skilled staff and were therefore inclined to reward staff regardless of a downturn.

Mr Peters said cash bonuses were less traditional than staff parties and gift giving. Cash rewards depended on a company's overall financial success, meeting certain budgetary requirements, and management discretion.

Team-building incentives such as trips to Thredbo or go-karting expeditions were often more common than monetary rewards.

Money sunk into staff rewards could run to ''literally tens of thousands of dollars'', or could be more modest sums, depending on the depth of a company's pockets and sector expectations.

Local business TransACT Communications threw a bash for 100 staffers at a Civic restaurant.

Civic hotel King O'Malley's rewarded staff with a lunch and a two-week break for everyone. Staff were also given a cash bonus and gift vouchers depending on length of service.

The hotel's managing director Peter Barclay said, ''We give all our staff a gift - it says thanks for doing such a great job and being passionate.''

Mitchell-based software company HRMWEB rewarded its staff by reading from a ''victory diary'' - a record of the year's achievements. They also enjoyed a spot of bowling.

Executive director Irene Hazilias said, ''We don't leave it until the end of the year to reward our staff; we acknowledge them every step of the way and make an effort to say thank you.

''None of them is replacable - we need every single one, we need their loyalty.''