Santa's winter of discontent
December 20, 2022

Is NOEL the answer to Santa’s Winter of Discontent?

By Tony Boobier

As we draw nearer to Christmas, despite the winter of discontent, it’s high time for our regular dose of festive silliness. We’ve already reflected spiritually on the season and I’ve recommended some holiday reading on Talent or Economics. So, that’s enough serious content for this fun time of the year.

Offering up this year’s dose of festive fun is our ever-faithful guest blogger, author Tony Boobier. He has written an ever-growing collection of books on the implication of AI to our careers, Banking & the Public Sector. So, it’s high time he turned his attention to Santa and his elves.

I hope you enjoy this year’s festive story. Perhaps a story that’s best suited to reading while consuming mince pies and mulled wine. Either way, enjoy and thanks again Tony for being a reliable good sport…

Santa’s winter of discontent

There was bad news coming from Santa’s Grotto. The elves had decided to go on strike on Christmas Eve, along with everyone else such as the reindeer herders and the sleigh polishers. It was just another element of what had become a Winter of Discontent.

It hadn’t been entirely unexpected. The problem started in the Autumn when Santa had discussed introducing his new automated system for making presents. It was called a ‘New Operational Elf Line’ but everyone just called it ‘NOEL’. 

To cap it all, the elves hadn’t been too happy ever since Iceland didn’t make it to the World Cup Finals. 

Opening negotiations

The Elf Representative Joe Lynchpin had explained the situation to Santa. “It’s not that we don’t like Christmas, and you know that we even worked through the Pandemic. It’s just that, with the cost of living, our members need a pay rise and some certainty of future prospects.”

I see“, said Santa. “Well, how much exactly are you looking for?”

“More”, said Lynchpin, without being precise. 

Santa wrote a figure on a piece of parchment and slid it across the large oak kitchen table. Linchpin looked at it and then put the parchment back on the table.

“More”, he said. “Much more. And we want job security as well, and none of this NOEL rubbish.”

Santa’s options

He got up, leaving Santa to consider his options. To be honest, Santa didn’t have too many alternatives. He could only think of three.

Firstly, calling in the tooth fairies on an emergency basis might be a possibility. “Not on your nelly”, said the Fairy Queen. “Our members are entitled to spend Christmas with their own families.”

Secondly, maybe deliver early for Xmas. If everything was loaded up onto the sleigh by, say, 18th December, then he could still do his run, it’s just that the presents would arrive under the tree a week early. “Better early than never”, Santa thought to himself, but he knew that it would take a lot of convincing the children of the world. And when would the children leave out their milk and mince pies? 

Or thirdly, maybe outsource, perhaps to one of the supermarkets. They had a vested interest in helping out. After all, there wouldn’t be much of an appetite for Christmas Dinner if there were no presents under the tree. How did that slogan go, was it ‘every little helps’? Admittedly, it probably wasn’t what the supermarkets had in mind but they did already have a delivery capability. 

The Jamazon way

He sighed and helped himself to a small sherry, hoping that it would provide some sort of inspiration. Another idea popped into his head.

Then again, companies like Jamazon could deliver using their small army of van drivers. Actually, that might not be a bad idea. Not only could they ensure that everything arrived on time for parents to hide until Christmas morning but they could even use their clever analytics to work out the best present for every child. 

Santa hadn’t quite worked out what to do with Rudolf and the gang, but they were getting a little long in the antler, to be honest. They could probably earn a decent living doing celebrity appearances and Christmas Specials. Rudolf with his bright red nose could even become the new face of Comic Relief. ‘Dancer’ could almost definitely get a gig on ‘Strictly’. In fact, he might even get to have one of those pretty presenters sitting on his back. And instead of holding their reins in the midnight cold, Santa could become the reindeer’s commercial agent instead. Same business, a different operating model.

Santa took another sip of sherry. Things were looking up.

Was technology the solution? Really? 

With a new business model, there might be no need to introduce the new NOEL technology after all. Instead, with a bit of parent participation, he could form a business partnership with Jamazon and then the right present could be delivered on time, anywhere. Appropriately planned, the children could still leave out the milk and mince pie on Christmas Eve but the parents could take a bite out of the pie instead. “Yes, that would work”, he said to himself quietly.  

He realised that although he hadn’t needed to introduce new technology, the very idea of it had been the reason that he had discovered a new operating model. Think of the new business opportunities. Maybe even a sponsorship deal might be possible for the mince pies?

There was the thorny problem of what to do with the elves. Perhaps a TUPE transfer to one of the Jamazon warehouses, maybe? It was a win-win for everyone as the hourly rate was better there anyway and there was work to be done all year round. Plus, the dress code was so much more relaxed there, business casual usually. After all, elf hats and suits are so, well, yesterday’s style.

Things are looking up for Saint Nicholas

Imagine, thought Santa, an entirely new Christmas Division at Jamazon that he could lead. No more ‘Father Christmas’. Meet the new ‘Global Vice President of Yuletide’. 

There was only one thing to do. He picked up his cell phone and checked his contacts directory. “Could you ask the Chief Executive to call me, please…Yes, the name’s Christmas, Father Christmas.”