Keeping Employees Engaged During The Holidays
Most employers are well aware of the residual effects of the notorious holiday 'countdown'. The work area buzzes with chatter of everyone's plans, travel destinations, and whose family members are coming into town. Aside from the obvious extended vacations and use of paid time off around the holidays that impacts productivity, there are also presenteeism issues that arise. Although still on 'the clock' many employees may not execute tasks and assignments as they typically would. This may be a result of not having all of the necessary resources, including management and colleagues, to fulfill tasks due to time out of the office. Meetings, regardless of the level of importance of the topic, are typically scheduled after major holidays due to the assumption that many of the key players will be on vacation or not actively engaged in the subject matter.
While management and Human Resources professionals are well aware of the fact that during holidays productivity is impacted, there are several ways to ensure that objectives are met nonetheless. The key is to acknowledge the fact that there is an event taking place that will significantly impact a large percentage of your employee population, and strategically identify ways to maintain efficiency during the short period of celebration/recognition time.
While all industries and organizations are different, there are typically opportunities to provide accommodations to employees during the holidays. As the subject matter expert on your employee population, think about a few of the best ways to make their lives more enjoyable during the holidays. Some examples might include organization-wide release 2 hours early leading up to a holiday weekend, permitting employees to telecommute during the holidays, or providing a floating paid time off day in addition to the existing ones that employees can use to extend their holiday. In some workplace environments, none of the above mentioned will align with the operational structure, however there are manners in which schedules and shifts can be adjusted in order to allow employees to enjoy the holiday.
It is certainly not appropriate to hand select employees that you feel may belong to a group celebrating or recognizing a holiday, therefore any accommodation that is offered must be made available to all employees. If a distinction must be made, for example if some employees do not work in roles conducive to telecommuting, be sure to articulate that to the population at large. Depending upon the organizational culture, implementing a company-wide holiday accommodation strategy may require you to elicit buy-in from senior leadership. The best way to do so is to quantify the output or overall productivity of key functional areas during the holidays with normal operations as a baseline. In most cases, employees that feel 'stuck at work' will severely underperform which is not making a positive impact on the bottom line. Rather than compound low output with low morale, its much more constructive to demonstrate your commitment to the workforce and understanding of the importance of the holiday by instituting accommodations.
Acknowledge the Holiday
A key driver of employee disengagement is the sentiment that his or her feelings are ignored or irrelevant. With this being said, holidays typically elicit happiness, solidarity and the unity of family and friends - in other words there are lots of positives associated. When employers attempt to run business operations 'as usual' during a time that employees find to be atypical, there is a serious separation of motivations and perspectives. The key here is to remember that your organization is only as successful as its human capital. While driving revenue and considering the bottom line are both key to organizational sustainability, its essential to take good care of those that are moving the marker forward.
Formally acknowledging holidays can get tricky, especially in consideration of today's diverse and rapidly evolving workforce. Depending on company culture, there may be opportunities to put together quarterly holiday recognitions that allow employees the opportunity to congregate socially, gain insight into different cultures, and provide the platform for employers to demonstrate gratitude. Tact and caution should be exercised around religious holidays and the manner in which these are recognized or celebrated. In a more conservative organizational culture, a company-wide email acknowledging and sending well wishes before a holiday may suffice.
Shift Workplace Dynamics
If you can't beat them, join them! As you are aware, in order to elicit productivity and results from employees sometimes you must be willing to compromise. No matter how stringent or structured the workplace culture, there are ways to shift the atmosphere to more closely align with the employees' outlooks and motivations. The reality is that, during these happy and celebratory times, it is strategic to leverage all of these positive emotions to make a significant impact on overall engagement. Simple ways to shift dynamics include catering meals or afternoon snacks, doing desk/work station drops and leaving behind candy, or organizing contests such as 'highest holiday production numbers' and providing prizes.
The goal is to ensure that the workforce understands the employer's level of commitment and gratitude. If you are able to implement even one minor engagement tactic mentioned above, the residual effects will certainly outweigh the inherent, stagnant holiday productivity. As a best in class employer and organization, actively engaging your people is essential to sustainability and you will observe significant increases to overall output and employee contributions if you are able to do so effectively.
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