Employee Engagement During the Holiday Season

It’s that time of year again – THE HOLIDAYS! In the United States, the holiday season begins around Thanksgiving at the end of November and runs roughly through New Year’s Day in January. Family celebrations, shopping, gifts…and a lot of vacation time. No matter what holiday one personally celebrates, keeping employees motivated and engaged during this time of year can present many obstacles – especially if you are trying to reach your year-end business goals.

According to a 2014 Gallup Poll, less than one-third of US workers are engaged in their jobs, regardless of the time of year. With that being said, it is more important than ever for employers to remember that the holiday season can present their employees not only with stress from work (end of year deadlines, reports, etc.), but stress at home as well. Here are some suggestions to keep employees engaged during the holiday season:

Foster the Holiday Spirit! Don’t be a Scrooge…

Create a welcoming atmosphere at work. Encourage employees to socialize and enjoy the season amongst their co-workers. Whether that be during office events, holiday parties, etc., make the workplace a welcoming retreat for employees who may be otherwise stressed out this time of year personally. If your budget allows, invite employees’ significant others (and if your budget doesn’t allow, then explain why, as this can be a detriment – i.e. “my company is cheap”). By making the workplace a positive place (no matter how much work that needs to be done), employees may look to the workplace for an atmosphere of camaraderie and positivity – therefore motivating them to complete their work.

A note regarding holiday parties – I can’t knowingly write this blog without stating that you should make sure that any party is well-planned and well-supervised. If you choose to serve alcohol, ensure that your company’s Drug/Alcohol and Anti-Harassment policies extend to these events, and strictly enforce these policies. We have all heard the horror stories of holiday parties gone awry due to the over consumption of alcohol – make sure yours is not one of them. Ask for sober volunteers to monitor employees’ alcohol consumption and ensure you have a designated driver on hand. Ensure that all of these precautions are communicated to employees in advance so they are not caught off-guard at the party.

If you choose to serve alcohol, ensure that your company’s Drug/Alcohol and Anti-Harassment policies extend to these events, and strictly enforce these policies

To this same note, if an employee chooses not to be a part of any festivity, do not hold it over their heads – be respectful of their culture. It is their choice and they should not be ridiculed or retaliated for it – which leads me to #2…

Deck the Halls! But be inclusive…

During this crazy time, decorating the office can make the workplace a more joyful place to be, if it is feasible for your workplace. You can foster holiday camaraderie among colleagues by sponsoring an office/cube decoration contest, holiday party theme contest, etc. – but proceed with caution. Ensure that employees are aware of the decoration/theme rules and evaluate any results with multiple faiths in mind – and be inclusive. It is likely that not all of your employees celebrate Christmas, for example. Ensure that any decorations are considerate of all faiths so that employees do not feel excluded, and as stated above, ensure that employees are not alienated or ridiculed for their choices.

Ensure that employees are aware of the decoration/theme rules and evaluate any results with multiple faiths in mind – and be inclusive.

Encourage Employee Philanthropy…

If your company has a volunteer or charitable gift matching policy – now is the time to showcase it. Not only does this contribute to the spirit of the holiday season, it shows your employees that you are committed to their causes. Gift your employees with a couple extra hours of volunteer time during work hours, or double the matching gift for contributions made during the holiday season. Whatever you do, employees may feel that you are on their side and sentimental to their cause. If you don’t have one of these policies in place, seriously consider it – now is the best time to roll it out.

Embrace Flexibility…

More and more employers are adopting Workplace Flexibility policies, such as telecommuting and flexible work schedules. This is a key time to remind employees of these policies, if your workplace allows it, and can offer some alleviation to multiple employees requesting the same vacation days. Although not all employers can afford to offer flexible work policies, many employees appreciate flexibility, especially this time of year – for example, to accommodate their children’s holiday school breaks, or simply to get some last minute shopping done to alleviate some stress. Remind employees of any telecommuting or flexible workplace policies – as long as they get their work done. These types of policies can go a long way in fostering employee engagement, not only during the holiday season but all year long, particularly with Millennials in the workforce who crave it.

Keep in mind that any initiatives you take should be in line with your organizational goals and values.

All of these ideas can aid you in keeping your employees engaged during the holiday season, but keep in mind that any initiatives you take should be in line with your organizational goals and values. By embracing camaraderie among colleagues and showing your employees that you care about their personal endeavors, you have the potential to increase engagement and motivation during the holiday season.

This information is provided as a consulting service only.  It is not intended to be and may not be relied upon as legal advice or opinion.  Persons needing specific legal or tax advice should retain the services of legal counsel.

About Sara Ritter

Sara Ritter, M.A, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is a Senior Human Resources Consultant with the Willis Human Capital Practice. Sar…
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