With the holidays upon us, businesses everywhere will slow or even come to a lumbering halt of eggnog induced inaction. This is good, and it is bad.
Foremost, it is good. Rare enough are the moments of the year when a general sense of compassion and congeniality prevail over nearly everyone. Good tidings are, well, good. But slow-downs reverberate. Organizational slack in December may cause customer delivery problems in January, parts inventory whiplash in February and a cash crunch in March.
Keeping employees motivated during the holidays is like trying to keep a starving person from thinking about food – the distractions are too powerful to ignore. Because of this, it can seem like a losing battle.
Micrel, a company I ran for 37 years, would shut down for two weeks between Christmas and the New Year. Micrel is not alone in this. So many employees travel during the holidays that having enough hands in the office from December 20th through January 2nd can be impossible.
But the holiday spirit starts on Thanksgiving, in later November (earlier if you are in the retail industry and have to wrestle oversized Santa Clause decorations in the back room before the turkey is even thawed). Keeping employees focused and active from then until the New Year is a battle, but a winnable one.
Here are some ways to motivate employees and keep them focused during the busy holiday season:
1. Remain Passionate About the Mission
If you have done well in identifying and communicating the corporate mission and making it an exciting adventure for all your employees, then this remains your best tool.
In fact, if the work and the mission are engaging enough, holiday activities might come off as being an unwanted distraction to your teams.
The key is not to amp-up the mission. Instead, maintain the cadence of how you communicate and reinforce that the mission is very much worth pursuing. By not letting your employees forget about the common quest, they remain engaged in and excited about it.
2. Differential Bonuses
Some employees must, per their job agreements, work during the holidays. Others do not. Those that do might feel disheartened.
Though many companies pay a “Christmas bonus” to all employees, some only pay to those working the holidays while other companies pay a high bonus rate to employees manning the ship during break. The goal with the differential bonus plan is to keep those most likely to find distractions and express non-glad tidings within the office.
Alternately, do offer those working the holidays some compensatory time off afterwards.
The point is that removing potential negative reactions to holiday work keeps them from dampening the spirts of other employees.
3. Time the Festivities
There will be office snacks, get togethers, carols and parties. These need not disrupt the 9 to 5 work day.
For small team or department-level events, encourage managers to hold them later in the afternoon as people’s energy and focus tends to fade late in the day anyway.
For larger, company-wide events, hold them after hours. Involve as few employees in the preparations as possible. This allows everyone to be festive without taking away from their daily duties.
4. Keep the Spirit
Most of all, keep the spirit within you and your managers year-round. Rewriting Dickens a bit,
“Honor the season in your heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
When your leadership is of good spirit year-round, the holidays become less disruptive for they are the nature of your company. And even if your managers do not keep a holiday attitude from January through November, a proper attitude will keep holiday festivities from becoming an overly tempting distraction.
As Scrooge’s partner wailed,
“Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business.”
Make that what your employees experience in between every paycheck, and you can be distraction free all year long.
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