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Don’t Distinguish Holiday Cheer: Keep Employees Engaged and Productive
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There’s no denying that the holiday season throws a wrench in the typical workplace regimen.  Seasonal distractions can become the norm, with holiday parties, end of year celebrations, and even searching for the perfect gift. In fact, online shopping has become so convenient that browsing and buying on the clock has become one of the main reasons for productivity loss during the holidays. In fact, 53 percent of management-level employees are guilty of surfing the web for gifts. But business must go on! Day-to-day operations must be sustained so its important employees are engaged and producing results as normal. Here are some simple tips that might help.

The first thing for managers to consider is honesty. Start by acknowledging that this is a hectic time of year. Schedules are stretched and many employees will be taking time off. Since vacation days are the inevitable, prepare personnel coverage in advance. Often times there are only a few select people that know how to run a particular process. In that case, ensure backup is in place and prepare briefing materials well in advance. Use visuals to capture and share knowledge. Whether it’s a quick how-to video or an annotated presentation, visual communication is a quick and easy way to prepare others for something they may not do regularly.

While excessive time off may seem like a hassle, it also offers an interesting opportunity. Millennial employees have a chance to absorb alternative roles and learn new techniques. Not only will this be encouraging in the short run, but it will also be beneficial to the wider company over time.

For those in the office leading up to the holidays, work can become something of a drag when you know there are other things around you that need to be accomplished. Drafting project proposals while planning family visits isn’t exactly ideal. However, it’s important to continue to make assignments meaningful for your workers. It’s likely that the work hasn’t changed, so reemphasize the goals. For junior level employees specifically, offer perspective on how each assignment influences the company. Maybe take them out to lunch for some added face time, or simply recirculate the key performance indicators for each assignment. When a task is complete, they’ll be more inclined to not only think they crossed something off a list, but to feel as if they contributed something valuable.

The rigidity of a nine-to-five schedule can be tough, no matter the time of year. But schedules are especially difficult to stick to during the holidays. So don’t. Take a page from Google and allow your staff to spend up to 20 percent of their time on projects of their choice. Some guidelines are needed though to ensure attention doesn’t deviate too far from the work environment. Note that office leisure time should actually be spent doing something that generally enhances the company. That’s both to the overall corporate culture, as well as to an individual’s professional development.  While the fun part is attractive, 20 percent time is not about having a mandatory good time. It’s about discovery and reigniting passions, and challenging teams to use the workday for something out of the ordinary. The increased engagement from this approach has proven so successful, that it’s found its way into classrooms in addition to boardrooms.

Be it during 20 percent time or in a normal business meeting, it is important to incorporate visuals and technology where possible. In reality, this should be a part of any company strategy be it the height of summer or the bustling holiday season. Long lists of bullet points will not cut it to keep employees engaged. Instead, create content that is less static and more energizing. Research confirms that retention rises by 400 percent when you add images and/or video to verbal information. Not to mention, visual materials let employees drive the process and gives them more opportunities to participate anytime, anywhere.

So the office must-dos, are complete – now what? Celebrate! It’s too often that businesses get stuck in a strict, office mindset. Don’t let that be the case. Allowing staff to enjoy themselves can increase the amount of focused time, since employees feel motivated to do their best work when there is something to work towards. Maybe let teams out an hour or two early, or join them for Happy Hour. No matter the fete, say thank you. We’re all longing for a bit of down time heading into the New Year. Don’t be afraid to shake up what’s routine until that time comes. As long as you’ve prepared your staff for both instances of deadline and discovery, business will go on successfully. At the end of the day, happy and engaged employees will be the ones to see business through to a place of efficiency and profitability even during the busiest time of year.

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About The Author
Matt Pierce
Matt Pierce is customer engagement manager at TechSmith Corp., a software company that provides practical business and academic solutions that change how people communicate and collaborate across devices. A graduate of Indiana University’s School of Education’s Department of Instructional Systems Technology, Matt has 10 years-experience working in learning and development with a focus on visual instruction. He has directly managed the training and user assistance teams for TechSmith, and has also run its visual communication web show, The Forge, interviewing guests from around the world discussing the use of visuals, video, and technology in education, training, marketing and more. Teach him something @piercemr.
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