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Stay Off the Naughty List: How Employers Can Foster Top Performance
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The holiday season, while being a time to enjoy the company of family and friends, can also be a stressful time of year. Between decorating the house, buying presents and attending endless social events, many people barely have time to think during the month of December. In some cases, an individual’s job may take a back seat to everything else going on, and an employer may not see an employee giving 100 percent again until after the New Year.

Productivity and top performance concerns are an issue all year long, but these issues tend to peak during cultural events and particularly during the holiday season. The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is both a time where companies are wrapping up projects for the year and looking ahead for business plans and strategies in the New Year. But if employee productivity is down, 2014 could end with a thud and you could stumble into 2015 with no real execution plan in place.

So how can employers ensure that productivity stays high during and after the holidays, while also being cognizant that employees have many other things on their mind this time of year? The answer lies in both offering flexibility and fostering a year-round engaged workplace.

Get Flexible, Stay Mobile

Regardless of any restrictions in the workplace, many employees will use company time in December to plan for their social engagements and online shop to avoid the weekend in-store rush. This takes away from the company’s output and from each employee’s productivity. However, a healthy alternative is providing mobile access to the work environment, giving employees the ability to manage their day and their work, while accommodating their needs around holiday planning. By enabling people to be successful while remote, employees will appreciate the flexibility and, in turn, will feel the need to work harder to meet their December deadlines and goals.

A flexible workplace is something that improves productivity all year, so during a time of the year where employees need additional hours to manage their personal lives, this is as crucial as ever.

Fix the Leak (before it happens)

Another productivity hack which could increase top performance that comes in handy during the holidays is having an engaged workforce year-round. Programs for engaging your workforce should not be implemented in December and be expected to work during the one month of the year you think productivity is going to drop. Rather, instituting a strategy of constant enablement provides the engagement needed so people feel empowered to do their best every day.  Providing real-time information and mentoring helps employees perform and empowers them to make smart decisions.  Trusting people with one of the greatest company assets – information – is one of the most powerful things you can do.

We saw several tactics from our customers this year that were effective in engaging employees while still supporting them in getting the job done. Besides organizing events like monthly happy hours, World Cup viewing parties, and gatherings to celebrate “national” days such as National Cupcake Day and National Hot Dog Day, consider providing a platform or ‘watering hole’ where people can access or be ‘pushed’ information to foster a sense of community and help them do their jobs the absolute best way possible.

As an offshoot of these year-round events, recognizing employees’ hard work through company awards is also a great way to keep employees engaged. Keep in mind that awards should only go to the best performers, which will provide another incentive for employees to perform at optimal levels on an everyday basis.

If done properly, the cost for these tactics can be minimal, and the benefits will be invaluable when your productivity levels stay stable, or even possibly rise. Building this support and rapport throughout the year creates an environment in December where, although employees feel stretched due to their personal obligations and may seem less productive, they may stay late one or two nights, or manage their time more effectively in order to get their work done in a timely matter. Engaged employees are more likely to go the extra mile, and during the holidays when many team members may take additional vacation days, those that are left in the office can feel empowered to pick up the extra work because they feel valued and are committed to the company’s vision and goals.

Respect the Holiday

The holiday season without fail brings time off requests. Whether your company is giving staff time off or not, expect team members to cash in on those hard earned vacation days across the board. With that, there is no reason that staffing gaps need to cause major productivity issues, especially since they happen every year and there is plenty of time to prepare.

There are a few simple procedures companies can put in place to ensure the staffing drop off does not bring all work to a screeching halt. Establish relationships and processes to allow people to back one another up.  Redundancy, in this case, is a great thing. Systems can then be put in place for emergencies and companies can create “on-call” teams for those last minutes tasks.

In addition, try not to create anxiety for employees who are planning to take time off. The holidays can create enough stress alone, and adding to it can lead to a resentful workforce counting down the minutes until they can walk out the door.

Wrapping Up

In spite of all a company does, productivity may inevitably go down in some form during the holidays, and this means your top performance of course. What is important to remember is how to plan for and avoid the productivity loss, being mindful of employees’ personal obligations and giving them the flexibility to continue performing well at work. Fostering a committed, engaged workforce throughout the year will help negate any productivity concerns an employer may have during the holidays.

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About The Author
Mal Poulin
Mal Poulin is Senior Director of Product Strategy at ANCILE Solutions. He has more than 30 years of experience in educational management, ranging from single-site supervision to global business development and support.

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