Let’s face it: keeping your workforce engaged during the holidays with ways to increase employee engagement activities is a topic that is top of mind for many managers. Between consumer events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday and considerable levels of anticipation and anxiety around coordinating travel, the productivity decline your workforce likely experiences throughout December stems from a perfect storm of social, financial, and business-related stressors that appear like clockwork at the end of each year.
As the holidays kick into high-gear, family-related obligations lead to an influx of time off requests across entire organizations. This causes projects to slow, or in some cases grind to a halt, and often places a burden on managers to produce the same output or better with significantly less staff members on-call.
For employees who decide to power through, absenteeism and low morale can become rampant. Some employees may physically show up to work, but their mind remains preoccupied with holiday shopping or related personal issues. In addition, the stress of meeting end-of-year sales or performance goals may cause some employees to buckle and burn out under pressure.
Luckily, there are many ways to keep employee engagement high, and your workforce rested and fulfilled throughout this particularly hectic holiday season. To help brainstorm what incentives might work for your business, we’ve compiled a few of our favorite tactics that have worked for other companies, particularly those with dispersed or primarily non-desk workforces.
1. How to increase employee engagement: host a festive employee off-site or remote event later in December.
Being stuck in the office for longer hours, especially when the sun sets earlier and the temperature drops, can certainly affect employee morale. Think of your annual holiday party as a crucial employee engagement opportunity to motivate your employees to stay the course until the holiday break. It’s also a perfect occasion to recognize their work and role in your company over the past year. With 54% of employees beginning to lose focus by mid-December, hosting the festivities later in the month not only gives them a tangible thing to work towards and look forward to, it delays the onset of holiday distraction.
One great way to instill a holiday season mood boost is to host a daytime off-site event where employees are treated to a nice meal and a fun activity. For non-desk or dispersed workforces in which many employees don’t get to directly interface with their colleagues every day, throwing an event where employees can socialize in a more laid-back context helps build trust and camaraderie throughout your company, which is how to increase employee engagement.
A great example of how this incentive worked for a dispersed workforce is LessAccounting.com, an accounting software provider. To help bring together employees in six different time zones, the executive staff throws a party at a time where all their employees can meet in a video chat. They shop online together to buy each team member a gift while enjoying food and refreshments. Co-founder Allan Branch told Entrepreneur.com, “We have no water cooler. It is really easy to have a whole bunch of strangers who do not interact at all.” With this remote event approach, the gifting activity is gamified so that each gift recipient has to put their microphone on mute when the team is discussing what gift they should get for them.
2. Strategies to increase employee engagement: reward great performance with extra time off
Every holiday season, a few true-blue staffers may exhibit particular performance excellence during the holiday season, despite all the readily available distractions. While it may seem like these are the employees you will need to worry least about during the winter months, the reality is that the threat of burnout is real. The last thing you want is for your very best employees to suddenly find themselves losing sleep and neglecting to take care of themselves in the interest of compensating for team member absence during the holidays.
At the start of the holiday season, make it known that those who display exemplary levels of fortitude and leadership during the difficult winter months have the potential to be rewarded with bonus days off, redeemable in the Spring once things slow down.
For parents of kids with spring break and employees wishing to save their vacation for when the temperature begins to rise, this could be a great way to make sure that a healthy population of your employees will remain steadfast and focused through the end of the year. This is why strategies to increase employee engagement are so important.
3. Offer incentives for working less-desirable shifts, and ensure employees that work them are recognized, as ways to increase employee engagement
Within service-based industries, working through the holidays often becomes a somewhat obligatory reality of the job. In fact, the holidays often constitute the busiest season of the year for hospitality businesses. To ensure that you will have sufficient staff coverage during the less-desirable shift times, it can be advantageous to get creative with rewards. After all, while paying time and a half on official holidays is a great way to acknowledge an employee’s dedication on days normally reserved for family, there are plenty of other days leading up to the holiday that will require just as much coverage.
With an operational communication platform, you can post pictures, videos, and stories that highlight the contribution of these dedicated employees during the busy holiday season. Host a contest for most festive workplace attire, or best calm response in a stressful service situation, and poll your workforce to vote on their favorite or most compelling story that exemplifies your company’s core values. Employee engagement initiatives such as these will keep your better workforce connected and committed to continuing to give their best in spite of the season’s ample diversions.
4. Distribute personalized bonuses or recognition awards to sustain employee engagement
Rewards mean far more when they’re personalized for each employee. While giving out holiday bonuses is customary in many industries, digital survey tools can help managers give their individual employees a bonus that truly reflects their individual preferences and needs. This can range from giving gift certificates to a favorite restaurant, or a gift certificate pertaining to their hobby of choice. This knowledge provides a deeper awareness of the types of rewards your employees will actually enjoy. Tickets to a baseball game may appeal to some, while others prefer a gift card to their favorite restaurant. Adding that extra personal touch will make the experience memorable.
5. Encourage more creative projects, and provide stress-relief services in the office
The month of December is stressful for a variety of reasons due to familial obligations, events, gifting, and meeting annual sales or performance targets. Given the pressures of delivering on year-end goals and fulfilling personal holiday obligations, your employees are under a heightened level of stress during the season.
There are many ways to help alleviate this, but the most important aspect of this strategy is to communicate clearly through your actions that you care about your employees from a holistic perspective, not just the aspects of wellness that pertain directly to their day to day tasks. Posting wellness tips and resources such as stretching or meditation videos in an operational communication platform leading up to, during, and after the holidays is a great way to make sure self-care is a priority for your workforce during this time.
Corporate health programs are a popular way of keeping employees healthy and engaged at the same time. Jeremy Smith, co-founder & COO of on-demand parking startup SpotHero brings in yoga and meditation specialists to the office during holiday season to help employees relax. He told CIO.com, “Having someone come to the office makes it very easy for employees to take a break from their busy schedules and find a moment to relax.”
6. Give out holiday friends and family gift cards, discounts, or access passes
If you run a service-based or retail business, one cost-effective way to show gratitude to your employees is to issue friends and family gift cards that team members can then give to their loved ones over the holidays. Giving your employees the chance to share your services with their friends and family helps instill a sense of pride and a boost in morale during the hectic holiday season.
Disney employees at all levels benefit from deep holiday discounts and extra theme park passes during the Christmas season. As former Epcot greeter Heather Sliwinski reported to Business Insider, “Disney treats their cast members very well — we got additional family and friends park passes for the holidays, extra discounts on merchandise and food,” Sliwinski said. “I was able to have my parents come visit before Christmas because they provided extra guest tickets. It was really nice!”