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Becki Hall

Becki Hall  ·  6 min read

‘Tis the season’ to re-engage: 5 ways to use the festive season to motivate your staff

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas: but as the decorations go up, staff motivation and morale can start slipping. Here’s how to use the season to your advantage and get employees re-engaged.

holiday season christmas cookies

As the holiday season gets firmly underway, some of the HR red flags inevitably begin to go up among our staff.

It’s a time of year when we reflect and take stock on what’s happened throughout the year; creating itchy feet among those looking for a fresh challenge. Minds are more likely to be focused on gift lists and impending family gatherings than sales targets or end-of-year goals. How many of your staff were sneaking a peek on Amazon’s Black Friday deals, rather than pursing that new prospect?

There’s also a decided shift towards shorter days and darker commutes, triggering a rise in Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD) – a form of seasonal depression. Research shows our staff are also likely to be exercising less, consuming more alcohol, and reporting higher levels of stress.

Ironically, it’s also a time when organizations are feeling the pressure to reach those all-important targets, the rush and busy-busy pace of building up to the end of the year. Keeping staff on the ball is critical. So, how can we keep morale and motivation up towards the end of the year?

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Ahead of the curve: New Year is too late

First of all, we need to take action now. While January is typically regarded as the month for mass exodus, when staff embrace a ‘new year, new me’ mindset and shop the job market, many make that decision before the ball drops on New Year’s Eve.

Making sure staff go off for their holiday break with a positive last impression, therefore, can make the difference between back-to-work blues triggering turnover, or returning staff feeling positive about a fresh year in the business.

Tapping into the festivities and leveraging the buzz of the holiday season can help ensure your business ends the year with a bang – the right sort of bang. Here’s some ideas to try.

#1: Celebrate business achievements from over the course of the year

Reminding staff of what they’ve contributed towards achieving can be a powerful way to instil that sense of fulfilment, accomplishment, and worth. Shout about the significant positive events of the year from across the business. Try and include the different departments or areas of the business – and don’t neglect those outside the office.

Notting Hill Genesis takes a truly creative approach to showcasing the milestones of the business throughout the year in the form of an interactive advent calendar. Counting down the 12 days of Christmas, the advent calendar features on their intranet and uses a graphic, sliced into 12 pieces and placed into a table.

Each day, one of the 12 pieces is replaced with an open door that reveals a business highlight from over the course of the year. Staff can click on the image to link to a story about the achievement.

Notting Hill Genesis intranet Christmas advent calendar

To ensure representation from across the business, the NHG comms team runs a campaign among staff to get suggestions for inclusion alongside the big corporate milestones. It proved hugely popular in 2017, with staff logging in daily to check the next door opening. The team is excited to roll it out again this year.

#2: Make it a season of goodwill

Getting staff engaged in a charitable cause in the lead up to Christmas not only shows your commitment to CSR: it will help create positive feeling among staff towards your organization as a force for good in the community.

We’ve seen a surge in non-profit campaigns in recent years, so there are plenty for you to choose from. Consider participating in Christmas Jumper Day, which takes place on 14th December for Save The Children – or perhaps nominate a local cause of your choice to put those dollars towards. At Interact, we’ll be putting our donations to Wood Street Mission, who help and support local children and families in need throughout Manchester in the UK.

Christmas jumpers for charity

With many households struggling to make ends meet at this time of year, there are many causes that will take Christmas Boxes, spare gifts, or simply food items to distribute among those in need. Soup kitchens and food banks see a surge in demand, welcoming contributions or volunteers. Why not make a day of it at your local shelter, or club staff together to create a gift box for a child?

retaining staff
eBook

7 useful tips for retaining your employees

Download this useful eBook and discover ways of banishing the job-hopping attitude and re-engage employees who may be considering a new start.

#3: Get festive

Tap into the feeling of excitement and get everyone in the festive spirit to boost morale and show staff your fun side. There are a multitude of ways to introduce festivities into the workplace: whether by decorating the office, doing a holiday bake-off, or even simply getting those Christmas classics on the radio.

However, it’s this approach by Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust that we love: for its inclusivity by bringing festive cheer to all employees in a creative and visual way, no matter where they work.

WWL NHS_Wally_Winter wellbeing

Designed to coincide with the Trust’s Winter Wellbeing campaign, the Trust’s intranet ‘Wally’ has had a seasonal makeover to transform the platform into a winter wonderland. The intranet’s much-loved mascot, Wally the Walrus, is donning a Christmas jumper of his own, while a countdown clock on the homepage keeps time down to the big day.

Wrightington, Wigan and Legih NHS Foundation Trust intranet mascot Wally

The Trust also has its own advent calendar: but for a more fun twist, each day will link to a new competition, freebie, fun activity or fun video. Staff trying to sneak ahead of the game will be greeted by an elf deterring them until the allocated day for opening.

WWL NHS_Wally_Advent_Calendar

It’s a light-hearted and fun way to engage staff, get them onto the intranet and feeling like a part of the festivities – even if they’re based out in the community or away from the Trust’s main hospital sites.

#4: Recognize individual contributions

Take the celebrations one step further than your corporate successes and recognize those individuals in the business who have played a role in getting you there.

End of year awards, ceremonies, Employee of the Year nominations, token gifts or simply a virtual round-up saying ‘thank you’ can all be powerful tools to boost morale and make both individuals and teams feel appreciated.

Take care to avoid elitism or simply singling out the top performers. Every organization has its unsung heroes, often operating behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly. What’s more, some public nomination or shortlisting approaches to recognition can have an adverse effect: if there are going to be just one or two winners, there are inevitably going to be some disappointed losers in the mix.

This was a challenge facing MidPen Housing, who had a previous internal recognition program that was failing to deliver results. Staff fed back a few complaints:

– Nominations were anonymous, countering the goal of publicly recognizing employees
– Fewer than 1% of employees were acknowledged through the program each year
– The selection of five annual winners meant 15 employees publicly lost during an all-staff meeting, which is supposed to be a time of celebration for everyone
– If an employee’s nomination wasn’t included in the vote, they felt discouraged and were reluctant to take the time to submit another nomination in the future

The non-profit housing developer and manager took the decision to overhaul their recognition program, utilizing the in-built rewards feature on their intranet. Now, 94% of employees have received recognition, compared to the previous 1%: ensuring those individuals from throughout the organization feel their work is appreciated.

MidPen Housing intranet rewards keys

In a similar vein, last year Interact took the decision to move from a single Employee of the Year, to requesting a nominee from every department in the business. This enabled line managers to single out staff who may previously have been overlooked, with each winner receiving a surprise gift card in time for the holiday season.

retaining staff
eBook

7 useful tips for retaining your employees

Download this useful eBook and discover ways of banishing the job-hopping attitude and re-engage employees who may be considering a new start.

#5: Introduce an element of gamification or competition

If hitting end-of-year goals is your most pressing objective, using a seasonal twist on the fail-safe internal competition could be a great way to get staff motivated.

One of our favourite examples is the Yankee Gift Swap, made famous by The Office. More informally dubbed ‘Dirty Santa’, it plays on the tradition of Secret Santa: but with an unexpected twist.

Christmas gifts secret Santa exchange

Individuals hitting a pre-determined goal – such as a sale amount, or perhaps a volume of support tickets resolved – open a gift purchased by management. After the first gift is opened, anyone else hitting their goal can choose to open a new gift or steal one that has already been unwrapped by a colleague. For an injection of humour and to raise the swapping stakes, some organizations choose to include one or two ‘dud’ gifts that push staff to hit another goal in a bid to swap over.

Writing for TechnologyAdvice.com, VP of Sales at Voices.com reported a 50% increase in larger than average deals at the close of the year after adopting this creative approach. Who doesn’t love being able to present swap?

Embrace the holidays

There can be a perception of the end-of-year season serving as an excuse for reduced productivity and an increase in non-work activities seeping into work hours.

While there’s an understandable tendency for management to err on the side of caution and curb the frolicking, it may be counterproductive. When staff feel positive, engaged, and happy in their place of work, motivation and productivity sour. Embracing the holidays and putting in place some seasonal activities, even if they officially cut into work time, can actually boost output – and retention, come the New Year.

As our examples show, it doesn’t necessarily have to be an all-or-nothing approach. Even small gestures can make a marked difference. Whether it’s letting staff go an hour early on the last day and getting some holiday-flavoured coffee in the staff kitchen, giving a little this Christmas can reap rewards.

retaining staff
eBook

7 useful tips for retaining your employees

Download this useful eBook and discover ways of banishing the job-hopping attitude and re-engage employees who may be considering a new start.

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