Happy Holiday Season! I hope you’re enjoying the office parties with enthusiasm and reduced stress. A time when vacations are common and work is slow would seem ripe for relaxation – a time for employees to recharge their batteries and reconnect with their roles. If done right, this could gear everyone up to start the next year with a bang.

Unfortunately, the holidays don’t usually play out like that. Blame it on the expenses, blame it on family fights, blame it on the overindulgence of too much food and alcohol. Whatever the reason, ‘tis the season of stress: and for employers, the threat of a wave of notices in January is a major cause of concern. The question of how to maintain employee retention into the New Year is high on the board agenda.

Virgin Pulse’s 2014 survey, aptly titled ‘Tis the Season for Stress, found that a full 70 percent of employees report raised stress levels during the holidays, with over 10 percent responding that their stress levels are between 60 and 100 percent higher than during the rest of the season.

Since workers spend significant amounts of time and energy at their jobs, their organizations have a high impact on their overall health and stress levels. Moreover, high stress can significantly impact an organization’s bottom line. Not only is there a risk of high disengagement, lower productivity, and lower work quality – employee retention depends on health as well.

As such, employers have a vested interest and responsibility to do their part in ensuring employee wellbeing.

64 percent of respondents to Virgin Pulse’s survey said that holiday related stress distracts them at work. A separate study found that 91 percent of employees who have high wellbeing are less likely to leave a job. Clearly, a stressful environment doesn’t help you retain employees.

As the holidays end and the new year begins, the trouble can all come to a head. Employees no longer have the prospect of time off as a buffer between them and their stress. The slowed down attitude of the past couple weeks is suddenly jolted into Q1 pandemonium as everyone goes back to being full steam ahead in their roles. This ungraceful transition can trigger extra stress, creating a recipe for high turnover.

employee dissatisfaction maintain employee retention

So, what can you do to maintain employee retention after the holiday season?

Examine why employees leave their jobs in the first place

The stress of holidays is only the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It’s not the underlying reason why people look for new jobs in the new year.

70 percent of managers think that pay is the primary reason employees leave a business, yet research shows 88 percent of employees actually leave their jobs because of reasons other than pay.

According to strategic planning consultant Leigh Branham, there are seven main reasons why employees leave a company:

  • Employees feel the job or workplace is not what they expected
  • There is a mismatch between the job and person
  • There is too little coaching and feedback
  • There are too few growth and advancement opportunities
  • Employees feel devalued and unrecognized
  • Employees feel stress from overwork and have a work/life imbalance
  • There is a loss of trust and confidence in senior leaders

These are all things that managers should know about their employees. For instance, they know if they are not providing much coaching or employee feedback. If they ask employees about their goals, they’ll also know about a desire for growth and advancement opportunities.

In other words, the first and most important step to increasing employee retention is listening. Your employees will tell you what they need, but you have to provide the opportunity or platform for them to communicate, and then you have to listen to them.

In the new year, make it a priority to have regular two way feedback sessions with employees. Let them know in a clear way what’s expected of them and how they’re measuring up, while at the same time ensuring that they have space to discuss all of their concerns and desires. In fact, don’t just give them the space for that discussion. Actively invite it.

maintain employee retention giving receiving feedback

Make the objective to maintain employee retention a New Year’s resolution

This year, resolve to create a positive and nurturing environment on your team: one that reflects your company values and aligns with your business mission. Commit to creating transparency and opportunity for every one of your workers and to let them know how valuable they are. Make employee retention a defined objective for your organization.

It’s often been said that New Year’s resolutions are much more likely to stick when they are as specific as possible. The same can be said for your professional resolutions. Merely saying that you’ll create a positive team culture in the new year is not the same as implementing policies designed to cultivate that culture.

Training and mentoring programs both help create the type of culture that will help to maintain employee retention. Employees are often looking to further their careers and learn new skills; giving them the tools to do so will be powerful motivation to get them to stay.

Employee appreciation plans are also very important. Your employees work very hard all year round to deliver results and meet goals. They deserve recognition, and 69 percent say they’d work harder if they had it. Create official recognition programs and back these up with unofficial recognition – be it a simple “thanks for that great report” or taking the team out to lunch following a big accomplishment.

Borrow some of that holiday cheer for the rest of the calendar year

Yes, the holidays can bring a lot of stress.. Yet there are lessons to be learned from the festive season.

Celebration, time off or anything that takes some time out of the monotonous work schedule makes it a little more special or fun. Those are important tools to relieve stress, allowing employees to recharge their batteries, engage with the culture of your organization or simply achieve greater work-life balance. Ultimately, these all make everyone happier and more productive.

According to one study, if employees each took just one additional day of vacation in the year, it would save the U.S. economy $73 billion

When employees don’t take any time off, they’re at high risk of burnout. This harms engagement, productivity, and ultimately retention as well. Encouraging employees to take vacation can go a long way to counteracting some of the worst effects of burnout, improving productivity and employee engagement while protecting your organization against high staff turnover and poor morale.

The stress arc maintain employee retention

(Source: Identifying, Preventing, and Treating Employee Burnout Syndrome, LinkedIn)

Even when workers aren’t taking time off, social get togethers such as monthly happy hours can provide a time to recognize your team’s hard work and blow off some steam. This can also help combat burnout.

The holidays: a time of potential, a time of risk

Ultimately, the holidays pose some amount of risk to employers. They can be stressful and push workers to look for new jobs come January. Yet they can also provide a template for stress relief – if you know where to look.

Making resolutions centered around improving office culture, listening to workers, and hanging on to some holiday cheer are all invaluable in combatting turnover. The holidays are, in some ways, what you make of them. This year, make them an opportunity to improve retention by keeping employees happy and healthy.