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How to boost employee engagement during the holidays

Posted by Lauren Ruckheim on December 8, 2015

The holiday season is a time for gift-giving, hot cocoa-sipping, family reunions and of course well-earned time off for employees. While the holiday season brings many joys, it also brings new obstacles for many organizations, the biggest of which is keeping employees engaged and motivated throughout the season.

Research has found that generating employee engagement is one of the biggest obstacles facing businesses today not only during the holiday season but year-round. According to an engagement study by Psychometrics, 69% of employees report that engagement is a problem in their organization.

In addition, LinkedIn has found that employee engagement is the number one topic researched by businesses. In order to retain employees, businesses must create a company culture that nourishes its workers.

Some of the factors impacting engagement during the holidays include working while others have time off, scheduling vacations and increased overtime to compensate for. So the question remains, how can organizations motivate employees and improve morale during the holidays? Below are a few simple and festive ways to improve employee engagement during the holiday season.

Don’t be a Scrooge

While many people do have more time off during the holidays, this does not mean the office culture has to be all work and no play. Creating an office environment that fosters holiday cheer is a great opportunity to show employees that they are a valued member of the team.

According to a survey by the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program, employees who report feeling valued by their employer are 60% more likely to report they are motivated to do their very best for their employer. Therefore rewarding employees with a few simple activities during the holiday season can go a long way.

  • Secret Santa or holiday snow pal: Get your employees interacting with one another by initiating a secret gift-swap game. Assign each employee a coworker to give secret gifts to throughout the holiday season. At the end of the season, businesses can even have a special lunch where workers receive gifts and feel merry.
  • Ugly sweater contest: Pick a day in December and encourage all employees to wear their favorite ugly holiday sweater. Then set aside a time during the day for the entire office to vote on their favorites.
  • Holiday Party: Schedule a holiday party either during or outside of office hours to express your appreciation for your team. There is no better way to boost morale than showing your employees that they are a valued part of a team.
  • Potluck lunch: Mix up the lunch hour by encouraging employees to bring their favorite holiday dish to share and have a casual holiday party during the lunch hour.

Encourage philanthropy

According to the Dale Carnegie Employee Engagement Study, 54% of employees who were proud of their company’s contributions to society were engaged within their company. With this in mind, it is very beneficial for an organization to not only give back to a community, but to include the entire office in activities that aid the community. If your business does not currently participate in philanthropic activities, there is no better time to get the office involved in volunteer activities than the holidays.

The best activities to help boost engagement are those that encourage the office to work together. Therefore, planning a group activity such as volunteering at a food or animal shelter not only does something good for the community but fosters teamwork in the office.

Another great volunteer activity during the holidays is the adopt-a-family program. This program assigns a family in need of assistance during the holidays to the office, the office then works together to buy the family gifts for the holiday season. With this program, the office can work together to contribute different gifts for each family member. To increase engagement even further, offices can plan a present-wrapping day where everyone gets together to wrap the gifts and write cards to the family.

If you aren’t sure what volunteer opportunity would be best for your office, simply talk to your employees and give them a voice as to what they would be interested in doing. This guarantees that the entire office is on board with an activity and enables each member to feel more valued as they are reminded that their voice matters.

Be flexible

Many times during the holidays, employees become unmotivated because their schedules are much busier and it can be harder to manage an effective work-life balance. An easy way to accommodate employees’ busy holiday schedules is to create a flexible work environment when possible. As many employees have to take time off simply to make necessary travel plans, having the ability to work from home can take a lot of pressure off employees during this busy time.

Now many of you may be skeptical thinking that employees won’t be as productive while they are at home. But, many studies have been done to test the effectiveness of working from home and it has been found that at-home workers can actually be more productive than distracted workers in the office.

Nicolas Bloom, cofounder of the travel website Ctrip, did an experiment with his employees, allowing a portion of his employees to work from home for nine months while the rest continued to work in the office as the control group in the experiment. The results concluded that in comparison with the employees who came into the office, the at-home workers were not only happier and less likely to quit but also more productive.

Bloom’s response to this experiment: “The results we saw at Ctrip blew me away. Ctrip was thinking that it could save money on space and furniture if people worked from home and that the savings would outweigh the productivity hit it would take when employees left the discipline of the office environment. Instead, we found that people working from home completed 13.5% more calls than the staff in the office did—meaning that Ctrip got almost an extra workday a week out of them. They also quit at half the rate of people in the office—way beyond what we anticipated. And predictably, at-home workers reported much higher job satisfaction.”

While not all businesses are set up to allow employees to work-from-home 100% of the time, allowing employees the flexibility of a couple work from home days can significantly help boost morale as well as help employees accommodate holiday schedules and travels.

Topics: Best Practices

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