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How to engage staff at Christmas

The subject of 'engagement' has certainly been rising up the corporate agenda and is set to be a key factor in performance in 2011.

The weeks leading up to Christmas, and those first few days in the New Year, are such an important period for engagement that, if utilised effectively, they could reap real performance returns in the twelve months ahead.

Now is the time to start the thinking and plan the reward process. Key questions are

  • What can I do for my employees that will help to ensure they return in the New Year engaged, motivated and positive to deliver the performance to drive our business forward?
  • Should we show special appreciation for commitment and loyalty? If so, what rewards and what criteria should apply?

Also for many the Christmas period is a time when rewards are paid out to fulfil a long-term planned incentive programme. Many organsations are looking to improve the integration of all their reward & recognition programmes and align them. Together, if managed effectively, these schemes can also help the engagement process. This is especially true if they are linked to the communication. The act of saying ‘thank you’ is a very important activity but is often not delivered in a way that maximises the motivational, engagement or performance returns.

How to maximise engagement this Christmas and for the start of next year

  • Plan now and ensure you have clearly define objectives
  • Develop an action plan for the beginning of 2011. Think about how many days of productivity and performance are typically lost during January when days are short and dark; it’s cold and pay day a long way away. Consider actions that could engage and motivate people quickly in the New Year.
  • Consider splitting any reward appreciation process, paying part before and part after Christmas. Imagine the impact a little reward or gift post Christmas, accompanied by a motivating message, could make on performance.
  • For maximum effect, this reward should be accompanied early in the New Year by a motivating communication from senior management, looking forward to the year ahead.
  • The Christmas period is an opportunity to involve and trust your employees, particularly through any communication that reflects on the year just gone and the aspirations and priorities for the year ahead. Be honest with your employees and use language that they can believe against core values.
  • For many people the act of appreciation in itself can be motivating enough, if delivered sincerely and effectively. However at Christmas many expect a financial thank you. The right reward and communication can be a powerful engagement and motivational force for good performance in the New Year.
  • Plan the reward and communication process carefully and ensure consistency through all contact points. Who will present it? How will it be presented? What is the communication from the top? How is this reinforced and delivered by the local management? Often good intentions or messages can be lost through management channels.
  • What are the messages to be communicated – generally and to specific individuals? Perhaps remind them of the highlights of this year and excite them about the future.
  • Consider early what reward would be appreciated most by the target recipients. Maybe conduct some informal research.
  • Look at the various appreciation options and what is on offer. Cash or voucher? Gift cards and vouchers provide multiple motivational impact points that can spread into the New Year. Of course reward cards can be topped up into the New Year and provide an opportunity to remind staff of you.
  • Consider whether the gift selected or reward process can be tied into a theme that could be extended early next year.

We have to build engagement to increase performance. Incentives, rewards and

communications, both before and after Christmas, can significantly contribute to both, if planned and implemented carefully.

Andy Philpott, director, Edenred