Eventually, either after that long weekend or in January, we’ll all be returning to work. And in the meantime, there’s still work to be done.
For managers, especially people running SMEs, this is a tricky time of year. There are two ways things can go wrong. Be too much of a hard task master and the staff will feel like Bob Cratchit; resentment is never a component of a productive workplace. Go too far the other way, and festive fever turns the team into Garfield clones leading to productivity falling off.
One way to achieve an appropriate balance is to ask: How can the team have the best Christmas ever?
As they clock off for the final time before their Christmas break, you want them to feel good.
Not just because you all had a fantastic office party, but because they’re entering their Christmas holidays with a sense of pride about what’s been achieved so far; by the company and by them individually and as a team.
Tell them they deserve every bit of a superb holiday, but also set targets for their return. Nothing dramatic, but the targets need to be significant. And importantly, achievable. The message is that they had a brilliant year, and when they return, they will accomplish even more. This way, they take with them a strong sense of personal satisfaction.
For staff working between Christmas and New Year, there is another communication that needs to be made, and you need to consider what could make this period rewarding for both them and the company.
With many other companies closed, normal work may not be possible, but there are opportunities unique to this period in the working year. It can be an ideal time to reflect, plan and prepare projects for the coming year. Or it could be a time to research and experiment.
Prior to breaking up for the Christmas weekend, discuss with your staff what they want to achieve during the days before the New Year. And in the New Year, acknowledge the completion of those tasks.
That brings us to the most important Christmas communication: what you say to staff when they return to work after the Christmas and New Year break.
Read more on the corporate Christmas:
- The 10 most engaging 2015 Christmas adverts from British retailers
- ‘Tis the season to be jolly: The importance of Christmas to UK small firms is unveiled
- Are you among the 54 per cent of Brits that dread the work Christmas party?
Your team should come back rested, energised and with positive anticipation for the New Year.
Don’t squander this. Put as much effort into communicating your vision for the coming year as you did conveying your pre-Christmas message. If you don’t, your team’s enthusiasm and drive will dwindle, and their productivity will slip. Gather your staff together and define the company’s short and long term goals.
During this New Year message, you need to address some key questions: What is the fundamental reason for the company’s existence? Why does it do what it does? How can customer service be boosted and what difference will that make? What is the team’s role in this and how important are they to the company’s success?
Goals for the next three months need to be discussed and defined. Longer goals should also be set, but focusing on targets for the first quarter will mean people are required to take action now in order for there to be another celebration at the end of March.
With the goals defined, there will then need to be a discussion about how this will be achieved. The temptation to state this should be avoided. Instead, have the team determine this. There are two reasons for this: they may come up with better ideas than you; and by coming up with their own ideas and arguing for their implementation, they will have more ownership of those ideas and therefore more commitment to seeing them through.
Andy Williams got it right: Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. We all have the opportunity for a complete pause and a well deserved rest. But be sure to harness the energy that it gives in the New Year and create a fantastic 2016 for you and your team.
Sue Ingram is a speaker and author of ‘Fire Well, how to fire staff so they thank you’ and founder of Converse Well, a training company which provides workshops for managers in how and what to say when managing and firing staff.
Ingram has spent over 27 years working in HR and related fields. In 2000 she became one of the UK’s first executive coaches; she is an honorary teaching fellow at Lancaster University where her workshop forms part of their International MBA program. Her workshop, How to Fire Staff so They Thank You has been delivered to over a 1,000 managers in the both the private and public sectors.
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