Tis the Season


October 4, 2018

Written by: Leslie Lenser, Chief Human Resources Officer, Belmont University

The holiday season is here and our thoughts are turning to festive gatherings with family and friends, good food, and, face it – time away from work.  During the coming weeks you may find it challenging to keep employees engaged and motivated.  You can fight this seasonal tendency toward distraction or better yet – embrace it!  Why not seize the season and create holiday memories with your team?

In their latest book The Power of Moments (Simon & Schuster) brothers Chip and Dan Heath, business school professors at Stanford and Duke, respectively, take on the task of how to foster memorable moments in life and at work.  They define these as the moments that bring meaning to our lives, the moments we remember when we look back.  Think that is a tall order for work?  Whether your team is located in one office or spread across the country you can start small by inviting them through email or at a staff meeting to share family holiday memories and traditions.  Listen for themes and look for ways to incorporate those same great feelings into your work environment.

Other suggestions to get employees engaged, motivated and connected to their work family while creating those special “moments” include:

  • Planning festive yet simple parties, pot-luck meals and other team events;
  • Participating in some harmless competition – ugly Christmas sweaters, Christmas cookie bake off, etc.;
  • Sending personal Christmas cards with an individualized message to each employee (or as a surprise twist – send it addressed to the employee’s family thanking them for sharing their family member with your organization);
  • Planning a Dirty Santa or White Elephant Gift exchange –you are sure to create laughs and a one of a kind “gift” that may just keep giving year after year;
  • Scheduling a team charity work day serving meals to the homeless, adopting and shopping for a needy family, etc.

Unfortunately the holidays can also be a stressful time so keep things simple.  The last thing we as leaders should do is add stress to the season.  Help stave off stress by:

  • Preparing ahead for employee time off so you’ll be less likely to “interrupt” with e-mails, texts, or calls;
  • Setting delay delivery on e-mail messages you send to employees who are on vacation. (This is for that employee who has trouble unplugging);
  • Keeping performance expectations realistic. There are many competing priorities this time of year both personal and professional.  Ensure the professional items are relevant and deadlines are appropriate;
  • Celebrating wins and mourning misses – preparing and sharing a year in review that highlights what you have accomplished as a team helps bring closure and allows your team to shine together. It also creates a nice format to put losses behind you and set the stage to start the New Year strong.

Whether you start a Secret Santa gift exchange, provide for a needy family, or wear your ugly Christmas sweater, creating your own team traditions will energize your team, enhance employee engagement and make lasting memories that extend beyond your latest deadline or work project.