The post-Christmas slump. The January blues. The winter woes.
Whatever you call it, the first month back at work after the holiday season is when motivation can typically be seen to be lower than usual.
Employees adjust to getting out of bed at a regular time again, or not spending time with their family, and that daily afternoon nap they’ve been enjoying over the festive season is now just a distant memory.
So how can HR managers and leaders help energise the workforce and motivate your people during January?
Firstly, it’s worth recognising that it might not just be the time of year that’s demotivating your staff.
Now is a good time to reconnect with all employees and look at how you create great workforce experiences for your people at all times of the year.
People aren’t a resource. They’re individuals with different motivations, interests and talents.
Companies need to understand these drivers so they can design positive workforce experiences that employees actually want.
In our Why your workforce isn’t working research report, for example, fringe benefits such as games in the office, free food and company outings were deemed less important to employees than managers originally thought.
So, whether it’s just the winter woes or something more underlying, here are our six tips for energising and engaging with your employees, and getting they year off to a strong start for your business.
Here’s what we cover in this article:
- 1. Ask your employees what they want
- 2. Break up work into bite-sized chunks
- 3. Give recognition and rewards
- 4. Get social
- 5. Book in professional development
- 6. Offer later start times
- Don’t just think about engagement in January
1. Ask your employees what they want
This might seem obvious but in our ‘Why your workforce isn’t working’ research report, almost half (47%) of respondents said that they have never been asked by their employer how they can improve their working experience.
And before you say ‘annual survey’, respondents were pretty scathing of the annual employee survey – with 20% saying it was of no benefit to them and neither was it seen as a catalyst for change in the business.
So, banish the January Blues by improving communication and feedback between the workforce and management team, and let the employees voice their needs and preferences.
Encourage team leaders and managers to speak with their teams during the first week back and get them to ask their staff what would motivate them or help them feel more engaged?
An employee might want more training, to refocus role tasks or goals, or to be involved in a different project.
2. Break up work into bite-sized chunks
The back-to-work-blues are likely to increase procrastination for employees, particularly those prone to a lack of focus at the best of times, so encourage managers to help employees set attainable goals for the new year.
Have them break up larger tasks into smaller, more achievable goals.
Get employees working on several smaller tasks rather than one large project.
It will be much less daunting and will allow employees to cross off more on their to-do lists, which will boost productivity and increase motivation.
3. Give recognition and rewards
Employees like to know that their work is making a difference and that managers value their contributions.
If your employees know they are appreciated, they are more likely to be committed to the company’s goals and be more productive.
Find a way to acknowledge and give recognition to employees early in the new year. Don’t wait for the annual appraisal.
Acknowledging employees for a job they have done well that week or month, will make them feel valued and encourages them to continue doing what they do effectively.
Simply saying thank you can go a long way and have an overwhelming effect on employee engagement and productivity.
4. Get social
For most people, both the run up to Christmas and the holiday break itself will have been full of social activities and get-togethers with colleagues, friends and family, so January can feel very empty.
To help generate some energy in the office, you need something for employees to look forward to that will be fun.
Why not organise a social event in January, such as a virtual charity quiz night, or a team-building away day.
An extended lunch break on a Friday afternoon will generate excitement among staff and create a feel-good factor across the business.
Individual managers can decide how they use the extended lunch break within their teams, asking for suggestions so employees feel engaged and valued.
5. Book in professional development
Discussing employees’ training and learning opportunities after the holiday season will refocus their attention on their work and get them motivated after the Christmas excitement has died down.
Consider offering a professional development day or online training course early on in the new year.
6. Offer later start times
Adjusting to the early mornings after the lovely lazy Christmas break can be a shock to the system for some employees, especially Gen Z.
So consider offering flexible start and finish times for the first week back for all staff.
Just acknowledging that January is a tough month for staff to be back at work will make employees feel valued; and if they have the option to start a little later, it could make a big difference to their motivation and energy levels.
Allow staff to have a three-day weekend for the first fortnight back.
Don’t just think about engagement in January
Employee engagement and creating great workforce experiences which really drive your people isn’t just a January-only issue, however.
If you’re serious about driving your business, then you need to ask yourself: are you truly a People Company? This is an organization which puts its people at the heart of what it does.
People Companies know that nurturing their people is critical to growth.
They let their employees know how valued and important they are to success – in actions as well as in words. This is reflected in how their employees feel about the company, and the output of their work.
Every month of the year.
Editor’s note: This article was first published in January 2021 and has been updated for relevance
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