Managing Through the Holidays: Five Tips to Remember

iStock_000018364842XSmallBy Jenny Chen (Washington, DC)

We’ve now passed Thanksgiving – which means the holidays are right around the corner. And when sugarplums are dancing in your employees’ heads come the holiday season, it can be hard for work to compete. An Accountemps survey published last year revealed that one-third of senior managers surveyed said their employees are less productive the week before a major holiday – and this season is full of them!

At the same time, this is the busiest time of year for most firms whose clients are clamoring to meet year-end goals. Here are five ways managers can get their people to produce top results through the holidays.

1. Offsite Output. What with gifts to buy and wrap, feasts to prepare, and family members to entertain, know that your employees have a lot on their mind. They may be thinking about the turkey in the oven at home or wishing they could run errands instead of running spreadsheets. Offering employees a virtual telecommuting option during the holidays often eases the stress of wanting to be at two places at once. Timothy O’Rourke, President and CEO of Matthews Young, a management consulting company in North Carolina said this tactic has worked for him. “We’re set up to work virtually almost anywhere…so people can work when they need to.” O’Rourke says that the proof is in the pudding – he has had an almost 0% employee turnover rate since he has taken over the company and instituted this more flexible approach.

2. Stay connected. With all the hustle and bustle, make sure that you stay in tune with your employees’ projects and the challenges they may be facing. Parbati Bhattacharya, owner of Westrock Capital Management, Inc. and adjunct professor of Technology Management at NYU Polytechnic says that while she doesn’t believe in micromanaging, she does make it a priority to check in with employees. “Everything is less stressful that way,” she said. If you have too many junior employees to keep track of, make sure that your senior management team understands the importance of supporting down the ranks as well.

3. Reward hard work. A study published in Performance Improvement Quarterly, indicated significant gains – 22% – in performance due to team based incentives. Traditionally a time for employee bonuses, the holidays are a great time to apply rewards as incentives for hard work. Other ideas for rewards include a simple holiday party to lighten the mood or publishing successes in the company newsletter. But make sure that your holiday parties don’t add to the stress – make sure to keep gift giving simple and sweet.

4. Sprint to the finish line. Goals are always important in effective management, but they are particularly helpful for keep employees motivated and on track at the end of the year. This is also a good time to revisit the larger business goals. Reginald Gardner, author of Corporate Leadership Selection: Impact on American Business, Employees, and Society, notes that developing goals is essential to both the manager and employee for evaluating performance and establishing a plan for continuous development and improvement. Jennifer Jones, Director of Marketing at Right Management adds that reviewing the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility is also a great motivator. “By reiterating an organization’s commitment to its people, clients, community and the role of work in their lives – an organization can help to increase levels of employee engagement,” Jones said.

5. Set an example. Leading by example is one of the most powerful ways to inspire others. Make sure that as a senior manager you are not shopping online, making personal phone calls, or calling in sick. Reiterate to your upper level staff that they are role models for the rest of the company as well.

The holidays take everyone’s minds off of work. According to an ISACA survey, employees spend nearly two full working days (14.4 hours) on average shopping online from a work computer this holiday season. Sick days rise during the holidays, and not always because of the sniffles. But it doesn’t always have to be this way. With understanding, a firm hand, and a clear vision, you can make sure your employees don’t get lost in the snowdrift.