How SMEs can keep staff motivated as the end of the year approaches

motivated staff
Happy Girl Spending Christmas Holiday at the Office

1. Keep track of goals…and set new ones

The end of the year can be a great time to reflect on successes as well as areas that could be improved. Just because there are more festivities in the holiday period, it doesn’t mean your OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) / goals are put to the side. Senior managers should have a one-on-one with their staff to check in on what they want to achieve before the year’s end. Set a clear pathway to how those ambitions can be made possible, and ask your staff to hold themselves accountable, even if that means setting aside a dedicated weekly time where everyone reflects and shares their progress. It can be a big motivation to tie up loose ends before the start of the new year but encourage everyone to set at least one blue-sky thinking goal they want to achieve next. This means after the festive season, everyone can hit the ground running with a clear motivating force behind them.

2. Be proactive about leave requests

Often, a motivating factor for staff to give it their all is the upcoming holiday. Knowing they’ll be able to relax and recharge soon is a goal to work hard for. Ask your team to submit any leave requests for the holiday period early, and be proactive in acknowledging them. The sooner people can make plans, the sooner they’ll be excited to tick off their end of year tasks. If a leave request isn’t viable, be clear as to why and compromise to find another time. Make sure you set clear expectations of your staff whilst they’re on leave – that could be the odd phone or email, or you might need to request that they go completely offline.

3. Consider non-monetary incentives

Monetary incentive schemes can sometimes cause more stress than they do motivation. When workers know they’re too far from their goal, there’s a tendency to give up – while those that are close to succeeding can become too highly strung. Replacing a monetary incentive with a team experience day can motivate staff to collectively achieve OKRs and goals by getting rewarded with a fun activity. Think something like sky-diving or a cooking class – an experience that will bring everyone closer together while leaving a lasting impression far greater than a Christmas bonus pay packet.

4. Be respectful of other people’s time

It’s common practice to wrap up any outstanding tasks or projects by the end of the year and typically, there’s a rush to do so. People get busier as the holidays approach, so be mindful and respectful of other people’s time. Make your expectations clear when it comes to deadlines and aim to give your team as much warning as possible to complete tasks. The more you communicate, the easier it is for everyone to manage workload and stay motivated, while remaining calm during a chaotic season.

5. Have fun

It sounds cheesy, but the festive season is meant to be festive. Making an effort – no matter how big or small – to bring some joy to the office goes a long way. Organise something like a Kris Kringle to bring your team together or deck the office halls in some tinsel. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but making small gestures to acknowledge the upcoming holidays can generate a buzz and motivate everyone to see the year off with a bang. At the same time, Christmas can be tough for people who are missing loved ones, struggling financially, or simply not vibing the Christmas spirit, so be mindful of others’ emotions and show a little kindness.

Alex Hattingh, Chief People Officer, Employment Hero