The holidays always seem to be a good time for reflection and introspection. What’s working, what’s not, resolutions made, gifts given and gifts received. When it comes to the relationships you’ve forged with your employees, the holidays present the opportunity to re-engage them as a vital part of this year’s success as well as what you hope to accomplish going forward.
Many people suffer from the “holiday blues,” whether it’s from seasonal bills, crowded malls, the insane traffic or troubling news about a sick loved one. Stats from the American Psychological Association show that 7 in 10 of us are stressed during the holidays because of a perceived lack of time, and the same percentage are stressed by a perceived lack of money. Half of us are stressed by gift-giving.
Don’t think for a minute that your employees leave this depression at home. It’s with them at work and can affect their productivity and the work you’re trying to finish up. Employees can be more sensitive to negative workplace conditions at this time of the year and may have even thought of moving on to different employment in the new year. You can help your employees – and help yourself, by being understanding of these situations and offering solutions rather than just admonitions.
So with only a few days left in the old year, take a few minutes to consider three things you can do to strengthen this relationship and build employee engagement. You may not have time to get to these items before the winter break, but at least be aware of them and think about what you might do in 2014.
1. Be Considerate of What Your Hotline Captures
With the end-of-year rush and outside pressures, employees may be reaching a breaking point. They may go one of two ways: either not submitting reports through your hotline because of the time crunch or a “wait till next year” feeling; or contacting the hotline about every issue – real or perceived – that they encounter. It’s akin to what Business Management Daily calls “full hearts, empty desks.” Encourage and applaud the employees for speaking up, no matter how small the grievance may seem, and be prepared to redirect them to other resources more relevant to the matter at hand. (An aside: make sure these alternative resources are also prepared!) When the situation applies, have a manager and/or HR reps talk one-on-one with the employee and get the whole story from them. The issue may stem from something personal going on with them rather than a true work related matter. (But take care never to trivialize their concerns or attempt to delay action when it’s called for.)
2. Restate Your Commitment to Your Workforce and Your Ethics and Compliance Efforts
Have you recently sent out end-of-year messages to your employees? If so, did you remember to talk about their personal safety and wellbeing? Did you offer up your EAP resources to help deal with holiday pressures? It might be appealing (even encouraged) to cut a few corners to meet annual goals, but have you reminded your higher-risk employees to remain true to your corporate ethics policies as they work to win that last deal? As you look toward 2014, make ethics and compliance part of your New Year’s messages. Don’t just tell them to be ethical, but instead tell them why they should follow your policies and how it can positively influence ongoing business. Instead of just telling them your goals and objectives, tell them how you will train them and be specific about the state of the business and its affairs. Remind them that you need them to speak up, to use the ethics hotline to report any concerns, and that they will be protected in doing so.
3. Don’t Just Listen “To” Your Employees… Listen “Through” Them
Much like the wish for “peace on earth, goodwill to men,” this last item is the one to remember and really work toward. It seems the easiest, but in actuality, it’s the most difficult. You engage your employees by helping them be part of the culture and to know that their voice matters. Your communications and training lead the charge here, but you might also consider frequent employee surveys on specific topics (rather than the ubiquitous employee satisfaction survey) to gauge their understanding and application of things like your anti-bribery and anti-harassment policies, your process improvements, corporate social media activity, workplace safety matters, etc. When employees do talk to you about their concerns, by all means, listen! Whether in a face-to-face conversation or an anonymous hotline report, ask that last question, “Is there anything else you want to discuss” It’s all about having and putting forth an empathetic attitude that says you care about who the person is as much as about what they do for you.
Integrity, collaboration, and trust are about the best gifts you could ever give your employees. In return, their gift to you will be better compliance and better results.