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How to avoid the end of season performance slump

It has to be one of the big paradoxes of the business cycle. December is one of the busiest times of the year for many organisations yet, by the middle of the month, with the staff parties over and people absent through a combination of sickness and claiming big chunks of outstanding annual leave, a number of offices I visit have the feel of the Marie Celeste with morale to match.

This loss of momentum in our teams represents a lost opportunity for organisations and one which few can afford to accept given the challenging business climate. So what can we do to fix this end of season slump?

I’d say that we can start by thinking about the way we plan our reward and incentives as well as how we manage people at this time of year. If the staff Christmas event and our reward communications seems to mark the start of the party season and the end of serious work, then we need to rethink how we do things to make sure we keep motivation in the business which will give us momentum into the New Year. Here are some ideas:

1)      Split your investment in reward and recognition:  many organisations put nearly all their investment into the Christmas reward. Change your approach and consider how you can do this through the year so your investment goes further.

 2)      Use end of year reward to keep momentum: the tradition of pre-Christmas reward means employee recognition is delivered before the year is out. Change this and place an emphasis on performance right to the end of the year, rewarding your employees in January when it won’t be lost in the Christmas noise and will have a bigger impact.

3)      It’s tough but….think about the Christmas party: Every organisation needs a celebration but if you work in a competitive environment where Christmas sales count, this can just be a big distraction you don’t need. Be bold, think of a summer barbecue or a party at a time when employees will value it just as much.

4)      Think what you want to get out of the people working up to the wire: For those left in organisations in the week before Christmas and the time between New Year, motivation can ebb away. Talk to managers to set targets for productive activities which can be dealt with in this time. Incentivise your employees, introduce competition and make it fun. You don’t accept that you lose ten good working days for the Christmas holidays.

5)      If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em: One of the trends which has emerged in the last ten years is a European style Christmas shut-down for many businesses. If you are in a sector where your customer are away but your offices still stay open, it may be time to decide that the best way of incentivising your employees in December is to introduce a Christmas shutdown of your own.

Getting the most out of your employees at the end of the year isn’t about being an Ebenezer Scrooge character. It’s about being clear about the performance and outcomes you need from your business at this time and ensuring you put in place the right reward and incentives to help your employees achieve that. Getting it right is in everyone’s interest.

Colin Hodgson is sales director, incentives and motivation, at Edenred