Engagement and motivation: Maintaining productivity and happiness in the first quarter 

Maintaining productivity and happiness in the first quarter

Need to know:

  • Following the festive break, employees can return to work demotivated, and determined to look for new challenges elsewhere. 
  • Easing staff in with a welcome event will give them something to look forward to and decrease the difficulty of returning to work in January. 
  • Supporting employees who are trying to look after their health and wellbeing in the new year can ensure they feel valued and motivated. 
  • Using the start of the year to recognise past achievements, while simultaneously building strategy for the months ahead, will ensure employee buy-in. 

It is no surprise that, after the excesses of Christmas, employees may return to work in January demotivated, and perhaps determined to look for fresh challenges, even if these lead them away from their current employer.  

So, how can organisations keep staff motivated and engaged, reducing turnover and ensuring that employees enter the year on a positive footing? 

Ease employees in

Christine Naschberger, associate professor in management at Audencia Business School, states that it is vital to ease employees back into work: “If [employers] put teams under pressure when they return to work, [they] risk losing the benefits of the holidays in just a few days.” 

To ensure that staff do not feel they have been launched straight into an unforgiving period of hard work, organisations might consider holding a new year’s celebration, a welcome breakfast, or various other activities to start the year on the right foot. 

John Attridge, founder and chief executive officer of BBX UK, agrees: “Organising something that people can look forward to is a great way to keep staff engaged and enthusiastic for the year ahead. This will also enhance team morale and colleague relationships, which in turn will encourage them to remain in the business.” 

Support healthy goals

It is important to be in tune with employees’ personal goals. Given the cultural context of festive indulgence and fresh starts in the new year many will be looking to adopt a healthier lifestyle.  

This is something employers can help with as part of a wider effort to make staff feel valued at work, in addition to the benefits that health and wellbeing can bring to motivation and productivity.  

Donna Griffiths, director of HR and employee wellbeing at Westfield Health, says: “In the short-term, introducing exciting new lunchtime activities or training groups, such as exercise sessions or healthy eating seminars, will be something staff can look forward to, and will also provide a refreshing change to the usual daily routine.”  

In the long run, employers need to create a healthy organisational culture, ensuring employees take full lunch hours, and incentivising them to engage in wellbeing-related activities. 

Communicate expectations

Effective communication is essential if employers are to understand their workforce’s needs for the year ahead and keep them motivated.  

Deborah Exell, global head of human capital and business transformation at Getronics, explains: “Get to know what [motivation] means to them personally. Everyone is different and it’s not all about the next step up the career ladder; it can equally be voluntary giving, getting involved in [the organisation’s] cultural initiatives, or changing to flexible working hours.” 

Recognition is vital

The early months are a good time to reflect on the year just gone, highlighting employees’ achievements, says Dawn Smedley, culture and engagement strategist at O.C. Tanner Europe.  

“[Organisations should] get employees thinking about the unique difference they have made, share their stories and get people excited about the year ahead,” she says. “[They could] produce an infographic highlighting moments that stand out, [and] share this with the executive team so that they, too, are reminded what great people they have.” 

This should either be accompanied or followed by laying out plans for 2019; this way, employees are more likely to feel motivated, capable and committed, rather than overwhelmed by expectations for the year ahead.  

“January is an excellent time to keep staff informed of any targets and goals they will be expected to achieve, as well as highlight any [organisational] landmarks, events or significant changes that could impact them,” says Jo Sellick, managing director of Sellick Partnership. “By setting out significant milestones, staff will have the opportunity to get excited about the year ahead or flag any potential areas for concern before they escalate.” 

This is also a good time to remind line managers of the need to show appreciation for the work employees do, and to ensure they remember to do so over the coming year, says Kathryn Kendall, chief people officer at Benefex.  

“The effort of remembering to say ‘thank you’ is minimal,” she explains. “The impact, on the other hand, can be transformational. In the space of two syllables, an employee might have gone from feeling that no one notices the efforts that they’re making, to feeling on top of the world.”