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Keeping employees motivated at the end of the year

Motivation is an essential element of success but can be difficult to maintain at the end of the year. Learn how to keep your team motivated!
Kerrie-Anne Chinn, Content & Editorial Manager

Are you counting down the days until your annual leave? It’s most likely that your employees and colleagues are feeling the same way, now that the end of the work year is clearly in sight! As we move into December, it can be hard to keep employees motivated in the final weeks of the year – but rather than ignore the issue, why not choose to tackle it head on?

With the holiday season full of distractions such as Christmas shopping, family commitments, vacation planning and endless events, employee productivity and focus can start to plummet. Many workers are also just plain tired and looking forward to a break, shifting into a lower gear as they start to wind down for the year.

At this time of year, employers and managers might notice staff taking longer lunches, skipping meetings, or checking out mentally from their work tasks. In fact, a recent study revealed that employee activity levels in North America drop by 52% between mid-December and the New Year.

But rather than getting frustrated with your employees, or yourself, it’s best to have some strategies in place to keep focused and stay on track. By doing this, you can make sure your business continues to hit targets and reach organisational goals, while ending the year on a positive note with your team.

Here are three things you can do to keep energy and motivation levels high right up until the Christmas break.

Set achievable end-of-year goals

The key word here is achievable. Having a clear and realistic goal in sight can really help to keep employees on track and engaged in their work.

If you’re a manager or team leader, work with each staff member to establish a goal that you want them to achieve before they go on annual leave. This could be hitting a sales target or deadline, landing a particular client or gig, securing a set number of new customers… anything that will help to motivate and boost their performance.

Or why not set an end-of-year goal as a team? By hitting this target together before the break, you’ll be ending the year on a high note and setting a positive vibe for the following year. Remember, make sure it’s a realistic and achievable goal – the last thing you want at this time of year is low morale.

Setting these kinds of end-of-year goals is also a good idea for freelancers or anyone who works remotely or is self-employed. These workers are just as likely to experience the same drop in productivity and focus – but without a manager to keep them on track!

Whether you're working solo or as part of a team, get really organised and map out all the deadlines and targets you need to hit before you go on leave, working backwards from your last day of work. Knowing exactly what you need to deliver, on a weekly and daily basis, will help keep your head clear in this last hectic month of the year.

Recognise and reward your employees

While December is always a busy month, it’s the perfect time to recognise the hard work of your employees throughout the year. And this can really help to keep staff motivated and positive right up until they go on leave.

There’s no doubt that positive feedback and recognition is an important part of increasing employee motivation and engagement – people are much happier, and work harder, when they feel valued. It also shows that you’ve been paying attention to their efforts during the year.

Managers – why not organise a team event to celebrate the wins of the year with staff, as well as those achievable goals we mentioned above? It could be a simple team lunch, or a day spent out of the office doing a fun bootcamp or yoga class, tree planting, or volunteering at a local charity. Ask your employees how they’d like to celebrate – they’ll appreciate it.

Many companies also give out end-of-year bonuses or awards. But as James Clark, Content Marketing Specialist at DATIS HR Cloud, says, there are plenty of other ways to reward staff that don’t involve money.

Keep in mind there are rewards and gifts outside of bonuses and gift cards. Offering extra days [off] in the new year to the hardest worker of the quarter is a way to motivate employees without offering them an instantly redeemable monetary reward,” Clark suggests.

Set a good example to staff

It’s also really important that employers and managers lead by example at this time of year.

There’s no point setting team goals, giving out awards or taking the team out for lunch if your own motivation and energy levels are down. Your employees will respond to your vibe – and if you’re struggling to keep it together at end-of-year your whole team will be in trouble.

As we said above, now that we’ve hit December you’re most likely counting down the days until your own annual leave. And you know your employees are feeling the same. The best thing to do is pitch in and get the job done, so everyone can head out on annual leave knowing that the year has ended on a successful and productive note.

Clark says that true leadership during this time of year “comes from executives rolling up their sleeves and working hard side-by-side with their employees. If executives expect their employees to push themselves to the limits by the end of the year, they will have to do so as well.”

Establish goals, show staff their hard work is valued, and keep your own motivation and productivity levels up in these last few weeks. All of these things will have a positive impact on your organisation and team in this final month of the year, and you can head off on your holidays knowing you've closed off the year well.

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