How to Engage Employees When Back to Work this September (6 Tips)

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It’s back to work time and some employees will be dragging their heels back into the office – with fading tans and even less motivation. Many employees start searching for a new job around this time, spurred on after taking a break from their usual routine. The post-holiday blues, therefore, can spell serious trouble for your employee retention and engagement.

Behind the post-holiday blues

A number of factors can cause the post-holiday work slump. Taking a holiday offers a break from the norm, which gives employees the space and time to re-evaluate their careers and priorities. Overspending whilst on holiday can also cause a lack of motivation and increased stress on their return. Spending on holiday entertainment and eating out rises by 14% in the summer months, with people, on average, spending a quarter of their disposable income on holidays.

That said, breaks are important for employees. Everyone needs some downtime and the shift in routine can help them recharge and rediscover their inspiration. It offers a good opportunity for employers to re-connect and engage with their workforce. There are some practical ways to achieve this and tools and technology can help to engage employees as well.

6 Tips to Engage Employees

1. Set performance goals

The post-holiday period is a good time to reassess current goals and set new ones.

Performance-based goals are important for setting team/individual priorities to help them be as productive as possible. More and more organizations are using OKR (Objectives and Key Results) tools, like gtmHub, to manage company and team goals. Often, organizations look at rewarding teams for hitting performance goals.

Virgin Incentives, for example, offers a scheme where teams or individuals are rewarded for hitting certain targets with events and experience days.

Any goals you set need to be within reach, and a mix of long term and short term targets. This gives teams and employees a ‘quick win’ initially and encourages them to keep working towards longer goals. Regular check-ins on goals and progress are essential. Using a tool like Monday can help teams communicate and stay on track with their overall goals.

2. Refresh development goals

Equally, development-based goals play an important part in motivating employees. Team leaders should be sitting down with team members to understand how they are looking to develop and grow over the coming quarter. Together, they may find opportunities for development in the day-to-day work or through internal ‘stretch’ assignments or training.

Thinking outside the box with development opportunities is important since now, much development happens beyond the 4 walls of the company. Find out how your employees like to learn – perhaps an online course through Coursera is their style, or perhaps they prefer in-person workshops, like those on offer by General Assembly.

Employees who have reflected on their careers during their holidays might welcome these opportunities. It will also help refocus them on their work and feel a sense of real progression in their career.

3. Welcome everyone back to work

Make coming back to work a special occasion with a post-holiday celebration. Look at it as the perfect opportunity to engage employees. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy or budget-busting. Gather everyone together to share their holiday anecdotes and their favorite experiences of the summer. Let them share their goals for the month or what they’re excited about at home or at work in the near future.

Taking time for a team lunch or breakfast can be an informal but effective way to get people together to celebrate the summer period and focus on what’s ahead.

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4. Consider their overall career path

There’s often a huge disconnect between what HR leaders believe they are providing in terms of a career route, and what employees experience. 60% of HR leaders think their organizations have a clear career path, but only 36% of employees agree with this. The period after the holidays is an ideal time to health-check your organization’s career development program and determine whether it’s meeting your employees’ expectations.

You might find that your employees will respond better to online training, for example, or a program delivered in bite-sized chunks. Alternatively, some might prefer more informal training or attending more seminars.

Offering career coaching is another way that many organizations support career development, and it could help employees who have returned from holiday with different career priorities. Having an external coach can encourage your employees to have a more honest career conversation about their long-term ambitions.

However, you don’t always need a coach to attend in-person if budgets are tight. There’s plenty of online career coaches and directories like Koach will help you find the right one for your employees. Building your internal coaching capability can pay off in the longer term, for example, supporting your leaders to be better coaches with the help of providers like Performance Consultants.

5. Recognise their efforts

Everyone enjoys being recognized for their work and regularly rewarding performance and going above and beyond can engage your employees throughout the year. Besides, highly engaged employees are less likely to suffer the post-holiday blues.

It could be as simple as setting up a system where employees can send thank you notes to each other, like E.On, which has had over 49,000 messages sent since its scheme began. Alternatively, you can offer exclusive discounts or other perks. Beauty brand L’Occitane has an online hub for employees offering discounts, extra days off, fitness-related technology and other perks to encourage employee engagement, well-being, and development.

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6. Communicate better

The horror of returning to work after the holidays to find thousands of emails is well known. It’s something that could easily make a post-holiday slump even worse. Plus, email is one of the biggest productivity drains in the workplace with employees wasting two and a half hours every day on email. So imagine how much time is wasted after a week off. Then there’s the danger of an important message being missed because of an overflowing inbox.

It’s worth implementing a company policy of keeping all email communication to a minimum when someone is on holiday. Messaging tools like Slack and project management tools such as Trello or Asana can help control the number of internal emails sent.

On their return, scheduling a briefing with any key company updates will help an employee get back up-to-speed and equipped with important information about what has occurred over their holiday. Update them on deadlines, changes to their projects or anything new from their clients.

Choose the mix that’s right for your employees

It can be tough to get back to work after a summer break. As an employer, it’s up to you to help your employees get back into the swing of working life. Consider it an excellent opportunity to re-align company goals with team and individual career development. Use technology to your advantage, whether that’s through online coaching, recognition, e-learning or managing holiday inboxes.

Post-holiday blues happen to everyone and organizations must prepare for it. Use it as a chance to reconnect with and engage your employees. If you don’t, you may find your employees jumping ship.

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