The holiday season is officially upon us, and with it comes a flurry of activities, excitement, and a to-do list that intimidates even Kris Kringle. Chances are you’re juggling a hundred different things right now between your HR duties and your personal life. There’s just so much to do before the ball drops in Times Square and we pretend to know the words to Auld Lang Syne! But there’s also a few things, in particular, that HR should not do during this holiday season. Here are five to keep in mind:
1. Do not expect business as usual. If you’re projecting absences, for example, err on the side of more. When you coordinate activities, schedule them as soon as possible since the later in December you wait the less likely you are to get employee engagement. And productivity may be tough to control during the holidays. Just make sure to set expectations early and communicate with the staff to know what is realistic. Work challenges that come this time of year can be frustrating in the short term, but giving support to your employees work-life balance during the holidays goes a long way towards bolstering company loyalty and retention. Remember that when the office feels like a ghost town.
2. Do not load up on unnecessary year-end tasks. Along the same lines, don’t overload your team with irregular activities associated with the end of the year. For example, if you’re still doing yearly performance reviews, stop it. Not only is it now clear that regular feedback is better for employees, but yearly performance reviews cause all kinds of unneeded stress to almost everyone involved. Of course, some things must get done before the year ends; so, do those things. But everything else might need to be reconsidered or rescheduled.
3. Do not forget to prepare for the sick season. Take time to remind your people that it’s the sick season. Coordinate flu shots where possible, invest in hand sanitizers, and even encourage people to work from home when they aren’t feeling well. It is much better to create a culture of proactive healthcare than to reactively deal with a mounting sick toll in January and February.
4. Do not have unsolicited conversations about religion. Be sensitive to the beliefs and opinions of different people in the workplace. For many, the holiday season is a time to reflect on their spiritual beliefs and celebrate them. But for others, the mere subjects of spirituality or religion makes them squeamish. Since HR’s job is to make sure everyone feels comfortable, be particularly careful with the subject and never force the issue or let others do so.
5. Do not miss opportunities to strengthen your culture. As busy as the holidays are, they’re also a great time to load up on positive memories. Holiday parties and other activities can (and do) strengthen bonds between co-workers and employers. As you plan activities, take your company values and ask yourself this question over and over again: How will this activity support these values? (Also: How will this activity increase employee engagement and retention?)
If one of your company values is to give back to the community, make sure to schedule some sort of service activity. If one of your company values is to show appreciation, make sure your holiday gift or bonus is thoughtful; perhaps you can offer additional paid time off or a gift card you know fits their individual needs. After all, the last thing you want is for your people to go visit family during the holiday break and talk about how they’re just not sure that their employers care about them. And “maybe it’s time to look around for a new job.” One more do not: Do not give them a reason to say that.