A new year is always an opportunity to review and set new goals or intentions for the months ahead.
And as a manager or leader, now is the time to harness some of that ‘new year’ energy and think about how to motivate and inspire your people.
Here’s how focusing on employee engagement now can help you ensure a productive year for your team.
Benefits of engaging staff at the start of the year
Beck Melville, a wellbeing and resilience consultant says there are many benefits for leaders and teams of engaging staff in the new year.
“When employees are engaged, they feel more inspired, confident, enthusiastic, connected and empowered at work. It’s the secret to being able to perform at your best and maintain your wellbeing even during busy or challenging times.”
According to Melville, studies suggest that engaged employees significantly outperform disengaged employees. What’s more, organisations that do this well and consistently know that it doesn’t have to cost a mint or take a lot of time.
Melville says the new year provides leaders an opportunity to take a pulse check. It’s a chance to see how people are feeling and get curious about why. And then, to take action to ensure engagement, helping to cultivate a great working environment.
Alexandra Matthews, Head of People & Culture at recruitment firm, Six Degrees Executive says employees often return from a break recharged and with goals and aspirations for the year ahead. it’s important they feel their personal goals are aligned with the direction of the company, she adds.
Establishing team goals and visions for the new year helps engage employees and aids retention, Matthews explains. And with the current economic climate making salary-based job changes a reality, retention has become a keen focus for many employers.
How to re-engage staff post holidays
- Lead with processes or activities that have worked well before
- Add an element of 'something new’ – an activity or refresh
- Make engagement a continued practice, not a once-off event
- Discuss team strategy and goals for the year ahead
- Focus on individual employee strengths and goals and have career conversations
Matthews says companies can lead with activities and processes that served them well in the previous year, but that it’s worth remembering that employees will be seeking an element of ‘something new’.
“It might be as simple as an office refresh, or as impactful as a review of values or cultural rhythms.”
Melville says traditionally organisations kick off the year with a team building activity, staff development day or a conference to provide connection with organisational goals and each other. “It’s a good start, but I like to think of engagement as something that people should be focussed on daily, not just as a once off event.”
“By allowing people to use their strengths ... and make decisions about when, where and who they work with and ... [feel] they are valued ... through gratitude and feedback, we can substantially move the dial on engagement levels and, in turn, productivity and performance,” she says.
Kick starters and strategy days
Matthews says, at Six Degrees Executive, new year kick starters include business planning and career conversations. That way, people are able to return from leave and immediately discuss their own goals and circumstances, and how these align with the team goals and vision.
“Team strategy days in January aid a realignment of team goals with those of the organisation, which may have shifted as a result of changing market conditions, global events or other internal and external factors. Engaging people in the process and ensuring transparency of information and expectations allows them to focus on how and what they will contribute.”
Helping team members to develop their own personal goals and milestones can keep them focused and achieving, Matthews says.
“It is not just about where they want to be in two to five years, but what do they want to achieve in the next three to six months. Is there professional development that would assist? What does success look like for them? What does the organisation have in place to support their wellbeing? And importantly, what can you do to better support them?"
How to evaluate your team’s level of engagement
Conduct regular pulse checks or surveys:
To evaluate your team’s morale and level of engagement, Matthews says it’s worth conducting regular pulse surveys to identify what’s important to them at that moment. This is especially important at the start of a year, she says.
“These surveys allow us to better understand what is working and where we need to recalibrate or focus more energy and investment.”
Identify areas for improvement:
It’s also important to identify if particular areas need a little more attention – for example, changing work practices and expectations, Matthews says.
“2022 was unlike any previous year, with the biggest shift coming with the adoption of hybrid working rhythms. After two years of disruption, so much about the way people work had changed. The considerations for people went beyond the operational aspects – it was about their expectations regarding work and the position it occupied in their life.”
Consider the quality of relationships, as well as the performance and success people are experiencing:
Melville says leaders and organisations can also gauge the engagement of their staff by the quality of the relationships and the performance and success they are experiencing.
“It’s also worthwhile at the start of a new year to identify people’s strengths using a validated tool such as VIA Character Strengths and provide opportunities for people to use and develop their strengths – allowing them to do what they do best will support their wellbeing and levels of engagement as it taps into their intrinsic motivation.”
By helping people find meaning in the work they do – by knowing who they are, supporting, helping and positively impacting them – levels of engagement can increase.
If you haven’t acted already, now is the time to establish team goals and visions and clearly communicate expectations with your team. The new year is an opportunity to get on the same page about what matters most to your team. Investing the time now will pay dividends for employee engagement – and in turn, productivity and retention.