January is a time for fresh starts and big goals. But for people returning to work after the holidays, those can be barriers to getting back into the swing of things.
Taking time off to celebrate with loved ones, sleep in, and indulge in holiday treats provides your employees with much-needed rest and rejuvenation. However, returning to a work schedule full of new projects and stretch goals can be overwhelming and hurt employee engagement.
Don’t let the new year fill your employees with dread. Learn why your team may struggle to give their 100% as you move into January and how to engage employees and get your year off to the right start.
Why employee engagement drops in January
For many companies, January is not just business as usual. Setting new objectives and putting plans to hit them in motion means new work that can crowd already busy schedules.
Here are some of the “new year” tasks that may overwhelm workers:
- Allocation of new budgets
- Finishing performance reviews and setting goals
- Starting new projects
- Catching up on tasks left undone over the holidays
All of this, on top of regular daily tasks and deadlines, can make employees check out before they even get started. If you want to build good momentum for the year ahead, be aware of the potential roadblocks your team faces. Then take steps to boost morale and build energy.
How to engage employees to set them up for success in 2023
You can avoid this first-of-the-year slump by being aware of challenges and applying tactics to boost energy and keep people on track to hit new targets.
Here are five of our top tips for how to engage employees at the start of a new business year.
1. Dream big, but start slow
You may have lots of big plans for 2023, but give people some time to settle in before they start chasing all the ambitious goals you have set. Treat the first week back like a warmup.
Don’t expect your team to tackle all your plans in the first few days on the job. Instead, create a positive atmosphere by communicating about the new goals and what they’ll mean for your business growth.
Encourage people to start engaging with the work, but eliminate pressure by not applying tight deadlines or heavy demands on people’s time.
2. Maintain flexibility
Returning to a work schedule after having total control of their own time can make employees feel trapped. Keep schedules or deadlines as flexible as you can to help them adjust without negatively impacting their work-life balance.
The shift to remote work caused a shift in priorities as many embraced the flexibility of working from home. A return to the office left companies rethinking the importance of work-life balance, and your employees may have the same concerns coming back to full-time job schedules.
Do what you can to help them maintain that balance. That may mean adopting a remote or hybrid work model. It may mean giving people more choice in which hours they work. Or it may mean emphasizing respect for personal time off or the need to shift deadlines where possible.
Be flexible where you can so employees don’t see their jobs and their home lives in conflict.
3. Include employees in decision-making and planning
Help alleviate a “trapped” feeling by involving your team in the company’s direction. It can be discouraging for employees to come back to work only to find out that everything’s already been decided. Not having a say or being present for discussions about the new objectives can feel like a loss of control.
Employee involvement is a powerful tool for reaching your business goals. Show your employees you value them and help them get excited about tackling the new year by putting them in the loop.
- Involve employees in making decisions where it makes sense. For instance, employees may not be able to change the company’s revenue growth targets. But you could involve them in setting their own priorities and personal goals to align with those targets.
- Conduct surveys. Send out initial surveys to ask for input on how you approach certain projects or objectives. For instance, let people weigh in on how you’ll conduct performance reviews this year by voting or submitting comments on proposed options.
- Form leadership groups. Focus input by organizing employees into groups that will discuss issues and generate ideas. Creating groups focused on marketing decisions or customer service changes will help you gather valuable input from those in the trenches.
Creating opportunities for your people to have a say in the direction you take this year gives them a stake in the game. Engagement will grow as their investment in company objectives increases.
4. Help people proactively manage their career growth
Many people reflect on their personal and professional goals at the end of the year. Build on that momentum by helping employees act on resolutions and goals.
Whether you discussed their progress during performance reviews in December or are starting them now, make sure you follow up with an action plan. For instance:
- Discuss with employees how they’ll develop inside the organization.
- Take note of goals and be ready to propose and implement solutions to achieve them.
- Share options for professional development training and help people enroll in relevant courses.
- Get them on track for internal promotions by connecting them with mentors who can show them the ropes.
- Provide a thorough employee reboarding program for people transitioning to a new role in the company.
Get people excited to move forward by helping them see how to achieve their goals and giving them the tools to take the next steps.
5. Focus on team building and socializing
Help people reconnect with their coworkers and build a community with opportunities for communication and socializing.
Efforts can be as extensive as catering a team lunch or hosting an off-site for team-building activities. Or they can be as simple as scheduling breaks with snacks in the conference room so people have a chance to unwind and interact on a non-work basis.
Work will feel like less of a chore if people have healthy, supportive relationships among their team. Help foster a sense of belonging and eagerness to engage by allowing people to create a network they value personally as well as professionally.
Build employee engagement to reach your goals this year
The post-holiday blues are normal. However, if you find that people are feeling blue more frequently or consistently struggling to step back into their roles, that’s a sign you need to find new ways to boost employee engagement.
Creating an engaging workplace and showing employees you value their contributions, will help your team ease back into work. They’ll show up feeling good about moving forward and ready to help you reach your goals in 2023.
Improve your employee, partner and customer training with our enterprise-ready learning management system. Book a demo now and see why our diverse portfolio of customers consistently give us 5 stars (out of 5!)