How to Keep Employees Productive at the End of the Year

It’s the official start of the holiday season. Employers and their employees are excited and, reasonably so. Productivity is dipping just a bit. As the end of the year approaches, the focus drifts slightly from work.

During the holidays employees need well-deserved family time, but the last few weeks of the year shouldn’t be a waiting game. Time zooms along quicker when we’re locked in and productive. Use these tips to keep employees’ eyes on the prize and make the end of the year just as productive as the beginning:

1. Set new goals.

At the end of the year, employees may feel like their hard work is already done. They’ve achieved some major goals set at the beginning of the year and are waiting to set new ones at the start of the new year.

Instead of waiting until next year starts to review performance and set new goals, keep up a continual performance review process that carries through to the end of the year. As the company heads into the final stretch, assess yearly objectives with each employee to see what has been achieved and what still needs to be done. This is when employees need help setting new goals to fill the gaps -- but just 13 percent of employees, surveyed by Gallup this year, said their managers help them set performance goals.

Work with employees to set new goals before the new year. These projects may require more than a few months to achieve and can kick off Q1 with a bang. Employees don’t need to wait for the calendar to start working toward meaningful goals. Start now to keep employees engaged, focused and productive throughout the entire year.

2. Focus on the small stuff.

Once new goals are set, encourage employees to begin taking small steps to achieve them now, otherwise they may become overwhelmed. In fact, 65 percent of executives surveyed by Deloitte in March 2014 rated overwhelmed employees as an urgent or important trend to address in the workplace.

Employees may be tempted to push back starting bigger projects until the new year, but if they are broken down into smaller steps, the team will waste little time.

Look over employee goals and determine what can be achieved during the final weeks of the year. Set up a timeline for these smaller steps to keep employees on track and accountable for their progress. Use a calendar, apps, project management systems and other tools to remind employees what needs to be done when. Focus on a small goal each day to keep employees productive and motivated, but not overwhelmed.

3. Recognize everyday achievements.

The end of the year is the season for employee recognition. There are holiday parties, team breakfasts, end-of-year bonuses and employee-of-the-year celebrations. While these rewards recognize the work employees have done throughout the entire year, they don’t focus on employees’ daily efforts.

Don’t get caught up in end-of-the-year celebrations -- remember to recognize the effort employees are putting in each day. Although employees appreciate big gestures that recognize their work, a little appreciation goes a long way.

In fact, the 2015 Employee Recognition Report by the Society for Human Resource Management and Globoforce found that values-based employee recognition significantly contributes to bottom-line organizational metrics and helps create a stronger culture and more human workplace. In the survey of 823 HR professionals, 90 percent said an employee recognition program positively impacted engagement.

Focus on showing gratitude for employees’ hard work during the whole year. Small tokens of appreciation can be just as effective in keeping spirits high and employees engaged through the holiday season. Send handwritten “thank you” notes, grant a day off when projects are finished early or send out a company-wide email to recognize exceptional work.

4. Track progress.

Technology plays a huge role in managing goals and keeping employees accountable, especially at the end of the year. Yet, the 2014 Global Assessment Trends Report from CEB found only half of respondents use talent metrics to prove ROI, and only 45 percent currently use objective measures of potential to guide development and succession plans.  

Use the right software to monitor projects, keep employees focused and see who is still doing their best work as the year comes to a close. HR software makes it easy to track employee performance throughout the year -- not just before performance reviews and other milestones.

These tools also allow employees to track and manage their own goals. Employees can measure their progress and stay motivated as they move closer to achieving their objectives.

Although the end of the year is focused on the holidays, it doesn’t have to be an unproductive time. Help employees set and track goals to finish out the year strong.