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Holiday Spirit: Boost Employee Engagement by Giving Back

Lauryn Nosek

Lauryn Nosek

Maintaining employee engagement is as difficult through the winter holiday season as it is during the summer, and for many similar reasons. Some workers are taking time off to travel or spend time with their families leaving others to assist with responsibilities they may not be familiar with. But the holiday season carries with it a spirit that creates numerous opportunities to drive engagement back up—if your company embraces the essence of charity and appreciation in the season.

CSR: Charity and Volunteering

employee engagement change driveMost of the winter holidays from Thanksgiving through New Year’s have elements of charity and self-betterment about them. Show employees that your company feels that way at this time of year, too, by providing opportunities for them to take part in companywide or local charitable efforts. Hold a food drive and pledge to match each employee donation can for can. Arrange for volunteers to serve lunch at a local soup kitchen or shelter and pair lower-level employee volunteers with executives or managers. Choose a charity and set up a competitive loose-change drive between teams or departments. The group with the most pennies wins, but other teams can counteract pennies with nickels, dimes, quarters or even cash, and all the money raised goes to the chosen charity—the company can even chip in by matching the donation.

Depending on how your company chooses to practice CSR (corporate social responsibility), it can be a great way to boost employee engagement—but they can only participate if they know about it. As soon as plans and necessary organization are settled, be sure to start spreading the word. Announce your efforts in an employee newsletter or post about it in your company intranet. Tease it with notices in break rooms and other common areas. The more engaged you want employees to get, the more information and resources they’re likely to need, so take that into account when deciding on an initiative roll-out strategy.

Beyond the benefits CSR initiatives have on employee engagement, they provide the perfect opportunity to connect with the larger community and customers. Get some video or photos of your workers in action and share it on social media or include it in a video for your holiday or end-of-year communications. Sharing this kind of content—whether it’s made public or kept for internal viewing—is a great way to recognize employees.

Employee Recognition

Don’t just give thanks for your hard-working employees over Thanksgiving dinner. Show them you’re thankful through an employee-recognition program. This is the perfect time of year to go out of your way and recognize those employees who might be overlooked by programs based on traditional recognition metrics (remember, those programs often backfire when there’s an imbalance and the same workers are rewarded too frequently). Breaking from existing recognition structures means you can personalize what you’re doing to recognize them. For instance, give rewards a holiday flair, like instead of just buying them lunch, make it a turkey dinner.

Holiday Parties

employee engagement at holiday partiesEvery year, the value of holiday parties is weighed against risk factors like liability if the company serves alcohol and challenges like being inclusive and respectful of the religious significance of the many, often overlapping holidays. But holiday parties are also a great way to build and reinforce relationships within existing teams or workforces—it’s a time of year when distraction runs high so providing a specific one on the company’s time and dime garner appreciation. Rather than avoid them altogether, solid planning can keep parties both respectful and fun.

Secular is safer so rather than using a “holiday” designation, call it an end-of-year gathering. Focus on the company’s accomplishments and the workers’ role in making those achievements possible. Have a fun video made chronicling the high points of the year with photos or video from company events like retirement parties or community service activities. You can include the video in digital invitations or make it a focal point of the event.

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