Handling the holidays well keeps employees happy

While the holiday season often means that employees spend more time with their family and friends, it will inevitably spark discussion about and comparison of career progress and next steps.

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While winter holidays send many expatriates home to spend time with their families, some employees are looking forward to a staycation – enjoying perfect weather and festive events across the UAE. It is also the time of the year when employees are most likely to reflect on their careers and contemplate leaving their jobs.

In the final months of the year, most teams are holding down two jobs; pushing hard to close out day-to-day activities and projects, as well as planning and getting things in place for the year ahead. These are among the key drivers of end-of-year burnout.

So while the holiday season often means that employees spend more time with their family and friends, it will inevitably spark discussion about and comparison of career progress and next steps.

At this time of the year, employees will reflect and make decisions about whether they will stay at their current job or look for a new one, especially as they consider their accomplishments across the previous year and set New Year’s resolutions.

New research from CEB, the consultancy for which I work, shows that today, 70 per cent of employees are dissatisfied with future career opportunities offered by their current employers, a fact that leaders can ill afford to ignore during the holiday season.

Our findings also show that upward promotions are not always possible in companies today, so employers need to reframe careers based on professional growth and building skills that will make them more employable in future. Creating growth-based career opportunities for employees can decrease turnover by up to 33 per cent, saving an organisation with 10,000 employees upwards of Dh27 million per year.

With this knowledge, leaders need to think carefully about their end-of-year messages to teams. As such, they need to cover more than just the company metrics and celebrating at the staff party. Leaders should give a high-level view of what’s to come in the year ahead, top priorities and most importantly the opportunities for the workforce. They should encourage staff to think about the different experiences and skills they want to gain and what they want to achieve at work.

Before leaders close out the year for the holidays, they should address the following five areas to prevent mass exits in the new year:

Recognise and commend the hard work that people have contributed during the year, and specifically call out the success and progress of cross-company projects and roles that individuals played. These messages should be personalised wherever possible.

Acknowledge the sacrifices and trade-offs that staff have made in their personal lives throughout the year.

Encourage employees to rest during the holidays and refuel for the year ahead. Consider end-of-the-year rewards that reinforce this to ensure that staff get some much-needed time of. If employees do need to work, bosses should get involved too, and ensure that the spirit of the holidays is incorporated into the working day.

Share the strategic vision for the business to engage and excite the team. Explain what this means for the team, their role in driving this forward, along with a high-level view of projects and priorities.

Set up one-to-one meetings with each direct report. Use this session to explain how they contribute to the business strategy and get a sense of the employee's broader career aspirations and what they want to achieve next year. This is the first step to forming a strong "career partnership" that will create reciprocal value for the employee and organisation.

Mohamed Farid is managing director of the human resources consultancy CEB in the Middle East.


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