Creating the conditions which enable employees to be engaged and motivated should be a top priority for employers. Gallup’s State of the Global Workforce report, which found that only 21% of employees were actively engaged at work, sadly shed light on the fact that employee engagement is not being done effectively, or even prioritised, and the result is unhappy employees. This unhappiness will affect performance and will lead inevitably to unhappy customers and less successful business outcomes.
Employee engagement should be an important year-round focus, but we can do some things to help create a ‘reset’ at the beginning of the New Year and support our teams to reengage with their work. 16th January 2023 will be ‘Blue Monday’ in the UK, so called (and coined by a psychologist Cliff Arnall) because of people returning to work post-holiday to bad weather, debt and low levels of motivation. This does not apply to everyone of course, but how can employers help counteract this?
The end of year holiday period creates a ‘pause’ which people are often desperately looking forward to. With our ‘always on’ working lives, and what seems to have been an epidemic of overwork this year, many people are limping towards the finishing line of what has felt like the Marathon of 2022. The joy of having some rest time with family and friends also creates time and space for people to think about their lives, the good and the ‘not so good’, and in particular their work lives, and how this aligns with their personal aspirations.
Rather than just hoping that people will come back from their holidays refreshed and suddenly regain engagement, we are suggesting that employers need to be proactive this new year and enable a January ‘reset’.
A key part of a leader’s role is to tap into what motivates their people, to carry the torch for the organisational purpose and create excitement about what they are to achieve in 2023 through their ability to create an engaging story of what might be.
We would like to suggest a few things businesses can do to enable a reset:
- Make a point of welcoming everyone back. This may sound obvious but do we do it? The best way to start the year from a leadership perspective is to have a proper welcome back catch up with all your team members. Dedicate some time early in the year to get together, share holiday stories and discuss aspirations for the upcoming year. Not just going straight in talking about detailed task objectives but discussing what they would aspire to see happen in 2023. Human beings like to feel valuable, and feel that they belong, so these conversations are vitally important in maintaining the ‘social glue’ that ties teams together and in ensuring we value our colleagues and humanise our workplaces.
- Restating and realigning purpose. Rather than just carrying on where we left off in December, the New Year gives you as leader the ideal opportunity to restate the organisational purpose; to reconnect your people with the ‘why’ we do what we do. You can reconnect your team members with their role in achieving the overall purpose of the organisation and remind them of their purpose and their value to you and the organisation. We often have a ‘look back’ at the end of a year but are less inclined to have a ‘look forward’ at the beginning of the New one as we throw ourselves straight into the work. Whatever happened last year, we are now looking forward and need to focus on what we can do in the future. This ‘look forward’ reminder also ensures that everyone is venturing into this new year with a clear sense of what the company is aiming to achieve, and this restatement of purpose can help strengthen team bonds as well as create alignment and improve the speed at which these goals are met.
My suggested reading for points 1. and 2. is ‘The Heart of Business’ by Hubert Joly – his personal playbook for achieving extraordinary outcomes by putting people and purpose at the heart of business.
- Speaking of goals…we all know it’s a common tradition to set new year’s resolutions for our personal goals, but there’s no reason why companies shouldn’t support this ethos. Asking each team member to set a motivational goal at the beginning of the year, that you and they can check in on every month or so, is a great way to engage people and have them work towards something other than their day-to-day organisational tasks. It may be to learn something new, go to a particular conference, or to shadow someone. It does not have to be part of their development plan but must be something that means something to them personally, like getting involved in the organisation’s corporate social responsibility events or supporting a particular charity or cause.
- Prioritise wellbeing. 2022 was an arduous year for a lot of us – cost-of-living worries are following us into the new year, as well as increased stress levels and increasing levels of burnout. We at OrgShakers prioritise supporting wellbeing in the workplace, not just as a moral issue but as a key business driver. We understand that it makes sense to actively and consciously enhance employee wellbeing rather than having to keep fixing issues arising from overwork and stress. Adopting the January ‘reset’ mindset means making wellbeing a priority from the get-go. Consider as an organisation what you can do to create a culture of wellbeing, how you might change last year’s working practices to create the conditions for employee wellness in 2023 and see the business benefits that will follow this. Einstein said that the definition of insanity was ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’. What can you change as a leader, and as an organisation, to create a more engaged and healthier workforce?
A strong start to your business year can make all the difference and engaging in a January reset will have big business benefits.
Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020