How to motivate employees during the holidays

How to motivate employees during the holiday season

The winter holiday season is often a distracting time for employees. They may be hosting family members or planning to travel, the kids are home from school, and they may be working under generalized holiday stress. The common outcome for business is a high absentee rate and a distracted work force, leading directly to lowered productivity. As a manager, it’s your job to find positive ways to keep everyone on task. Below are three basic tips to keep your employees enthusiastic about their jobs despite the pressures of the season.

Plan ahead and be flexible

Don’t let holiday scheduling sneak up on you. Meet with your staff right now to go over everyone’s scheduling needs and to make sure the office doesn’t end up shorthanded. Nothing adds to holiday burnout more quickly than employees being forced to do someone else’s work in addition to their own. If your staff can work remotely, consider letting them extend their time away while still meeting productivity goals. Also remember that winter holiday travel can be affected by weather, and half your team could end up snowed in at an airport across the country. Likewise, allowing schedules to flex a bit to accommodate holiday obligations can help support your employees’ work-life balance and build loyalty to your company.

Create a festive atmosphere

Your employees are going to appreciate your acknowledgment that the holiday season is special. Business Know-How notes that you can increase employee motivation by offering a few celebratory observances. “Secret Santa” exchanges are popular and cost-free for your company. Plus, supplying an assortment of treats and decorations that recognize all of the different holidays that are celebrated during this season can create an atmosphere of emotional warmth. If possible, schedule a holiday party during the workday, so you’ll avoid putting pressure on your employees to invest scarce personal time in work-related events.

Offer rewards and recognition

Kimberly Merriman, associate professor of management at Penn State University, points out that providing parties, gifts, and other forms of acknowledgment carries important symbolic value: “They send a message that the employment relationship is more than simply a transactional one.” A Glassdoor survey focusing on holiday recognition found that “53 percent of employees would stay at their company longer if they felt more appreciation from their boss.”

Knowing how to motivate employees is essential throughout the year, but it takes on unique importance during the holiday season. If you plan ahead, create warmth and recognize each employee’s unique contribution, you can build good will that may last until next year’s holiday season.

Human Experience at Work

Today’s workforce mindset – employees want a human experience


In today’s competitive economy, if two organizations are both doing a great job engaging their workforces, what makes one of them better than the other? Aon Hewitt recently surveyed 2,539 employees at companies of 1,000 or more across several industries, and Raymond Baumruk, partner and leader in the firm’s Next Practices/Employee Research & Insights group, shared top findings with attendees of Achievers Customer Experience (ACE) 2015.

Baumruk said they were somewhat surprised to find that the things many companies see as “differentiators,” employees actually view as “table stakes,” or basic expectations of potential employers. Baumruk also shared that there has been a shift in the past three to four years. Potential employees are looking for more of a human experience, in which error can happen, people can laugh, and ideas and opinions are solicited and respected.

When it comes to base expectations – the “table stakes” that any company should offer – the study found that employees expect a company to:

  • Communicate completely and honestly (80% cite this as a base expectation)
  • Recognize strong achievement or performance
  • Have a collaborative environment and encourage teamwork
  • Have a strong management and leadership team
  • Provide valuable work tools/resources, including technology

The characteristics that employers said they consider differentiators that make an organization attractive include:

  • Fun place to work (In an interesting side note, Baumruk said that Baby Boomers were more likely to cite this than Millennials)
  • Flexible work environment
  • Good fit with employee values
  • Provides stimulating work

The survey showed that, much like the differentiators, these characteristics revolve around the human experience and are relationship oriented vs. organizational oriented:

Companies focus on:                                                                     Employees want the focus to be on:

Teamwork                                                                                          Recognition

Customer satisfaction                                                                      Respect

Profit                                                                                                    Loyalty

Quality                                                                                                 Balance

Brand image                                                                                       Teamwork

Productivity                                                                                        Open communications

The top work characteristic employees want in an organization today is recognition. In addition, employees want to be recognized by managers and leadership in a way in which their peers and colleagues are aware of the recognition – through email, in-person meetings, etc. Open and honest communications are just one of vital elements to creating the human experience that today’s employees want.

And as Aon Hewitt discovered, from Baby Boomers to Millennials (and even Centennials), employees are looking for a human experience – engaging, fun, open, honest, and collaborative – in the workplace.

Bobi Seredich at ACE 2015

Day 1 at ACE 2015: EI is the X factor that creates engaging and inspiring leaders

The threshold competencies for a successful leader are IQ, technical skills, and emotional intelligence (EI). While most of us would think that IQ and technical skills are most important, in reality EI is twice as important as a predictor of leadership success.

In her Achievers Customer Experience 2015 (ACE) session, Bobi Seredich, co-founder of Southwest Institute for Emotional Intelligence, explains how EI is not only important for leaders, but also organizations as a whole. According to Seredich, EI and the ability to connect with your colleagues becomes even more important as one moves into senior leadership positions.

Why? Because a company with great leaders who understand and practice EI can make business teams more productive, engaged, empowered, and committed to the organization, and it can increase the retention of those teams.

Seredich said that practicing EI is like playing golf or practicing yoga. Some days you play great, and other days you falter. She encouraged ACE attendees to explore EI and why it is so important in the workplace for leaders and employees, saying:

  • If two people are in a room, and a person with a negative emotion walks in, it only takes 3 seconds for that negative emotion to permeate the room. Influencers need to realize how their behaviors and demeanors affect the room.
  • Ninety percent of communications are non-verbal, so leaders should be highly aware of how they are communicating with their posture and demeanor as well as their words.
  • People decide if you are competent in less than 100 milliseconds, so you need to be very mindful of your body language and facial expressions when you meet new people in order to make the best impression.

Of course, because of the way human’s brains work, emotions often come before thoughts, so humans feel before we think. This can lead to misunderstandings, disconnections, and stress overload. Learning EI includes understanding how to manage emotions and knowing that being a great leader of a highly successful organization includes the balance of “heart and edge.”

Top performers who are most likely to be promoted are those who approach with heart by demonstrating humility, listening without bias, and building connections. They also have an “edge,” and set high expectations, hold themselves to account, and stand with conviction.

Practicing a balanced EI approach with a mind to connecting with employees, increasing engagement, and creating success, according to Seredich, can help keep everyone’s minds on task by avoiding emotional overload in the workplace.

Achievers Fall Product Release

Achievers fall product release – what’s new?

by Rachel Heller, Technical Writer at Achievers

Making employee milestones matter

The newest addition to our end-to-end Celebrations offering for service anniversaries, the Celebration Card, makes celebrating employee milestones like service anniversaries not just easy for HR, who carry the bulk of the administrative burden, but also for managers and employees who are typically left to put something together to mark the occasion.

With Celebrations and the new Celebration Card, all of the personal stories that celebrate an employee’s unique path are brought to life by colleagues in one social, interactive digital card. Messages and videos from fellow employees are shared on a personalized page, uniquely tailoring the experience.  Anyone in the company can be invited to participate. And when the day arrives, celebrations are published on the Newsfeed to extend the reach of the moment. That means the celebration is not just between one manager or team and the employee—it’s with the entire organization.

Carrying the celebration forward with something to remember it by – whether a certificate, commemorative item, gift, points, or all of the above – is fully automated. With Celebrations the process and experience are streamlined within one consolidated platform, allowing entire organizations to celebrate and recognize milestones and anniversaries all in one place.

Employee recognition on the go: Updates to Achievers Mobile for iPhone® and Android™

Achievers Mobile puts the Employee Success Platform directly into the hands of employees — no matter where they are. Our native apps for iPhone and Android are benchmarked against some of the best large-brand consumer-grade apps. They offer a high quality experience and a dynamic, user-friendly design – including push notifications, offline access, animations, voice typing, and video recognition – enabling employees to connect with colleagues and recognize achievements in real time.

Give sales managers the tools to exceed targets

Results Driver for Sales enables leaders to easily define and launch incentive campaigns. Our Fall Release contains several major enhancements to Results Driver including a new user experience and additional campaign management tools.

Employee success starts with access

We’re dedicated to making social recognition and rewards accessible to everyone, regardless of how they prefer to access the Platform.  Adding on to the Platform’s existing accessible navigation, the Newsfeed is now optimized and enabled for screen reader access (JAWS compatible).

Office Design for Employee Engagement

Office design: it affects employee engagement, health, and productivity

When you’re looking for ways to increase your employees’ well-being, your thoughts probably turn to medical benefits, steps challenges, and perks like healthy snacks in the kitchen. It’s true that those considerations all matter, but there’s another factor in employee engagement and job satisfaction that’s pervasive, yet often overlooked: office design. “The evidence linking good office design and improved health, well-being and productivity of staff is now overwhelming,” according to Jane Henley, CEO of the World Green Building Council. But you don’t need a brand-new building to improve your employees’ work experience. Below is a quick look at how some simple environmental design changes can bring immediate results in employee health and productivity.

Check your ergonomics

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) explains that a poorly constructed work station can actually cause musculoskeletal injuries. Chairs at the wrong height or keyboards that force the worker’s wrist into awkward flexing are just two of the many potential risk factors for people whose work involves hours at the computer. Reviewing the height, angle, and structural support of office work stations and making the changes recommended by AAOS can improve your employees’ comfort and productivity.

Workers need some privacy

Privacy is one of the key elements of an ideal work space, according to the American Society of Interior Designers. While employees need some access to each other to develop a sense of teamwork, an entirely open-plan work space tends to be distracting. Research in the Journal of Environmental Psychology shows that worker satisfaction is dependent on maintaining some level of privacy, and the social benefits of open-plan offices can be outweighed by their negative impact on employee well-being. This problem is easily mitigated by purchasing inexpensive screening dividers that give each employee a bit of personal territory. When feasible, constructing private booths throughout the office is also a great way to give employees a quiet, private space to conduct phone calls or work without interruption.

Contact with nature makes a difference

Numerous studies conducted over the past century have repeatedly proven that working in natural light increases employee health and productivity. Furthermore, when workers have a view of natural vegetation, either through a window or within the office, they stay more alert and perform better on attention tests. If you have windows in your work space that tend to stay covered, try raising the blinds and turning off the overhead lights. An alternate strategy is to install light bulbs that provide a spectrum of light similar to sunshine, and to bring some healthy green plants into your office.

It doesn’t take a lot. Employee engagement and happiness can hinge on subtle changes in the physical environment. If you take the time to make a few simple design improvements, your employees will understand that you care about their well-being, and your efforts can pay off in greater retention and productivity.

Feedback Techniques

How to give feedback your employees will listen to

As a manager, you need to be able to shape the performance of your staff and offer guidance and course corrections as needed. Giving feedback to your team can be tricky, however, since sounding too negative or critical may cause your listener to simply shut down. Here are a few feedback techniques you can use to guide your employees in a manner that encourages them to perform at their peak.

Center feedback on business outcomes

Harvard Business Review recommends approaching your employee in a spirit of collaboration. If you identify specific business outcomes (more sales, better service, etc.) as goals that both of you are interested in achieving, your feedback takes on a quality of teamwork. The entire atmosphere of the interaction is transformed into one of mutuality, as your input assists the two of you in succeeding in a shared effort.

Consider performance management as a holistic system

Employers should view feedback as part of an encompassing performance management system that’s initiated on the hire date, according to HR Daily Advisor. From the first days of orientation through the training, counseling, and coaching you provide your employees, you’re establishing a system to elicit and recognize peak performance.

Establish two-way feedback channels

If you tell a staff member that he or she needs to complete a process more rapidly, you also need to ask that person if there are any obstacles preventing greater efficiency. All too often, managers are unaware of bottlenecks and obstructions that their employees contend with every day. Forbes encourages managers to keep an open door and take a friendly interest in all aspects of their staff’s working life.

Plan on learning something

The traditional view of giving feedback about employees’ performance puts the manager in the role of already knowing everything. If you go into the conversation ready to ask questions and gain insight from your staff, you’ll end up with more buy-in for any proposed changes. Harvard Business Review suggests posing open-ended questions, such as, “How do you feel about how things are going?” and then letting the answer guide the course of your feedback.

The underlying principle of operating a business is that your fortunes are tied to those of your workers. If they feel defensive and alienated, your company’s bottom line will suffer. Feedback that clearly conveys the message that you and your employees are on the same team is the best way to ensure your company’s future resilience.


Thank your employees this Canadian Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, Canada! Have you thanked your employees yet?

Employee engagement has gotten a lot of attention in recent years, as research repeatedly shows the link between engaged employees and high-performing organizations. However, the same body of research shows that many organizations believe they have far too many disengaged staff members. This is unfortunate, as the key to employee engagement isn’t much of a mystery.

The power of thank you

Employee engagement requires a people-centric connection between staff members and management, and there is no greater way to improve this connection than with meaningful employee recognition. Regular and sincere use of words and actions that say thank you goes a long way toward demonstrating appreciation for staff members’ efforts, and employees that feel appreciated renew the cycle by working harder.

Consider one dramatic example of showing employees how much they are valued: PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi ensures key employees know just how important they are to the company by writing personal thank-you letters to their parents. Extreme? Maybe—but imagine how proud you would be to hear your parents share such a letter with friends and family during the holidays.

Employee recognition ideas for Canadian Thanksgiving

The upcoming Canadian Thanksgiving holiday makes this a great time of year for thank-you-themed recognition, even if you aren’t quite comfortable writing thank-you notes to your employees’ parents. These employee recognition ideas aren’t complicated or expensive, and all are sure to have a big impact on your staff.

  • Public praise: When you share positive feedback and sincerely thank staff members in front of their peers, you not only recognize their efforts—you also motivate the rest of the team by setting the bar a little higher.
  • Gift cards: This token of appreciation is a great way to say thank you. When possible, choose a gift card specifically geared toward the individual’s taste, or give the employee an opportunity to choose his or her own reward for a job well done.
  • Thank-you notes: A quick note offering specific praise and heartfelt gratitude can go a long way toward showing your appreciation. Remember, this is more than signing your name to a pre-printed card. Add a few words about the recipient’s individual contributions.

The Canadian Thanksgiving holiday is an excellent opportunity to reflect on your team’s achievements and consider whether you have made genuine efforts to show your gratitude for their contributions. These suggestions are time-tested and proven effective for a quick, inexpensive engagement booster.

Employee Motivation

Why you should identify your employees’ intrinsic and extrinsic motivators

New generations entering the workforce have unique perspectives and expectations about meaningful work and motivating rewards. Savvy employers understand the difference between intrinsic and external (extrinsic) motivators and develop engagement programs that recognize and reward employees for exercising the right behaviors and aligning with company goals.

Outside in: intrinsic versus external motivators

A motivated employee is more likely to go beyond minimum work expectations, deliver high-quality work, and seek out new challenges. Motivation is a quality that energizes and guides behavior, and each of your employees has different motivators:

External (extrinsic) motivators: An employee motivated by external rewards performs work to specifically earn a reward meted out by the employer. The rewards are tangible and often monetary, like pay increases, new benefits, bonuses, or promotions.

Intrinsic motivators: Employees motivated by intrinsic rewards complete work because it is personally rewarding. These are psychological motivators, and they typically fall into four reward categories: meaningfulness, choice, competence, and progress.

You need to understand the different sources of employee motivation so that you can train managers to match the right rewards and recognition styles to the right employee. If you don’t understand what motivates the multigenerational workforce, you might start losing talent. As the economy picks up, many workers are no longer satisfied staying in jobs that don’t feel rewarding most of the time.

Motivating at all ages

The workforce is now composed of four generations of employees: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y (millennials).

Traditionalists typically get satisfaction from doing a good job, and so are considered self-motivated. They’ve also worked for decades for organizations that rewarded strictly through salary increases and anniversary awards, so they tend to expect less praise and fewer spot bonuses.

Baby Boomers tend to be more motivated than the Traditionalists by work-life balance. They are loyal to their organizations and enjoy sharing their knowledge and experience. Baby Boomers often appreciate more traditional rewards, like items with monetary value, and recognition that they are balancing external duties in their personal lives.

Gen Xers typically have a more individualistic perspective about work. People in this group are after the traditional trappings of success, such as promotions, corner offices, and financial benefits that will help them support their families.

Millennials usually appreciate rewards that let them control their work time, enjoy personal activities, and support their passion for charities, the environment, and social causes. They often prioritize work flexibility over salary and monetary rewards. Millennials also tend to crave feedback, so they can be motivated well by pats on the back and public praise.

Developing an impactful reward system

Salary increases and annual bonuses alone are not the answer to raising levels of employee engagement. A review of 120 years of research found a weak link between salary and job satisfaction, and this is true globally. Salary is important at the point of hiring but becomes less important once an employee is on board. Global employers, in particular, are challenged with engaging and motivating a geographically dispersed workforce. How do you:

  • Understand and address each employee’s motivators
  • Engage the workforce as a whole
  • Align workforce performance across the organization
  • Develop an impactful and fair reward system that includes both intrinsic and extrinsic incentives

Single platform for multiple results

The answer is found in technology. Reward & recognition platforms (like the Achievers Employee Success Platform™), allow employees to earn a mix of public praise and appreciation (which taps into those intrinsic motivators), as well as redeemable points (which tap into extrinsic, monetary motivators).

When you provide employees with a marketplace of items they can shop for with the points they’ve earned, you’re providing a truly tailored experience for each person. Employees are empowered to select the item that’s most meaningful to them, whether it’s plane tickets for a dream vacation, a designer bag, charitable donations, or a Visa® prepaid card they can use for daily expenses.

Forget hierarchy and status

The single platform as a reward system has two important advantages. You can collect global performance data at every level of the organization, and employees can pick the rewards that mean the most to them. The rewards are not tied to an employee’s tenure or their status in a hierarchy, like most traditional reward systems.

You can continue to link the remuneration to your employee’s role, but any reward system should be flexible enough to acknowledge external motivations and the four groups that comprise opportunities for intrinsic motivation. Attract, engage, and align employees, and give them the rewards they want for exhibiting the right behaviors. It’s the formula for a successful employee engagement strategy.

Employee Recognition

Trend alert: Employee recognition is hot and lapel pins are not

We hate to be the one to tell you this, but a lot of employees think sporting a company lapel pin is about as “in” as wearing socks with sandals. There are much better ways to reward your employees and reinforce your brand besides just handing out tchotchkes.

Companies today are getting extremely competitive when it comes to culture and perks. Does your employee engagement strategy reflect what employees truly want and even expect from their employers?

What’s out? Passé trends include:

  • Ad hoc and disconnected recognition
  • Hierarchy
  • Annual or semi-annual feedback & bonuses

What’s on-trend today is:

  • Collaboration and bottom-up communication
  • Cross-team recognition
  • Tailored but fair rewards

Modern recognition strategies are necessary to win in today’s competitive business landscape, and these strategies must be transparent and advanced – just like the modern workplace. Evolving your engagement strategy reaches beyond what’s “on-trend” and extends to the bottom line. We curated this list of ten reasons why you need to replace the lapel pins with real-time recognition:

  1. Create better shareholder value.
    Recognized employees will work harder to satisfy your customers, which has a direct effect on your organization’s stakeholders.
  2. Align employees with business objectives.
    This reinforces the right behaviors and makes recognition more purposeful.
  3. Get employees engaged.
    Recognition solidifies employees’ emotional connection with your company.
  4. Celebrate individual accomplishments.
    While team recognition is important, employees want to feel that they have made an impact at an individual level too.
  5. Employees will work harder.
    80 percent of employees said recognition is a strong motivator of work performance.
  6. Maximize retention rates.
    Engaged employees are 87 percent less likely to leave their organizations.
  7. Leverage your greatest resource.
    Recognition is the easiest and most meaningful way to motivate your people.
  8. Become more productive and profitable.
    Organizations with high engagement rates are 78 percent more productive and 40 percent more profitable than organizations with low engagement levels.
  9. Develop your future leaders and motivate them to stay.
    Engaged employees perform 20 percent better.
  10. Reinforce positive behaviors.

When great work is recognized, it’s repeated.

Wonder what other recognition styles are in this season? Download The Ultimate Guide to Employee Recognition to find out!