Human Resources

Why HR Should Step Up During the Holidays


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It’s officially that time of year again; the days are getting shorter, the air is getting cooler, and we’re gradually dusting off our wooly hats and winter wear.

While the transition to the winter months always proves to be a challenge, the holiday season tends to brighten our spirits with twinkling lights, roaring fires, and perhaps one too many baked goods. 

Thanks to COVID-19, however, the chill of the air has been accompanied by an extra special sting the last couple of years, leaving employers and businesses alike stressed and worn thin as people all around deal with losses, isolation, and an abundance of other unprecedented issues.

Based on what we’ve learned over the last 18+ months, HR needs to remain at the top of their game to get employees and businesses through to the New Year with ease.

To explain further, below we go into detail about how and why HR should step up during the holidays.


Employee Wellbeing

Why is it important?

Employee wellbeing should be a key priority for HR teams, especially during the holidays. Organisations that take proper care of their people have higher levels of employee engagement, reduced absences, and sick leave, and are likely to perform better overall while maintaining a higher level of productivity.

Not to mention, happy employees make for better retention and turnover rates, ultimately making organisations more desirable places to work for top talent.

How can HR step up?

It’s not enough to simply give employees a half-day off here, or the occasional pat on the back for a job well done there - employee wellbeing needs to be embedded in workplace culture rather than used as a last-ditch attempt at improving employee morale when employees are feeling tired, stressed, and burnt out.

A few examples of how HR can step up in this department include:

  • Setting up the necessary mental health initiatives (e.g. training and awareness to reduce stigma and promote inclusivity).
  • Enhancing internal communication and encouraging open and honest employee feedback, including anonymous surveys.
  • Promoting healthy habits (i.e. eating right, staying hydrated, and taking allotted breaks).
  • Making reasonable adjustments to work processes and policies to ensure employee wellbeing is priority one.

While it’s true that managing employee wellbeing is just good business sense, the focus should be on employees rather than the business needs. In other words, when HR focuses on the ‘human’ in ‘human resources’, the rest will fall into place.


Annual Leave

Why is it important? 

While encouraging annual leave is very much in line with employee wellbeing, we feel it deserves its own section as in these last two years, in particular, it’s been a common theme for people to neglect booking their holidays because, well, there’s simply been no place to go!

To many, it felt like a waste to use up their holiday entitlement when their time would likely be spent sitting on the couch, only a stone’s throw away from their home office. However, it’s not good for anyone - no matter how invested in their job - to skip over their allotted holidays and keep working as it only promotes exhaustion, frustration, mental and physical health decline due to the lack of work-life balance.

That's why it's so important for HR to encourage people to take a few extra days off before and after the New Year. 

How can HR step up? 

A few ways that HR can encourage employees to use their holidays include:

  • Ensuring that booking off holidays is simple and straightforward.
  • Sending out regular reminders (e.g., via email and company newsletters) to encourage employees to take their leave.
  • Promoting positive conversation around work-life balance and the importance of taking time off to rest and recharge.

Plus, when HR takes the reins on encouraging annual leave, it not only benefits employees but also benefits the workplace as it increases productivity and minimises absence due to stress-related health issues. 


Practicing Inclusivity

Why is it important?

Practicing inclusivity, especially during the holidays, is important because while December brings Christmas celebrations for many, there are also a large number of people who don’t celebrate the same way - or celebrate at all.

To this end, it’s crucial for HR to be mindful of the level of diversity in the business and reflect that by practicing inclusivity during each holiday period and not just at Christmas.

How can HR step up?

The best way for HR to step up when it comes to promoting inclusivity, both during and in between holidays, include:

  • Creating a diverse planning committee.
  • Promoting awareness of various religions and celebrations.
  • Examining barriers to employee participation.
  • Encouraging virtual connection and celebrations for remote workers.
  • Offering floating holidays so that staff can choose when to take time off for celebrations.
  • Inviting open feedback from employees on how to improve inclusive practices in the workplace. 



Recognition and Appreciation 

Why is it important?

It’s important for employees to be both recognised and appreciated for their work during any time of the year, but as things get busier and businesses start to wrap things up towards the end of the year, employee appreciation is often one of the first things to be neglected.

Employee appreciation, however, is directly tied to job satisfaction, employee engagement, and employee morale, which is why it’s necessary for HR to encourage managers at every level to hone in on the efforts of each employee and give them the appropriate accolades.

How can HR step up?

During the holidays, recognition and appreciation should be a specific focus as the holidays tend to signify the end of one year and the beginning of another; a time for reflection and positive changes for employees and businesses alike.

Subsequently, HR can encourage senior leadership and managers to:

  • Always say “thank you”.
  • Give appropriate gifts and awards for a job well done (e.g., one-off paid holidays, team lunches, or vouchers).
  • Take employees aside and provide specific, positive feedback.
  • Acknowledge employees’ accomplishments in front of their peers.
  • Involve employees in decision-making where possible.

At the end of the day, rewarding hard work fosters workplace loyalty as well as a motivated and engaged workforce. Recognition and appreciation costs next to nothing (financially or otherwise) in the grand scheme of things, and returns tremendous results at work, so making it a top priority really is a no-brainer.


Being Proactive

Why is it important?

In a recent study, it was found that a whopping 70% of employees aren’t engaged at work, a number that directly relates to businesses that lack smart, proactive HR communication strategies. However, during the holiday season, this number often plummets further with deadlines, the cold and flu, and winter weather conditions.

While historically speaking HR teams have adopted a reactive approach to their roles (as is the nature of many facets of the job), in the face of the coronavirus, people professionals have instead had to adapt to new ways of thinking and change their practices to be more proactive to keep employees engaged.

How can HR step up?

To have a leg up on the holiday blues and to stay connected with the latest trends, emerging problems, and prevalent issues within the business, HR can:

  • Implement enhanced communication practices to keep everyone informed and involved.
  • Meet with each level of the company on a frequent basis, from C-suite to new hires, to understand what’s needed at each level to keep employees working at their best.
  • Use HR analytics to stay one step ahead with consistent data and analytical insights.
  • Identify any skills gaps that impact both business growth and decline.
  • Set quarterly goals with senior managers to stay ahead of the curve.

The reality is that if HR teams are too busy with paperwork and inquiries, there won’t be any time to align organisational objectives and growth with employee needs.

That’s why HR should step up during the holidays, and all year round for that matter, to foster a sustainable, goal-oriented work environment where employees can thrive. 

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