The Holiday Season Approaches: 12 HR Preparation Tips

What is one thing HR teams need to consider while preparing for the upcoming holiday season?

To help HR teams with preparations for the holidays, we asked HR leaders and recruiting specialists this question for their best advice. From remembering it’s not just the Christmas season to staying on top of employee burnout, there are several HR considerations to keep in mind during the holidays.

Here are 12 HR preparation tips for the holiday season:

  • Remember It's Not Just Christmas
  • Guide Executives in Employee Recognition
  • Give Yourself Grace
  • Focus on Employees as People First
  • Remind Employees to Unplug
  • Watch for Employee Burnout
  • Communicate Time off Policies
  • Provide Opportunities to Connect
  • Encourage Leaders to Reassess Team Priorities
  • Prioritize Holiday Retention Through Recognition
  • Beware the PTO Pile-Up
  • Bring Good Tidings of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 

Remember It’s Not Just Christmas

Don't be afraid of the individual holiday seasons but do remember it's not just Christmas and it's not just Hanukkah. If you are going to call out a holiday, be sure to call out all the holidays. If you decorate for one, decorate for many. Use this as an opportunity to promote your diversity initiatives!

And, if you know someone is Jewish, you don't have to stick with the saying, “Happy Holidays.” Be comfortable saying, “Happy Hanukkah” (and do the same for your Christian employees).

Karen Young, HR Resolutions

Guide Executives in Employee Appreciation

The holiday season is always a good time for senior executives and CEOs to communicate their appreciation for the hard work and great results the team delivered throughout the year. HR teams can help guide executives in how and when to communicate these messages to employees.

Celebrating team members with recognition ceremonies at staff meetings, ensuring annual reviews and timely performance bonuses are given, and adding sought-after new benefits for the year ahead, are all great ways for the executive team to show appreciation, increase retention and close out the year on a high note.

Heather Smith, Flimp Communications

Give Yourself Grace

We are going into this season 52% higher on burnout risk. We are raw. And to make matters worse, we are taking a lot on this holiday, since for many of us it's the first public, whole-family celebration in two years. HR teams need to emphasize three things: First, remember the value of self-care (sleep, exercise, eating well).

Second, we need to cut ourselves some slack. The holidays do not need to be perfect. The perfect decorations, the perfect gathering, and the perfect turkey are all unattainable. What matters is getting together.

And third, we need to inject positivity. Our chronically negative brains have been driven super-negative with the pandemic. Give thanks for the little things and surround yourself with positive people during the holiday season.

Andrew Shatte', Ph.D., meQuilibrium 

Focus on Employees as People First

The last 19 months have been stressful for both employers and employees. In addition, the holiday season often adds to employee stress, even in non-pandemic times. As we approach the 2021 holiday season, HR teams can focus on one key area:

Employees are people first. Create an environment of belongingness and safety during this stressful time of year to show your employees you care. Encourage managers to:

  • Celebrate the year’s successes, acknowledge efforts
  • Promote benefits and resources that support health and wellbeing such as EAP’s, mental health resources, gym memberships, and discounts.
  • Incorporate updated CDC guidelines into any year-end company events. Share tips on personal safety for employees and their families to protect health throughout the holidays.

Alison Diflorio, Exude Inc.

Remind Employees to Unplug

With COVID-19 and its massive increase in remote working policies, we can observe a tendency of fewer PTO's and bank holidays being used to work as well. What started as "just checking my emails" and "just answering calls from my boss or team" became the new normal.

HR teams should proactively communicate to management and staff that a couple of days "shutting down" increases mental health and fosters resilience. After all, the upcoming holiday season has its own specific challenges.

Reinhard Guggenberger, Soaring Fox

Watch for Employee Burnout

The holiday season requires more demand at home and for most, higher demand at work as well. Staff burnout is at a greater risk because of the great resignation and staff adapting to remote work culture.

Many employees are working with less staff due to the length of time to fill positions at a record high and turnover. Stay close to your staff to see how you can support them.

Jacqlyn Nedvin, Autism Speaks

Communicate Time Off Policies

As the end of the year approaches, it's important to proactively remind teams of company time-off policies, such as how to request, the need to request early to ensure team coverage, and to reiterate any rollover caps that may apply to PTO balances.

Neely Tubati-Alexander, Culture Connective

Provide Opportunities to Connect

This holiday season is all about reconnecting and celebrating safely with the people we’ve missed over the last 18 months. It’s important that HR teams allow their employees to do just that. Provide additional flexibility around schedules to allow for much-needed family time. Additionally, if restrictions allow it, consider hosting an in-person holiday party to boost morale and get the team back together. Employees will be grateful for your effort to restore normality.

Sean Fahey, VidCruiter

Encourage Leaders to Reassess Team Priorities

It is important for leaders to take a step back, reassess team priorities, and determine what things are absolutely critical to complete during the last few weeks of the year and what things should we plan to do well starting in January. Doing so will help alleviate stress from teams, decrease potential burnout that will impact employees during the holiday season, and ensure that amidst what is typically a busy season for customers and clients too, modeling behaviors that celebrate balance and well-being are front and center.

Dynasti Hunt, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant

Prioritize Holiday Retention Through Recognition

In a time of significant uncertainties and moving targets, consider ways to boost morale and engagement through the power of rewards and recognition. Workplace culture can never be taken for granted. Find ways to recognize your teams, get creative with thank you notes, picture mosaics, small gifts, or any other way your company has branded recognition. The power of thank you, accolades, and recognition for a job well-done increases team morale and inspires teams to do more, feel valued by their employer, and boosts retention.

Tasha Bell, Crescent

Beware the PTO Pile-Up

One of the biggest considerations for HR teams this year will be the “PTO pile-up.” In 2020, many employees weren’t able to take their allotted vacation time, or chose not to, due to COVID-related travel restrictions and social distancing guidelines. Now that the world is returning to normal, many are anxious to travel again and spend the holidays with family and friends.

In addition to this year’s PTO, many employees carried over time from last year that they have been eagerly waiting to use. Since it’s already too late in the year for HR departments to require employees to use their PTO gradually to avoid an end-of-year pile-up, they now need to be selective in determining who will take time off and when to ensure they aren’t understaffed during the holiday season.

John Feldmann, Insperity

Bring Good Tidings of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

As our faces and fingerprints are different, so are the various ways the holiday season is celebrated. HR teams must not only consider it while preparing for the holidays, but take advantage of this time to empower their teams, to educate others on their individual culture, norms, and traditions.

If your organization has Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), leverage their advice on ideas they would like to see. If your organization does not have ERGs, you can always conduct a quick poll to be inclusive, prior to finalizing your plans.

A few ideas for a festive holiday season sparkled with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion include: "Holidays Around the World" where each country gets to showcase their holiday celebrated this time of year, or even hiring a caterer for your event who can serve international cuisine. Grow through these fun times by learning something new from someone who is different than you.

Tish McFadden, PHR, MSHRM, The Shine Institute 

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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