Very few workers were enthusiastic returning to work this week, after a longer than average Christmas break, extremely wet and windy weather and a forecast of more to come.  It’s not surprising that a few of them will have not come in at all, the first week back usually has a high rate of attrition.  
The problem is that HR people who are expected to get their people motivated probably don’t feel very enthusiastic themselves, not least because they face additional challenges over Christmas and New Year.
Firstly, there’s all the reporting from last year, coupled with planning for the new one, and those soaring rates of sickness absence in the first week back at work won’t help.  Tracking staff absence is probably the last thing on an HR Manager’s mind – but it shouldn’t be.
Meanwhile, the press is reporting that record numbers of staff have resolved to find a new job this year, so HR are struggling with talent retention – all in week one.  With this increasing workload, managers nonetheless expect HR to wave a magic wand and inspire their workforce into feeling happy and motivated. It’s a big ask.
Here’s Adrian’s suggestions for keeping your team motivated and on board, even when you may not feel terribly motivated yourself:

Lead by example

No matter how fed up and snappy you feel, people will expect you to set the tone and work ethic for the rest of the company.  If you stay optimistic and positive, and maintain a professional facade of calm, the rest of the team will feel obliged to follow your lead.

Focus on Retaining your Talent

With so many people seeing the New Year as a chance to look for a new job, make sure you identify who the people you need to retain are and let them know you have plans for them to advance in 2016, even if you can’t offer them anything now.  Rewards don’t have to be financial, identify learning and development needs and let them know you want to invest in them.  To quote entrepreneur Richard Branson, who has one of the best staff retention rates in the UK: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

Treat People as Individuals

Teamwork may be vital for company success, and will pay dividends, but when people are unhappy, it is likely to be an individual approach that picks them up, especially in larger organisations where individuals can be forgotten. HR are people-people, and often a big smile and a kind word can pay dividends, don’t wait until an appraisal to say thank you and/or offer praise for a job well done.  Not only will that employee feel valued, but it also reinforces to your team that you notice good performance.  Similarly, if someone is underperforming, take them aside for one-on-one time, make an effort to understand where they are mentally and offer assistance or job coaching if needed.

Solve your own Challenges

As an HR Manager, many of the stresses at the start and end of a new leave year can be assisted or eliminated with cloud based technology.  Whether it’s installing technology to allow self service for annual leave requests, or absence management software, there really isn’t any excuse for HR to still be struggling with spreadsheet nightmares in 2016.  You deserve an easier life, and usually these systems pay for themselves within 12 months or less.  If you’d like to know more, I’m running a free webinar on the many ways new Technology can help HR Managers – without the ‘Geekspeak’ at the end of January.

Inject a bit of Fun

Team spirit is great for lifting the gloom.  There’s nothing like a good old team night out, or dress-down day to get people looking forward to coming into work.  After a whole season of partying and a month where everyone is broke, it only takes a small budget to have a ‘gloomiest costume Friday’ – or if all your team are on New year Diets, maybe start a dieting club!  Be creative – you may need to be the positive one at first but soon you’ll have everyone on board.
Adrian concludes: “Being back at work is inevitable and the ‘New Year, New Me’ approach will have your people thinking and re-thinking what they want to achieve in 2016.  However, with a little tweaking, (and a smile you may have to fake at first), HR really can make a difference and turn those New Year blues into planning for a fruitful Spring.  Happy New Year everyone!”