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THE YCEO: 5 Ways to Keep Morale High Among Workers Who Have to Be on the Job Dring the Holidays

Health care, retail, security and the military are professions where -- alas -- some people have to work on Christmas.

Most of us are looking forward to the long weekend this holiday season when we can spend extra time with loved ones. We take for granted that most employers will close their doors for some or all of the upcoming Christmas holiday. And most do: More than 90 percent of businesses responding to a Society of Human Resource Management poll affirmed that they give their employees this time off.

However, others will spend their holiday at the workplace.

regardless of the calendar. Health care, retail, security, hospitality and the armed forces are included in these ranks. While people who work for these organizations know this requirement when they choose these professions, that fact hardly lightens the hardship of missing out on special holiday moments with family and friends.

While both of us personally have always had time off on the traditional U.S. holidays, members of our family aren't as fortunate. We boast a nurse, a bartender and a national park ranger among them -- family members who, over the years, have needed to accommodate their schedules to make sure they're ncluded in family celebrations.

The challenge to employers is to keep these employees focused and happy during these times. If you're in this group, consider the following five suggestions:

Offer a great culture.
One of the most important aspects of keeping employees motivated is to create a pleasing work culture. While even the best coworkers are not likely going to replace the opportunity to spend time with family, some of the sting can be alleviated when your business boasts a culture where colleagues enjoy one another's company.

However, a great culture can’t be manufactured quickly; it takes time. Creating a company where employees feel dedicated to your customers starts with solid leadership and a commitment to service. Employees look to leadership for the example. Therefore, if you want employees to "own" their jobs, management needs to lead the way.

Management should therefore consistently focus on the organization's mission and vision, on serving the customer and on rewarding employees who embrace these objectives. Committed employees are much more likely to feel accountable to their work.

Offer cash or some other incentive.
 Money can’t buy happiness, but it can help assuage the pain of missing out on holiday activities. Review your leave and holiday pay policies. Consider paying a premium to employees willing to come in on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

You may also want to buy a special meal or snacks, play music, put up decorations or have some fun activities prepared if these actitivies can be done without compromising the company's workload.

Offer compensatory time off.
Offer employees who are willing or required to work during the holidays additional days of leave that can be taken at another time. For example, we know a woman who has a business that provides personal trainers and instructors for yoga and other types of classes. During the holidays, she always teaches one of the classes herself. And,for those instructors assigned to teach on a holiday, she offers to work for them at another time and gives them the extra money raised from that  class.

This is her way of supporting her instructors and making working on the holidays more palatable.

Be fair.
Time off and leave policies should be fair to all employees. Many businesses use a first-come, first-serve or seniority system to dole out leave. However, there are pros and cons to both.

Seniority systems can penalize younger workers who tend to change jobs more frequently. First-come, first-serve systems benefit those few employees who are always very quick to reply while disadvantaging others who make their requests hours or sometimes just minutes later. It can be OK to ask employees to volunteer to work on a holiday, especially if you're offering incentives.

You may find that there are employees who would prefer the additional money or would like the time off at a different time; this then gives the opportunity to take holiday time off to those who really want it. The only caveat here is to make sure that system is truly voluntary.

Offer your sincere thanks.
 Finally, no matter what other incentives or systems are involved, say "thank you." Employees who work on a holiday deserve your sincere thanks, regardless of the reason. If possible, thank them on that day, in person. If this isn’t possible, be sure to give them your personal thanks, both before and after the day. People need to be appreciated for their sacrifice, even if they volunteer for the duty.

While no system or policy will satisfy everyone, you can lessen the pain of working during the holidays. Create an environment that is enjoyable, offer incentives or other rewards to those who work and give a personal thank you. If you are fair, fun and sincere, you are likely to keep your workforce focused and motivated when the workday is mandatory. 


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