For a company to thrive, it needs to not only meet productivity levels but increase them — year round. But how do you accomplish that during a time of year when employees’ stressors and distractions are magnified?

If companies view this potential dip in productivity as an opportunity rather than a setback, they can position themselves for success in the new year by placing a renewed focus on employee retention efforts.

Here’s how you can bump up employee engagement and satisfaction this holiday season.

1. Set realistic year-end goals
Employees are making lists and you better believe they’re checking them more than twice. With party planning, shopping, family visits and road trips in the mix, you can’t expect elf-like productivity around the clock. Overloading employees throughout December will set them up for failure.
Instead, set realistic project goals — in writing! — so expectations are clearly defined, understood, and can be referenced. With manageable goals, time off will become more enjoyable and stress free for both you and them.

2. Establish a standard of transparency
Taking time to recharge is essential to avoiding burnout. You want your employees to enjoy their vacation time without stressing about the piled up responsibilities they’ll return to after the holidays. Maintain smooth operations and eliminate confusion by ensuring everyone is on the same page throughout the month.
Send out regular e-mail communications and gather staff together for a weekly or bi-weekly progress meeting. If employees feel they’re playing an active role in company development they’ll be more eager to join the team effort to help meet goals. This is also a great time to review the company’s vacation policy so there are less hiccups when coordinating schedules.

3. Be flexible
Realistically, you can’t approve the dates for every employee’s time off request — otherwise the office, warehouse, store, you name it, would be unoperational. Consider letting employees leave early, come in late, or even work from home a few days so they can optimize travel time or spend an extra few hours with kids or visiting relatives.
This compromise gives them flexibility to work around family and holiday needs without making you seem like a total Scrooge for sticking so stringently to the vacation policy.

4. Celebrate successes
Use positive reinforcement — it’s that simple.
Show an entire team their contributions matter by treating them to lunch or an impromptu outing for drinks after work. Plan a holiday party that allows employees to mingle in a relaxed setting outside the workday hustle and bustle.
No extra room in the budget? Thank-you cards, phone calls or congratulatory emails to acknowledge a job well done are quick appreciative acts that go a long way — and cost nothing more than your time and foresight.

5. Give back together
During the holidays, there are opportunities to volunteer around every corner. Grab your staff and spread some cheer to those who need it most.
Organize a gift or food drive as a competition to see what team can donate the most items. Make it a team building incentive and reward the winning group

No matter how much cheer and goodwill you aim to spread to your staff this holiday season, it’s important to remember: happy employees aren’t necessarily engaged employees — and vice versa. To truly maximize your workforce and increase retention, making employee engagement a focus throughout the year is key.