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Year-End Motivation for Burned-Out Employees

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The end of the year is closing in quickly and employees are in search for their last ounce of motivation as end of the year project deadlines and goals are top-of-mind.

Managers are challenging their employees to finish the year strong and ultimately meet goals that were set twelve months ago. Unfortunately, the holidays are notorious for a lack of employee motivation resulting in a decrease of productivity. It takes effective leadership to manage waning desire during this crucial time. Luckily, there are many tried and true methods of keeping employees motivated prior to the year-end.


© Flickr user Jesper Sehested

Quite possibly the most important method of keeping employees motivated is for managers to lead their employees by example. People look for guidance, either by asking questions or simply feeding off of a leader’s work ethic and motivation. Managers giving pep talks to employees about finishing the year strong during a meeting will be effective only if the manager shows the same enthusiasm outside of the room in which the meeting was held. The end of the year is not only a time for employees to prove their ability to do their jobs well, but also for managers to prove their ability to inspire others by doing, not just talking.

Next: set realistic goals. Objectives that were defined in the beginning of the year, if effectively managed and communicated throughout the year, should be attainable. If circumstances have changed, a plan should already be in place to reach the goal on an agreed upon timeframe.

A rule of thumb for setting goals with employees buy-in is the S.M.A.R.T goals guidelines. This is an abbreviation for: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based (or timely). When communicated and implemented effectively, the S.M.A.R.T goal guidelines will ensure the highest level of success when it comes to setting year-end goals.

As a token of gratitude from the organization for reaching said goals, managers may offer rewards, or incentives to employees when setting goals and pushing for a strong year-end finish. Remember, there are other types of rewards and gifts outside of bonuses and gift cards. For example, offering additional paid time off to the team that meets their goal is a way for managers to incentivize and motivate employees.

Finally, the year is over, goals have been met, and all managers and employees are pleased with the year-end results. Recognizing employees for their efforts in meeting year-end goals and deadlines and expressing the value that they bring to the organization is priceless and ironically may come with no price tag at all. A study by Make Their Day, an employee motivation firm, found that 70 percent of survey respondents reported their most meaningful recognition “had no dollar value” and that 83 percent of respondents said recognition for contributions was more fulfilling than rewards of gifts. Not only does this allow employees to feel empowered and accomplished about reaching year-end goals, this sets the tone for the beginning of the new year where employees will be motivated and ready to accomplish the tasks ahead of them.

As the year-end closes in quickly, the importance on keeping employees motivated and energetic about meeting year-end goals increases ten-fold. Managers have a responsibility to assess the methods in which they keep their employees motivated to reach the goals they set for their employees to reach prior to year-end. In doing so, managers must lead by example, set realistic goals, and recognize and reward their employees for staying motivated and ultimately reaching the goals put in place to ensure a positive finish to the year and a strong start to the new year.

Patrick McKenna, SHRM-CP, graduated from St. Mary’s University, Winona, Minnesota in May of 2015. He is currently employed as an HR Consultant with New Focus HR, LLC in Indianapolis, IN. He assists in the areas of compensation, HR compliance, HR policies and procedures, background checks, to name a few.

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