It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but it still feels exactly like Groundhog Day. The year 2020 feels like 2,020 years rolled into one, but we finally have a real reason to celebrate: It’s ending! Granted, the never-ending pandemic figures to steamroll right into the first half of 2021, but that shouldn’t stop leaders from aspiring to become better as the New Year approaches.
The holiday season always comes with its fair share of fatigue, but this one is unique. Workers in every industry have gone through the wringer for nearly nine months straight—an incubation period that has produced enough stress, fear, pressure, and anxiety to last several lifetimes. Employee burnout is common. Emotional breakdowns are routine.
In a sense, everyone got a lump of coal at the bottom of last year’s stocking—no refunds or exchanges, either.
Gifts that keep giving
To spur some positive karmic energy for a better tomorrow, entrepreneurs and small-business leaders can prioritize several things today to end this bizarre year on a high note and look ahead to a more fruitful 2021:
1. Use new technology for employee training and professional development. The holidays are a slower time of year for most businesses, with many people on vacation or visiting family (although the pandemic figures to greatly affect those dutiful pilgrimages). This opens up a great opportunity for employees to work on projects and professional development training not related to everyday tasks. Plus, Zoom fatigue is so real that employees will appreciate something (anything!) different from another video call.
“The affordability and portability of modern VR technology mean that virtual-reality training is totally scalable. Employees can learn from anywhere; because the experience is digital, it can be a pre-recorded, narrated experience or a live session,” says Saagar Govil, CEO and chairman of technology company Cemtrex. “Unlike a Zoom meeting, VR offers a fully engaging experience, facilitating learning by doing in a collaborative environment that captures both body movements and audio expressions.”
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If you’re a leader who wants to take advantage of the affordable, accessible digital training tools that are available in the market, you’ll find scores of dynamic options that can really make a difference in how well prepared your workforce is. Whether you want to run retail associates through lifelike simulations (e.g., how to handle a difficult customer) or provide factory workers with photorealistic tutorials of floor layouts and tools, there are solutions aplenty. Branch out from traditional classroom-type training sessions and inject some advanced technology into your educational curricula. Your employees will respond with deeper engagement.
2. Find ways to get involved in the community to give back. No matter how difficult your year has been, a lot of other people have had it worse. It’s better to give than to receive, so recognize your blessings and find a local charity to support this holiday season. Volunteering to work in soup kitchens or homeless shelters, supporting toy and coat drives, or just putting a few extra dollars into the Salvation Army kettle goes a long way.
Adopt-a-family platforms are a particularly great investment—round up your employees and encourage them to support a low-income child or family by spearheading the donation efforts. The joy you spread will be contagious for everyone involved: Not only will the family be overwhelmed with gratitude, but your employees will appreciate working for a philanthropic company that values genuine relationships and community building. It’s the proverbial win-win.
3. Communicate new goals and initiatives for 2021. Few things in life excite us like a new challenge, and this is particularly true as we collectively (and sometimes desperately) seek reasons to look forward to the calendar turning to a new year. On an individual level, multitudes of people will promise to start taking better care of themselves and cut back on bad habits. Those sound like pretty solid professional goals as well.
What does your company have to be excited about this coming year? Advertise it to your workforce and encourage ownership by everyone. Goals are easier to reach and initiatives are easier to implement when people are passionate about them.
4. Recognize employees for their hard work. In a typical year, most companies have holiday parties to celebrate the successes of the past 12 months and recognize employees for their contributions. With the pandemic all but neutralizing the ability to gather in person, these celebrations will need to take on a more creative identity.
The options are almost endless. You could hold a virtual happy hour to celebrate this year’s successes—even if that’s just surviving multiple crises and living to see another business day. Ship gifts to well-deserving employees, or mail a bonus check with a handwritten note of gratitude. It’s not really the dollar amount but rather the thought that counts.
5. Make self-care a priority. It’s become a generational mantra, but its importance cannot be overstated: Taking care of yourself—especially when the world seems to be crashing around you—is the most effective approach to remaining a productive, positive human being.
It’s tempting to alleviate the stress of this year (and the holidays in general) by indulging in unhealthy activities, but that’s a regressive approach. Instead of reaching for another cocktail, try out some new herbal teas. Peel yourself off the couch and take a brisk walk. Find mental peace through meditation, prayer, or yoga. Eat a carrot now and again. It doesn’t have to be boot camp; simple steps suffice. When you lead by example, your charges are more apt to follow.
Ultimately, these actions make you a better person, yes, but also a better leader. Investing in your ability to lead through a deliberate plan to improve is the gift that keeps on giving. Let’s end this (un)forgettable year with a flourish and believe that our best days are still to come.