Make sure employees aren't planning their exit this Christmas

The Christmas period is the longest stretch the nation has off from work, and the one most likely to include plenty of booze-fuelled deep-and-meaningfuls with loved ones. All that nattering and repeated summing up of how-life's-been, combined with days and days of reflection, tends to lead people to critically assess how happy they are with their job. Which all too often leads to New Year's resolution number one being: "Find a new job."

Think we're being unnecessarily pessimistic? 51% of UK workers are frustrated or disengaged with their jobs, according to a report that came out last week from Hay Group (and, interestingly, that's 10% more than the average in Europe).

That means it's crucial you make staff feel valued right now. "Employers often underestimate how important Christmas is to people psychologically," explains Gareth Chick, director of management consultancy Spring Partnerships. "Don't let key members of your team disappear without offering them some words of encouragement about their performance, and commitment to the company in 2010. Get your message right, and they'll go home feeling incredibly positive about their company; get it wrong, and they might spend the holiday contemplating a change of career in 2011."

Aim to have a sit-down with each member of your team before they leave for the year. Find out what they've enjoyed and disliked in the last 12 months, and what would keep them happy. Do they need to be more challenged to keep progressing? Could a slight shift in role make more of their skills and fulfil them more? Are they looking for more money, and could you set more aggressive individual targets for 2011 that would enable them to earn that?

Read our guide on appraising employee performance for more advice, and make sure you're ready to set targets for each individual working for you for the year ahead. Our feature on setting business targets will help.

And then add a resolution to your own list: to keep up these sit-downs and appraisals. Employees who feel valued and who have a hand in shaping their own future within your business are the ones most likely to flourish, and, therefore, to stay with you.

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