ON Christmas day I go around to the local police station and give a bar of Swiss chocolate to each person on duty. They always say they can't accept it and I tell them to give it to their children or spouse. Whatever the situation, all the chocolate disappears.
I know that the police are not going to let me off the hook if I am guilty of a crime, chocolate notwithstanding, but it does create a nice feeling in the place.
So in this column I am going to write to management about the things they should do at year end and things they should not.
The first thing is the end-of-year lunch or braai. In my office, we have one year-end function: it is informal and employees only - and everyone may eat and drink as much as they wish. One may hold different functions for different religions, if it is applicable.
(Right: Terry Mackenzie Hoy listens carefully to his staff's pleas for salary increases.)
But note: we do not invite spouses. Ever. There is too much opportunity for friction, both between staff and spouses. What we do is we find out the names of the spouses and send a note in an envelope with R500 in cash. The note says something like: "Thanks for the sacrifices your family has made during this year - please accept this gift and buy something special."
Now, in my case, I have seven members of staff, so this exercise costs about R3 500 - bigger organisations may feel they can't do this - but they can - and the results are surprisingly good. But the end-of-year function with spouses, staff, drink, food and a dance band... Oh, no! Just don't do it - you'll only please half the staff and give the others an axe to grind.
Another thing to do is to stop work early. This year, the 16th is a Friday. So stop working, officially, on the 13th. Use the 14th and 15th to clean up the workshop, audit the tools, change the light bulbs in the office (yes, all of them) and generally clean up.
This allows you to get to get back to work in January without having to cope with the mess of the past. You may be tempted to say: "Oh no! We have to work to the very end!"
You don't... you know you don't. Go round saying: "The 13th is the new 16th" and you'll soon convince yourself.
Oh, and why change the light bulbs? Firstly, it is a symbolic act. Secondly, they have to be changed sometime and many have not been changed come year end. Remember that fluorescent lights lose 30% of their light output in a year. Do you really want to have dim lights in a workshop?
And, at the end of the year, do you give the staff feedback? I don't mean a little ‘pep talk' at the end-of-year function... I mean do you gather everyone together and ask questions?
Try to ask the following questions: (and get them to write down the answers... anonymously obviously)
- What was the best thing we did this year?
- What was the worst?
- What should we improve?
- Do you think you get paid enough?
- If not enough, how much more do you need?
- What do you think our turnover was this year?
- Do you think our work is of good quality?
- What can we do to improve?
- Do you think that we work safely enough?
- Who, in our business, should be asked to leave?
- Who is vital to our business, apart from the owner?
These are just a few suggestions but do you get the idea? Write a summary of how you think the year went, take the answers you got from the survey (without the answers to the question about who you could do without, obviously) and stick it up on the office notice board or print it and distribute it to the staff.
How will this help? The whole point is that you are paying some attention to your staff... and you will be surprised at how good that makes them feel. Of course, if you don't do anything about it they'll just think, "oh, same old, same old..." and nothing much will happen for the good.
Above all, at year end, reflect on the past, plan for the future and... most importantly... have a good rest.