Credit: iStockphoto

Credit: iStockphoto

If you manage a team or company, it’s time to develop your end-of-year message to employees.

The reflective nature of the holiday season and the symbolism of the new year provide the opportunity to highlight significant achievements and focus attention on the priorities ahead.

Who should send a year-end message? Anyone responsible for leading other employees, including C-suite leaders, division managers, team leaders and business owners. The tone should be authentic to the sender and the content relevant to the recipients. Missives from the C-level will reference corporate goals while communication from those further down in the organization will focus on the specific achievements and goals for their group or department. As well, small and medium-sized businesses might also consider this type of communication to their employees.

Crafting the message

While the content and tone will differ depending on the sender and audience, within the general format you’ll want to:

  • Thank employees/team members for their hard work during the past year. If you don’t have time or the inclination to draft the full message, this is the core and very basic element you should include.
  • Review accomplishments against annual goals. Public companies will need to protect against divulging anything that is not yet public or could be considered material. This section should also focus on the accomplishments of the particular audience and tie them back to the larger organization’s goals so that employees can see how their contribution fits.
  • Acknowledge specific achievements, such as handling of an acquisition, divestiture or reorganization; reaching a stretch goal; completing an initiative or activity that was above and beyond the group’s normal responsibilities; or expanding the organization/group’s capacities in a new, value-adding direction. This reinforces organizational values and encourages employees to repeat the actions and attitudes it took to accomplish that success.
  • Make a general reference to the coming year’s goals/focus. Notice that this is a general reference, not a detailed review. Hone in on the key areas, be it customers, sales or innovation, and why those areas are critical for success. Those in groups or divisions should tie the group’s goals back to the overall organization’s goals.
  • Reiterate the end of the year’s opportunity to take a breath before the new year begins. This is a significant component. Some employees feel they need permission to enjoy a holiday or even take time off. Others see it as proof that management does, indeed, have a heart. Most simply appreciate acknowledgement of the holiday season, their hard work and marking the year’s passing.
  • Wish them a happy new year. Consider alternatives such as “happy holidays” or “season’s greetings” depending on the organization’s culture and the delivery mechanism.

Delivery and timing

The most effective delivery method takes into account how recipients generally receive information. E-mail might be the preferred method if all employees have e-mail addresses. Those in manufacturing organizations might consider posting a printed message on bulletin boards. A printed letter distributed to workstations or mailed to employees is a common practice. Recorded voicemail is another alternative, depending on what’s appropriate for the organization and recipients. However, visual delivery allows recipients to internalize the communication at their own pace and reference it as needed.

Senders in corporations and larger organizations should also check with their supervisors and communications departments to see if other messages are planned. While employees generally don’t mind multiple missives, it’s best if these communications are spread out over time and, if possible, use different delivery methods.

In closing

An important component to employee engagement is communicating that employees are valued, showing them how their efforts contribute to the organization’s success and sharing with them the vision for the future. Use your year-end communication to connect with your employees and jump-start 2014.

Linda A. Beheler, APR, is a corporate communications executive who melds marketing and public relations to drive business goals. Her background includes Fortune 500 manufacturing and technology companies as well as agency and association positions. She also serves on the Advisory Board for Communication Studies at Southern Methodist University.

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