Christmas, the run up to year end – a time for reflection, looking forward and cementing workplace relationships!

Wherever you work in the world and whichever sector you work in, the run up to year end has a broadly similar feel to it. A review of how the year has unfolded is the standard pre-requisite for determining what you need to do in order to be successful for the coming year. Resourcing plans suddenly come into focus and are dusted off the “shelf”.

Depending on how well the business is doing, this may either be a catalyst for identifying future recruitment needs or, in the less optimistic scenarios, a catalyst for rearranging/restructuring existing resources. It’s not for nothing that Christmas time brings both tidings of corporate joy and on occasion sadness. The work that goes into the plans for the forthcoming business year are readily evidenced across offices everywhere by whiteboards brimming with cryptic text and excel spreadsheets populated to reflect different business scenarios all of which will help inform business strategy moving forward.

It’s also a time of year when many of those who have their performance assessed through more traditional performance appraisal processes will be gearing up for their final annual summary assessment. This should of course represent a balanced summation of an individual’s performance throughout the year and not just the period before Christmas. However, all too often they are actually influenced by what may have happened in the weeks prior to the appraisal itself. Open and regular dialogue throughout the year should never be replaced by one off assessments that are simply meant to coincide with the closure of a calendar/performance year.

Constant dialogue is vital for individuals to feel supported and also to ensure that any issues that might arise are addressed in a timely way rather than being saved up for the “next scheduled appraisal conversation”. If anything, we should all be inwardly focussed on how we can better support our colleagues to make our business more successful. Using a football analogy, when a leading team wants to win the premiership, they would not simply have one review of their performance at the end of the season as by then it’s too late. They will constantly review and talk. Here at Blue Pencil, we are staunch advocates of ending the artificial dialogue that is so often associated with periodic performance appraisals, favouring instead a move to a continuous process of two way dialogue, the mechanics of which we work on with clients to introduce. It is a more sizeable cultural shift than many think as ongoing dialogue is not the same as an ongoing appraisal. It is instead a way of maintaining engagement by recognising when things are go well and being supportive and constructive when assistance is needed to help get things back on track.

No one sets out to under-perform or fail and the type of messaging we provide to others at this time of the year in particular can profoundly influence future levels of engagement. In the UK in 2016, it was estimated that nearly half of all employees started to actively look for new jobs early in the New Year citing dissatisfaction with the way they were being managed as their number one driver. Christmas time is actually a wonderful opportunity to connect with each other more which then helps everyone to experience the sense of togetherness in time for the challenges and opportunities that the New Year will inevitably bring.

If business is going well and we want to cascade this sense of wellbeing to our colleagues, spending a little time to think through how we can create the opportunities to connect with each other more is a wise investment of our time. If we have an office party, we need to try and encourage interaction across levels and functional areas as much as possible.

In law firms, fee earners and non-fee earners alike contribute to the bottom line success of a firm and it is important that any social event recognises this reality as the contribution that support staff in particular make should not be over looked.

How and who you choose to interact with in such a social event will determine its true value. Partners socialising with other Partners may provide useful peer group interaction but Partners socialising with Associates, Paralegals and support staff creates a feeling of togetherness which is actually worth much more in the long run. I recall how much it meant to so many of the junior staff in my old firm when the Senior Partner stayed on at an award ceremony to have his photo taken with the attendees individually. It may seem like a small thing but it is small things that can mean a lot and will hopefully make sure that your employees are not counted amongst the large percentage of employees who view the New Year an as an opportunity for a new challenge and start – somewhere else!

Chris Lipscomb is a Director at Blue Pencil Legal and the former HR Director of Al Tamimi, the largest regional law firm in the Middle East. Chris is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and was recognised this year as one of the 100 most influential Global HR Professionals at the World HRD Congress in Mumbai.