Peak practice: raising engagement at Christmas Inc.

How Santa tackles employee engagement

December 15, 2014

Seasonal businesses face unique and often significant challenges, and Christmas Incorporated is perhaps at the sharp end.

Headquartered on the North Pole industrial estate and chaired by proven entrepreneur Santa C. Laws, the company deals in extremes.

Maintaining a merry workforce through the summer lull to its Yuletide peak demands a highly successful and effective employee engagement strategy.

Mr C. Laws explained: “Sometimes staff, particularly new recruits, can find the fluctuating workload difficult. December is a traditionally challenging time for us and with our 25 December deadline – which is non-negotiable – we need to make sure everyone is on the same page.

“So far we’ve always managed to pull together and I’m proud to say that our next-day delivery service to customers has a 100 per cent record.

“That is almost exclusively down to our workforce and their can-do attitude, but that said, best practice regarding employee engagement is and should remain a work in progress.

“So this year I’ve asked Headlines – The Internal Communications Agency to give our IC programme a bit of a health check.”

Among the recommendations put forward by Headlines’ consultancy team and now embedded in Grotto culture are regular one-to-one meetings between elves and their line managers.

This, along with the introduction of a team of IC ambassadors, has created direct communication channels and a clear path from the shopfloor to the boardroom.

“I love my work and get immense job satisfaction,” said one elf.

“But sometimes I felt like I was just a cog in the wheel and didn’t really have a voice. Now I know my input is recognised and if I ever have anything to share I know I’ll be heard.”

Headlines has also revamped ICy Magazine, Christmas Inc’s internal publication, to include more bottom-up content.

The launch of an app version with embedded video has proved a huge success, with 65% of elves choosing to keep informed online.

Headlines' Christmas card 2014
Headlines’ Christmas card 2014

The main man is also being encouraged to spend more time walking the floor and discussing the team’s challenges direct with the workers.

Mr C. Laws continued: “It’s about leading by example. I don’t want to be seen as a hands-off manager.

“If ever I ask a colleague to run through a brick wall I’d like to think there would already be a Santa-shaped hole there waiting for them.”

The results have been rapid, with production ahead of schedule and staff surveys suggesting elf-satisfaction is at an all-time high.

Colleague competitions will also be coming down the chimney shortly.

Concluded Mr C. Laws: “The proof will be in the Christmas pudding, but our customers have always trusted us to keep the magic alive at this time of year and we don’t take that responsibility lightly.

“Thanks to Headlines though, I know we’ll continue to deliver on time, every time… with bells on.”