How to Support Your Staff at Year-End

The final weeks of the year are an opportunity to celebrate. Beyond the party, though, experts recommend that you call out 2023's achievements, and show how you’ll support them in 2024.

The end of the year is typically slower, as members and staffers alike turn their attention to the holidays and opportunities to spend time off with family. It’s also a moment, though, when the stresses of the past year catch up with people. So, experts say, your association’s year-end staff celebration should acknowledge that anxiety, while taking time to honor what everyone has accomplished.

“The most important thing for an employee to know is that they’re making a difference, that they are contributing to something that matters,” said Jaya Koilpillai Bohlmann, MA, APR, president and founder of Designing Communication and a career coach for ASAE’s Association CareerHQ. “It’s important to tie accomplishments back to bigger goals—not just, ‘You did a good job revamping that newsletter,’ or ‘Membership is up 22 percent.’ 

Engagement is the number one thing that continues to suffer across all workforces in all environments.

Jaya Koilpillai Bohlmann, MA, APR, Designing

“You can call out the specific accomplishments, but then tell us what it means: We’ve met all our strategic goals by Q3, or we can extend our budget to hire two more people in this department.”

If possible, Bohlmann said, gather all staffers together in person, including those working remotely. “I think it sends a very positive message about your investment in people and your investment in engagement,” she said. “And engagement is the number one thing that continues to suffer across all workforces in all environments.”

Acknowledging a hard-working—indeed, often overworked—staff can be particularly key these days, as organizations still adapt to post-COVID org charts and vacancies created by job changes. “The biggest thing I hear at the moment is, ‘I just need 2024 to be a normal year without a huge lift,’” said Cynthia Mills, CMC, CPC, CCRC, FASAE, CAE, president and CEO Leaders’ Haven and a career coach for ASAE’s Association CareerHQ. “For the end of 2023, one of the biggest gifts that people can receive aside from the week off between Christmas and New Year’s is the knowledge that ‘reasonableness and capacity’ will be addressed consistently throughout the coming year.”

A clear message from leaders that their challenges are acknowledged can go a long way. “Celebrating accomplishments gets deflated if what is in front of people are unreasonable expectations,” Mills said.

But once the toasts are done and the party is over, Bohlmann said, organizations should think how they build staff celebrations into their culture throughout the year. Think about smaller celebrations on a monthly or quarterly basis, she said, which can be as simple as casual get-togethers or acknowledgments in internal newsletters about staff accomplishments.

And not just staff: Bohlmann suggested that associations invite board members and other key volunteers to take part in the celebrations as well. “At least once a year—maybe it’s the year end, maybe it’s mid-year, maybe it’s at the annual meeting—volunteers and staff should be celebrated the same in the same room at the same time,” she said. “Whether or not you’re getting paid, you’re contributing to this organization and we want to recognize you—that’s the message.”

Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

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