How to craft an effective year-end staff message

Tone, timing, and delivery method are essential considerations when you’re expressing gratitude, lauding the year’s achievements, and offering your vision for the coming year.

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 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 lower in the organization will focus on the specific achievements and goals for their group or department. Small and mid-size businesses might also consider this type of communication to their employees.

Crafting the message

Though 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 year. If you don’t have time or the inclination to draft the full message, this is the core element you should include.
  • Review accomplishments against annual goals. Public companies must 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 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. Home in on the key areas-be it customers, sales, or innovation—and why those areas are essential for success. Those in groups or divisions should tie the group’s goals to the overall organization’s goals.
  • Reiterate the 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. Email might be the preferred method if all employees have email 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 lets recipients internalize the communication at their own pace and refer to it as needed.

Senders in corporations and larger organizations should check with their supervisors and communications departments to see whether other messages are planned. Though employees generally don’t mind multiple missives, it’s best if these communications are spread out over time and, if possible, are conveyed through 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 is a corporate communications executive who melds marketing and public relations to drive business goals. A version of this article first appeared on SmartBlog on Leadership.

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