Senior Client Partner, Organizational Strategy
6 Ways to Jumpstart September
The calendar says September, but for many employees it feels like January, the start of a new year. School is just beginning and summer vacations are over.
But leaders have a special challenge: hoping to boost the all-important fourth quarter, they need to jumpstart staffs in the midst of a tough economy. Across the board, most companies can’t afford to weather a weak September. September is a newly important month for retailers since the pandemic, according to research by The NPD Group, with sales holding steady from May to September last year. Meanwhile, industries from construction to farming, engineering, and transportation are all dependent on peak productivity before the weather turns.
The question is how to get the millions of employees supporting these firms in gear. “There’s a lot of risk in doing nothing, disengagement, turnover, and quiet quitting,” says Elise Freedman, practice leader for workforce transformation at Korn Ferry, We asked some of our top consultants for their advice for a successful September.
This Labor Day weekend is the time to let employees log off and truly rest. “Our bodies, minds, and souls need this time off more than ever before in our professional histories,” says Seth Steinberg, senior client partner and supply chain expert at Korn Ferry. This fall season will be very busy, he says, and likely unpredictable and stressful. “Take a weekend, unplug, and take care of oneself,” Steinberg says.
The next two weeks are an opportunity to bolster relationships that have suffered from two years of pandemic stresses, especially with your leadership team. “Solidify those connections by staying in touch more informally, with texts and actual phone calls,” says Barry Bregman, senior client partner in the Global Financial Officers practice at Korn Ferry. He suggests discussing life and family topics rather than business. “That may sound soft, but you have to make sure your personal connections stay intact. Then you can focus on P&L all you want.”
Get in the right mindset.
Some people don’t return from vacations with renewed vigor. “Sometimes the opposite happens,” says Kamma Braham, head of assessment and succession in Copenhagen for Korn Ferry. “The vacation makes people think about themselves, and what they like and don’t like about their workplaces,” she says. It’s imperative to re-energize them, and simply announcing new performance numbers to hit won’t do the trick, she adds. Braham suggests allowing employees the social space and time to reconnect and discuss their holiday happenings, as well as reconnecting employees with the team’s underlying reason why.
Employees are hearing a lot of news about a possible recession and layoffs, and many are nervous about their jobs. Anxiety is not an ingredient in strong September performances. “Leaders need to understand how employees are doing and feeling about work,” says Freedman. “Reassure people to the extent that you can.”
Do individual check-ins.
Checking in individually with employees helps them choose priorities for the busy months ahead, says Victoria Baxter, senior client partner in the ESG and sustainability solutions practice at Korn Ferry. Crucially, it helps remove small challenges that employees wouldn’t volunteer, she says, such as meeting times that are difficult for parents. Questions to ask include “what’s working?” and “what needs to change?” “There are so few working days left, and you want to hit the ground running,” says Baxter. “The condensed holiday schedule takes people by surprise.”
Make time to focus on purpose. “It can be tempting to focus on the immediate tasks, but aligning work with the bigger picture is what drives high performing teams,” says Albertina Vaughn, senior client partner for Korn Ferry. She suggests taking the time to link employees’ day-to-day tasks and individual goals with the purposes of the team and organization. “This is the work of leadership.”