The Year Ends in… 12 Days

Counting holiday staff breaks, many firms will have only about a dozen days in December to reach year-end goals. Is it enough time?

When it comes to firms’ year-end goals, December (not April) may be the cruelest month. With most staffers planning winter time off, and offices closing between Christmas and New Year’s, experts say the typical company has fewer days left this year—about a dozen—than leaders may realize.

It’s a harsh reality to wake up to, especially with a potential recession looming. “It’s a crazy time of year,” says Nathan Blain, global lead for optimizing people costs at Korn Ferry. “You are finishing up this year’s commitments, while also setting plans for the year ahead.”  

At other times of the year, workers may be sluggish, whether from burnout, low engagement, or low morale. But in December, with firms striving to meet their financial goals and staffers eyeing year-end bonuses, the opposite is true. “For most workers, December is a crunch, not a lull,” says Blain. Because planning can easily get pushed aside, he suggests prioritizing discussions about 2023.

Experts say that the key to hitting December numbers is making sure that schedules are perfectly coordinated over those 12 days. To achieve maximum efficiency, workers need to walk through the month as a group. This prevents conflicts—like Jim having a key strategy meeting on the same day as his kids’ holiday play, or Jo being unable to progress because she’s waiting for feedback from her absent boss. “Coordinate so that you’re not hamstrung on team-based projects,” says Mark Royal, senior client partner at Korn Ferry. At the same time, employees can plan ahead to use teammates’ absences as opportunities to pursue work that is solitary or requires particularly intensive focus.

Experts advise spending late November realistically thinking about how to finish the year strong. It’s 12 days, not 24, so what must get done? Clearly articulating year-end expectations and goals will help focus your team, says Royal. “Really center people around what you’d like them to accomplish before they close out the year.”

Meeting work objectives before winter vacation isn’t just about productivity. It’s about giving staffers a chance to truly turn off during the break, instead of carrying anxiety about unfinished tasks with them. “You don’t want to have projects hanging over people’s heads,” says Royal.