The end of the fiscal year is upon us as we begin our initial decent into the infamous fourth quarter. These final three months of the year will determine whether an organization's goals were met, objectives were accomplished and overall progress was made from the previous year. With that said, one thing that all executives are going to be asking for this holiday season is for a strong finish in Q4.
Professional athletes that deliver in crunch time are labeled "clutch." It takes a strong-minded player to shoot an important shot with the game on the line, or go for the "Hail Mary" pass with only seconds remaining on the clock. The same type of mentality is needed by executives as they enter into their crunch time. This time of the year will put their executive leadership skills to the test, and show just how effectively they can rally their team with time running out.
Let's face it -- it's hard for executives to find ways to motivate employees as the year comes to a close. Thanksgiving and the December holidays are notorious for decreasing employee productivity, and the physical and mental stress of the past year starts to play a part in employee performance around this time as well. This is bad news for executives as they try and make one final push to end the year on a high note. Fortunately, there are proven ways to motivate employees specifically in Q4.
Lead by example
Actions speak louder than words. It's hard for employees to take speeches about finishing the year strong seriously if they don't see the motivation from their managers or executives. If executives expect their employees to push themselves to the limits by the end of the year, they will have to do so as well. If this means getting to the office early and leaving late, so be it.
Employees look up to their executive staff for guidance. If they see their CEO laughing, having a good time and not working hard on the task at hand, employees will quickly follow suit. True leadership during Q4 comes from executives rolling up their sleeves and working hard side-by-side with their employees.
Recognize great work
While great work should be expected all year-round, it's important to recognize and praise employees when they go above and beyond in Q4. No one is expecting daily recognition for doing their job, but showing appreciation after seeing an employee put in 110 percent effort on a project or task will show staff members that executives are paying close attention to their efforts at the end of the year.
Recognizing employees for their hard work and expressing the value they bring is a proven method to increase motivation and engagement. A study by Make Their Day, an employee motivation firm, found that 70 percent of survey respondents reported their most meaningful recognition "had no dollar value" and that 83 percent of respondents said recognition for contributions was more fulfilling than rewards of gifts. Making sure that employees are receiving the feedback they deserve toward year-end could lead to a very promising Q4.
Set realistic Q4 goals
Back in January, executives made clear goals and objectives for the organization to achieve by the end of the year, and it's been proven that employees understand their company's direction. My company's 2017 DATIS Executive Priorities Report, which was built from survey responses of over 400 executives, found that over 75 percent of executives believe their employees have a clear understanding of their organization's vision for the year. By now, it's likely clear whether those goals will be met or not. Regardless of the organization's progress, executives will want to see a final push from their employees to set themselves up for a strong start to Q1.
One way to accomplish this is to set Q4-specific goals that will regain the focus of employees and give them new targets to aim for. It's important to make sure that these goals are challenging yet realistic, enough to drive employees to deliver top performances but fair enough to not dishearten staff members.
While earlier I discussed a study that said that rewards and gifts aren't as fulfilling as recognition, they still work, especially at the end of the year when the holiday season is approaching. Keep in mind there are rewards and gifts outside of bonuses and gift cards. Offering extra PTO days in the new year to the hardest worker of the quarter is a way to motivate employees without offering them an instantly redeemable monetary reward.
As we enter Q4, it's important to stay on track and keep energy high. It's the executive's responsibility to find ways to motivate employees during this period and drive results. With the right mindset and strategy, Q4 could be this year's strongest quarter. Now is the time for executives to ask themselves, "Do I have what it takes to motive my team and finish this year strong?"
This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors