The “dog days of summer” are here…for people living and working in the northern hemisphere anyway.

Dog_Days_of_Employee_EngagementSchool’s out.  Kids are on a different rhythm.  Work patterns can change as well.

For your employees, summer brings planned vacation time with family and friends, as well as a myriad of other outside distractions.

Summer is also a natural time for employees to recharge their batteries.

This is a good thing, especially given all the literature on stress in the workplace these days.

This is a bigger issue than you might think.  According to the APA, workplace related stress is costing U.S. businesses an estimated $300 billion per year through absenteeism, diminished productivity, employee turnover and direct medical, legal and insurance fees.

Gone_FishinIt is no surprise that many organizations experience a “seasonal slump” in employee engagement and productivity during the long, hot, lazy days of summer.

But summer can also be a challenging time for managers, team leaders and HR professionals to keep motivation and engagement levels up.

How can you “square the circle” – dealing with the workplace reality of the summer slowdown, keeping employees motivated and engaged, without getting stressed out yourself in the process?

There are some simple and proven ways to help keep employees focused on their work tasks, rather than on the clock and those outside activities.  Here is a summer checklist that may be helpful:


  1. Mid-year check ups with your employees will help reinforce their performance goals. Ensure they are still SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound). Clarify and/or make appropriate adjustments to their performance goals as necessary.
  2. Give feedback to your employees on their demonstrated competencies. These are the skills, knowledge, behaviours and attitude they display which support how effective they are at doing their job. Giving this feedback will help your employees keep their known competencies top of mind and guide their ongoing performance.
  3. Review the progress of development plans with each employee. This will ensure that your employees are on track for completing their plans. This will also allow you to assign any new development plans as appropriate and required.
  4. Initiate a focused performance chat. Sit down with each employee and have a discussion about his/her performance, year to date. Ask each employee you are talking with to share his/her thoughts on their progress to date. Use this opportunity to also reiterate the organization’s goals and your departmental goals.   Discuss any challenges, roadblocks, questions or new ideas either of you may have.  Keep the discussion positive and forward-looking.

A constructive discussion about performance and achievements against objectives, as well as discussion of gaps and options for closing them, helps everyone on the team use “downtime” productively to get ready for the second half of the year.

Summer is also a great to time to inspire continued employee engagement through some fun activities and initiatives.

People are generally in a more relaxed mood – so planning fun activities, or encouraging teams to come up with their own ideas – can create the positive catalysts needed to help build up levels of communication and trust needed for your team to succeed together, as well as simply giving people a chance to get to know each other better in a more informal environment.  These kinds of investments can pay big dividends in building team camaraderie and morale.

Roller_CoasterHere are just a few examples to get you thinking about what might work best for your organization:

Plan a Summer Picnic, Fun Day, or Movie Night – Make It Optional, Make It Fun, Make It Interesting.  Try something different and new.  Let your team make the plans. Invest some money!

Create an “Innovation Think Tank” team to encourage continued product and process innovations which may be beneficial to your organization; Make that a fun event, or link it to one.

Encourage games or team “sports events” like a Foosball Tournament, Ping Pong Tournament, Chess, Baseball, Badminton, Scavenger Hunt, or pick up game of football, baseball, basketball or street hockey.  Try something new, like a yoga instructor, or a cooking class.  Create fun awards and prizes.

Create and circulate an “Ask the CEO” email to encourage employees to dialogue with your CEO about what is on their mind about their work, the organization, your products and services and your competitors, etc., summarize results, organize responses, and acknowledge any actions planned resulting from these contributions.

Mid year company wide communications with announcements, recaps about recent company milestones, public recognition of employee accomplishments based on business achievements, and programs currently in progress within the company.

CEO and leadership team mid-year communications, face to face (or via webcast) with employees at all levels, in team or group settings, including interactive discussion and responses to live or posted FAQs to help employees learn more about the business operations of your organization.

I hope at least some of these suggestions get you thinking about how to continue to engage your employees over the summer months. I’d love to hear what you come up with and how successful your activities and/or initiatives are within your organization.

Have a great summer!


Linda A. Barlow, CHRPGlobal HR Thought Leader