For staff returning to work after the festive season with a long wait until payday, it’s no wonder that January is one of the worst months for low morale. Combined with uncertainty about the coming months; levels of enthusiasm and productivity are at an all-time low. So how do you boost energy and motivate your team for the year ahead?

Introduce an employee benefits scheme

The flexible benefits landscape has changed for small businesses. For years, staff benefits were the domain of larger businesses able to offer varied perks and incentives. Research shows that offering staff additional benefits can improve employee engagement, helps retain staff, boosts morale, and ultimately position your business ahead of the competition as a good employer. Check out our guidance on starting a scheme.

Discuss their plans for the year ahead

This doesn’t have to be a formal appraisal meeting but could be a discussion that covers their aspirations for the year, talk through any potential issues and set some goals and targets so they have something to work towards. Alternatively, why not conduct a staff survey to ask your team about their hopes for the year ahead despite this uncertainty? It’s important to keep the upward and downward communication channels open in January, as this is when many people will start to think about looking for new jobs. We have a staff survey template you can use for free and email to your team. You can also read our guide to why staff surveys are essential.

Organise a January virtual event

A simple lunch or coffee morning in the office can boost morale by demonstrating that your business doesn’t just entertain staff at Christmas. You could consider an online staff social or a virtual event to boost spirits (see our guide to virtual event ideas). If you schedule something for the end of January it will give the team something to look forward to, and keep a bit of the Christmas spirit going!

Discuss training needs

The start of the year is the ideal time to map out training and where it is needed most. This will help staff to shape their personal development for the year ahead too. Read our guide on how to start a training scheme within your SME.  ‘Bite-sized’ lunch and learn sessions throughout January can be a great way to get staff motivated whilst not overwhelming them.

Look at the perks you can offer

Incentives don’t have to cost a lot, and there are perks that you can offer that won’t break the bank. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Listen to staff – conduct staff surveys to understand what motivates them. This can help you to develop a company culture shaped by your employees.
  • Make sure you’ve got good policies in place that promote inclusivity. Policies around supporting colleagues through menopause for example can help you stand out from other employers. One of our clients recently introduced a ‘get home safely’ policy to make sure that staff welfare is taken into account on team nights out.
  • Look at ‘trivial benefits’. If an employer provides a ‘trivial benefit’ to employees (such as a supermarket voucher up to the value of £50 for example), the benefit is exempt from tax as employment income, as long as certain conditions are fulfilled. Find out more here.
  • Make sure your payroll is efficient. Common mistakes include using the wrong tax codes, miscalculating day rates, taxing additional deductions, and not providing pay and payslips on time.
  • Introduce staff awards. Everyone likes to be recognised for their achievements after all!
  • Invest in learning and development. This demonstrates that you are actively helping them to develop and progress in their careers.
  • Sign up for some volunteering. Numerous studies show that employees are motivated by a company’s ethos. Those with a strong CSR focus tend to attract and retain the best talent. Consider dedicating time for staff to volunteer on projects of their choice. Not only is it a great morale boost, but is a good team-building exercise. One of our clients, a digital marketing agency, donates 10% of staff hours every month to pro-bono work with a charity of their choice.
  • Match them with mentors. Identify the skills within your workforce and consider where these can be best shared, for example – a senior manager could offer a member of staff advice and guidance on career progression, whereas a graduate could offer insights into social media. Mentoring can provide benefits to both parties and again demonstrates your commitment to your employees’ professional development.

Focus on well-being

January is typically the time for new goals, and many staff will be returning to work with resolutions for the new year. Last year workplace well-being became an increasingly important element of HR and we saw businesses introducing incentives in the office. Whilst staff are working from home consider the incentives you can offer. One of our clients ran a ‘January sales secret Santa’ or you could host a remote team lunch ordering food for staff.

It’s also important to check in regularly on your staff to ensure they are coping with this situation. Daily or weekly team meets are the only way to keep the team connected and let staff know that they are part of the business.

For advice on motivating your team read our tips on keeping your remote team motivated or read our general tips on motivation. To discuss any other HR issues, call our team for 15 minutes of free HR advice.