Motivating staff in the New Year

Andy Philpott, sales and marketing director at Edenred, explains why New Year is a prime time for businesses to motivate staff for the year ahead

The start of the year is traditionally a difficult time of year for businesses. Staff are suffering from the post-Christmas blues compounded by extra financial pressure thanks to growing travel, fuel and food costs. Bank of England statistics show that in the past year alone, household debts have risen by more than £5 billion as people increasingly borrow money to fund their day-to-day living.

Further research, conducted by Asda, says the average family’s spending power has dipped by more than £700 over the past year due to rising petrol, energy and food prices.

Employees are also feeling the squeeze on their time with recent figures showing that full-time employees in the UK work longer hours than the European Union average*. With no prospect of a meaningful salary increase on the horizon – and no bonus likely either – people can easily become dispirited at work and passengers rather than enthusiastic participants in the business.

This is bad news for businesses. With the tough economic climate set to continue, if not worsen this year, employers who take steps to show empathy with the potential impact this will have on their employees will reap some engagement and motivation returns.

Employers themselves are, however, operating under increasingly difficult conditions too, which will mean such empathy may not be associated with inflation matching pay awards. However, even if a pay rise isn’t possible, there are other options to help staff stretch their budget and meet the higher cost of living.

Products, such as employee savings, that offer discounts and vouchers across a range of outlets enable employers to give staff a way to make their money go further with discounts on everything from food and drink to travel, motoring and finance as well as cash-back offers. The employee can choose the discounts most suitable for them, making the motivation scheme more personalised and relevant.

These savings are particularly important at the start of the year when finances are stretched after festive season, and they can make a big difference – not just to employees’ bank balances, but also to the way they feel about working for the business. In many instances employees reap the benefits of several hundred pounds of savings during the year – in a way a significant pay rise for just a few pounds per employee. It is therefore a cost effective way for organisations to show they appreciate the pressure their people are under and value the contribution they are making.

This time of year is key. While many organisations quite rightly use Christmas as a main period to reward and recognise staff, our experience of working with business to deliver motivation schemes has shown that new year can also be key time as it helps to extend the goodwill of the festive season and kick start the year.

In addition to provide employee savings opportunities, employers that provide reward or a piece of recognition, combined with an engaging piece of communication at the start of the year, can have direct impact and provide an immediate boost to morale as well as focusing staff on targets and activity for the year ahead.

Businesses should consider the start of the year as a valuable opportunity to set the standard for the rest of 2012 by using motivation and benefit schemes to drive staff behaviour and deliver business success in the months that follow.

* The UK average of 42.7 hours compares with 41.6 across the EU (Office for National Statistics).