How small businesses can prepare their workforce for January 2012

As 2011 draws to a close, how can business owners prepare their workforces for the new year and the challenges it could bring?

According to the Advisory, Concillation and Arbitration Service, a motivated workforce with clear, shared objectives can prove key to helping sustain an organisation through a downturn and can pave the way for later recovery and growth. So why not use the end of the year as an opportunity to pull your team members together and prepare them for the year ahead?

Consider organising a meeting to round up the year. Use it to look at what you did well as a team and what could be improved on. Offer information about how your company is performing, and find ways to motivate people for the coming year.

Phil Jones managing director performance consultancy Excitant ( and author of Communicating Strategy, tells Business Sense that when preparing a workforce for the year ahead, organisations should be clear and open. To get the most out of that end-of-year meeting:

1) Expose your people to the economics of the business, so they understand the reality of what makes it tick and how they can contribute.

2) Explain the outside world to them: SMEs operate in a marketplace, with competition and dynamics. Explain that and gather their input as well.

3) Explain your strategy as a persistent pattern of behaviour. What do we persistently have to do, think about and behave like? If your strategy changes, ensure your persistent behaviour changes.

In addition, if the Autumn 2011 Employee Outlook from the Charted Institute of Personnel Development is anything to go by, this could also be an opportunity to ask your workforce what they feel needs your attention - the study found employers who neglect concerns about stess in the workplace of job satisfaction risk losing top talent.

Jones advises: "Have as your new year resolution to treat your people as human beings in a business, not employees in an organisation. Find ways to be more honest and frank, and trust people more in 2012.”

For support and advice on workplace and staffing issues, contact Natwest Mentor.