Motivating People In The New Year


It’s January, and suddenly the new year is underway. The beach holiday sand has been washed away; the tents packed up; the left-over ham has finally been polished off; and for some, white Christmas memories of holidays further afield have been stored away forever. 

And so, back to work. People are feeling re-invigorated and your teams are raring to go. Right?

Well, maybe.

January is a period of significant change, and most people would have spent some time over the break considering their future. As a result, they could be filled with enthusiasm and energy, or they may be feeling apathetic and enervated. That’s why it’s important for business owners and leaders to recognise the individual needs and current state of mind of their people if they want them to perform at their best.

We asked Tom Walley, General Manager Corporate Traveller, for his thoughts, tips and tricks on how to help people start the new year positively.


It might sound obvious but sitting down and talking with your people is essential. Find out what they’re thinking, ask them to discuss their hopes, dreams or fears and try to get to the bottom of what’s important to them.

Says Tom: “Check in with them, ask questions like ‘how are feeling about your job?’ and ‘What can I do to help? Ask your leaders to do this with their teams too.”

Reflect on the year that was

To kick off the new year, it’s always good to reflect on what was achieved in the business year before.

“I talk to my teams in detail about the current state of play,” says Tom. “That could include any wins, losses, sales and productivity.”

“We look at what’s working, or what we can double down on, and then we look at what we can change or do differently. Keep in mind you don’t want to change the plan completely, just be conscious of opportunities to pivot or improve.”

Tom says that setting Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG) is something all businesses across the Flight Centre Travel Group loves to do.

“We always go for something that seems very hard to reach,” says Tom. “Then in January we review our tracking, assess what we did well, what needs improvement and what have we learnt. Then we break the goal down into a 6-month chunks.”

Be flexible

One of the things people enjoy most about holidays is the break from the usual routine. So, by being a little more flexible and not enforcing strict business-as-usual rules, you can potentially win some friends.

According to Tom, flexibility is even more important in Australia, because January is filled with sunlight, warmth and fun events.

“It’s not like the Northern Hemisphere, where January’s weather is dark, cold and often wet,” says Tom. “That puts a real dampener on the general mood, which doesn’t help. Here in Australia, people want to be outdoors in January, their kids are still on holidays, so it’s a good idea to harness that and give them more flexibility to get out there and enjoy it.”

Different strokes for different folks

“People generally fall into two camps in January – the ones who are happy to be back and the ones who are less excited to be walking in the doors. That’s just human nature,” says Tom.

“With the positive type, I like to really get on board with them, and work with them to establish how I can help them achieve their goals. I love excited people, so I bring them close and empower them to achieve.”

“With the people feeling less motivated, I work equally close with them and start by reminding them of their achievements. Business moves fast and people can forget their big accomplishments, so it’s good to re-visit these and celebrate them again.”

Tom also says that he looks to his leaders to help those that need a lift.

“Positivity breeds success, so my leaders work with their teams to paint a picture of the year ahead. Remember though that staff can sniff out any BS, so you have to back it up,” said Tom.  

“For example, last year we were having a challenging year as a group - it happens and we’re honest about it – so I sniffed out the people who were over achieving (there are always plenty), simplified and packaged up what they were doing and used that as a way to motivate the others.  You need to acknowledge the struggle but point out that there are always ways to improve.”

Get social

Let’s face it, social events are a great way to get the team going. They can be fun, frivolous and great for morale. Whether it’s a lunch, team challenge or outing, try to think of something that’s going to interest the wider group and create a sense of teamwork.

But as Tom says, don’t just do this in January.

“We’re big believers in the social side of work all year round. We’re always holding events, nights out, awards nights, challenges, you name it,” said Tom. “We take the approach that we’re all friends at work, so we like to spend time with each other after hours too.”

The Corporate Traveller Buzz nights are a great case in example. Held monthly, they bring teams together in a social environment that suits them: sometimes it’s a bar, a restaurant or a morning tea. Usually they begin with team leaders providing an update, followed by awards for the best performers, and then fun activities like trivia and other games.

Think of it as the second half of the business year

Tom’s top tip for staff motivation? Think of January as the second half of the business year, instead of the start of the calendar year.

“In the workplace, people often set year-long goals in line with the financial calendar, and then they naturally cut them in half,” advises Tom. 

“To help them make a 6-month plan, break their goals down into months, and do this for the sales figures too. Make it all less daunting and achievable and you’ll get better results.”

Start like you mean to go on

January is a great time to double down on positivity and improve happiness.

So, try understanding the needs of your team; acknowledge that not everyone may be pumped about the ‘Vision 2021’ for your company; set challenging yet achievable goals; and make sure you have some fun while you’re at it.