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New-year meeting ideas to jumpstart the year

After a nice holiday relaxing with friends and family, heading back to work is a daunting task that makes even the most enthusiastic employees pray for a snow day. A new-year meeting is a meeting with the entire team that occurs shortly after everyone returns from holidays. A new-year meeting can shake off the new year nerves, reacquaint coworkers, and align the entire team on the company mission and goals for the upcoming year. 

But where to begin? In this post, we’ll share the benefits of a new year meeting and cover some team meeting ideas for new years so that you and your team can start the year on the best possible note. 

The benefits of a new-year meeting

Everything is so busy right before the holidays. Tensions are high, and people have their minds elsewhere—namely, on their upcoming holiday! After a long year, your team is ready for a break. 

With all that energy and excitement bouncing off the walls, it’s understandable for team members (and managers) to feel scattered, which makes year-end meetings challenging, regardless of whether or not your team is meeting in person or over Zoom. All hands meetings are difficult to organize to begin with, and that difficulty is compounded when your employees already have one foot out the door. 

Although we do recommend end-of-year team meetings, a new year meeting can get your team off on the right start. It will refocus the team on what’s most important and provide much needed team building as you go into the new year.

The benefits of a new-year meeting:

  • They allow employees to reacquaint themselves with their coworkers and environment.
  • They set the team up for success in the coming year.
  • They provide a team building opportunity. 
  • They provide transparency from owners, leaders, and management.
  • They provide an opportunity to get everyone on the same page.
  • They remind the team of your mission/vision and why the work is important.
  • They allow individuals and teams to set specific goals for the year and first quarter.
  • They ensure everyone is aligned on goals and expectations.

Follow our Meeting Agenda Guide to learn more about the importance of meeting agendas and how you can best utilize them.

Staff meeting ideas for the new year

1. Icebreakers

It’s been a while since the whole team was together. Set aside a small portion of time at the beginning of the meeting for icebreakers. This is especially important for remote teams who don’t get as many opportunities to connect with their coworkers. You’re a team, not a group of strangers, and it’s important to recognize and celebrate that fact before going into another year of hard work that’s going to require team members to collaborate and communicate effectively. 

You could start by asking team members how they spent their holidays, but opening the meeting this way could intimidate the more introverted members of your team and allow those who are more extroverted to dominate the conversation. Icebreakers, on the other hand, put everyone on even ground and give everyone an opportunity to express themselves and let their hair down. If anyone is new to the team, icebreakers also create a warm, low-stress environment for new hires to introduce themselves. 

Icebreakers can be simple games—really, any light activity that provides a little fun and gets the team to open up, such as two truths and a lie, pancakes vs. waffles, and much more. 

Discover some fun ways to engage your team with our Virtual team building activities round-up.

2. Introductions and updates

Is anyone new to the team? Is there anyone who didn’t get a proper introduction at the end of the year? Are there team members who haven’t had a chance to work together yet? No matter the current familiarity of your team, a new-year meeting is the perfect opportunity to get everyone up to speed on who everyone is and what their role is within the company.

Are there any company updates that the team should be aware of right away, such as new clients to expect, changes to company procedures, or new technology? 

Remember that transparency will be appreciated and valued by the team. It’s far better to be upfront and direct with your team about any upcoming changes than it is to keep them in the dark. Keeping important developments from your team breeds gossip and speculation, which, in turn, erodes team trust and morale. 

Use your new-year staff meeting to introduce new team members and update the entire team about what they can expect from the coming year. 

3. Reflections on the previous year

New-year meetings also provide a chance for the entire team to reflect on the previous year. What are some wins, losses, and curveballs that the team shared in or had to navigate? What went well? What could have gone better? What lessons from the previous year can you take into the new one? 

You’re all in this together, so it’s important to acknowledge the tough times, celebrate wins, and bid farewell to the previous year as a team. 

4. Feedback and assessments

New-year staff meetings also provide an opportunity for continuous feedback. Ensure the team is engaged in the meeting and that communication is a two-way street. Use the team’s reflections on the past year to generate ideas for the new year. What do you need from your team? What does your team need from you? 

remote employee

Read our Guide to Giving Constructive Feedback

In order for real improvements to be realized, every single team member must have a chance to have their voice, opinion, and ideas heard.

But without proper organization, a free-for-all of ideas and feedback can overwhelm the meeting. Engagement and open communication are essential, but the ideas expressed must result in tangible action items. In order to give your team’s ideas some structure, utilize an impact effort matrix, which is designed to help teams align on next steps and prioritize tasks based on what will offer the most impact with the lowest amount of effort.

Instead of hemming and hawing over which ideas should be explored first, an impact effort matrix allows the team to visually pinpoint what action items will bring the most value to your team and clients. 

5. Alignment on your mission and vision

The new year provides a chance for everyone to reset and reevaluate what’s most important to them. It’s a tender time that encourages introspection and reflection. Your team members are likely in the midst of some serious soul searching, which is why it’s vital that you utilize the new-year meeting to remind your team why they do what they do and reignite their passion for the work. 

Inspire your team by reiterating your company’s mission and values. What function does your business play in the lives of the people you serve? What problems do you solve for your clients and customers? What does your business provide that no one else can? How is each individual member of the team a part of that? 

Your team is looking for a direction to take the year. Inspire everyone on your team to put their best foot forward by reminding them of all the good that they do and how essential they are to the organization’s success. 

6. Setting clear and actionable goals

What do you hope the year will look like? Help the team set clear goals that, while challenging, are still realistic and attainable. 

This is an opportunity for individuals to set yearly goals and for your various business teams to set goals and targets for the coming year. What goals does the business have as a whole, and how do these align with the goals of each business team?

It’s also important to schedule one-on-one meetings with the individuals that make up your team early in the new year. A new-year all hands meeting gets the team thinking about goals for the company, but it’s important for employees to set some personal professional goals as well. 

Utilize the one-on-one meeting to reestablish or build rapport, offer and receive personal feedback in a safe space, and align on the employee’s professional development goals for the year. 

7. Getting creative with your meeting environment

Now that it’s the new year, why limit yourself to the same old meeting rooms? Instead, try to come up with some more creative ways to get everyone together. This will not only help mix things up, it can also inject some fresh new energy and enthusiasm into your normal round of meetings – which you’ll need after those holidays.

For example, if the weather is nice, you could try making it a walking meeting. Find a good walking path or park and tell everyone to wear comfortable shoes. This can be a great way to get the blood flowing and the ideas churning, making it a particularly effective format for brainstorming sessions. 

If it’s too cold (it is January, after all), go the opposite direction and hold your meeting over a good meal. Reserve a few tables at a cozy restaurant or coffee shop and encourage everyone to settle in. This kind of relaxed atmosphere can help put team members at ease and may even encourage new relationships.

Or, if a field trip is out of the question, look around the office for a way to switch things up. If there’s a nice roof or garden, take advantage of them. If there’s a cafeteria or common meeting space, get everyone together there. 

Alternatively, if you have no other options, get everyone to just meet remotely from wherever they feel most comfortable. Sometimes, that can be the best way to ease into a new year.

8. Following up on your meeting

If you really want to make your meetings more impactful this new year, then you should also be thinking about what happens when everyone goes home. Knowing how to effectively follow up with team members is a crucial part of ensuring everyone remains aligned, understands their goals, and stays on track.

Start by making a habit of ending each meeting with a quick recap of what was discussed. Restate the original problem or challenge, talk through any possible solutions, then reiterate the action items for the team. Be sure to ask if anyone has any questions before you wrap up.

Immediately after the meeting, send out a written summary everyone can reference as well. This should include all the items you went over in your recap, but in even greater detail to make sure no one misses anything. If possible, send out a meeting transcript or recording, as well as any related resources, so that everyone has exactly what they need moving forward.

Finally, remember to set some meaningful metrics you can use to track and measure your team’s progress in the days or weeks after your meeting. This will make it easier to check in with individual team members to see how they’re doing, as well as know when to provide them with additional resources and support. It can also tell you when another meeting may be needed in order to realign your team and set some new goals.

Adapting to various team sizes or types (remote, hybrid, or in-office)

Although the advice above may work well generally, you run a specific team with its own unique needs. That means you may have to adapt some to make it work. Depending on how big your group is and how you’re getting together, here’s some more particular advice for how you can improve your new-year team meetings.

Small in-person teams

Although this type is perhaps the easiest to manage, that doesn’t mean it lacks its challenges. For instance, it can be difficult to get everyone to break out of their individual contributor mindsets and come back together as a team. Plus, communication issues can sometimes be more significant, even personal, especially if one team member tends to dominate the conversation.

You can help avoid these issues by being proactive. Before the meeting begins, send out a message to everyone that level sets the reasons for meeting, your expectations of each of them, and what you’d like to accomplish. This will help prevent anyone from derailing this time with their own concerns or agenda, as well as get people thinking about what they want to get done in this new year. This will help ensure everyone is primed to come up with some clear, actionable goals for both themselves and the team.

Large in-person teams

Larger meetings often come with many more logistical challenges, especially when everyone has to fit in the same room. You may have a hard time finding a time or place that works for everyone. Or you may not know where to begin when it comes to organizing everyone around a shared agenda and set of goals.

A good place to begin is with introductions. And because it’s the new year, why not have some fun with them? Prior to the meeting, get everyone to send you something unexpected or exciting that happened to them over the past year. You can then get everyone to guess who wrote down each one, helping to both break the ice and reintroduce everyone to the team.

Once things get started, reiterate your reasons for the meeting (e.g., to reflect on the previous year or to set new-year goals), then break the team into smaller units to brainstorm and discuss. Afterwards, one person from each group can present what they talked about. This can turn what may at first seem like an unmanageable task into something much more approachable. Afterwards, you should have enough direction and momentum to keep the discussion going amongst the broader team.

Small remote or hybrid teams

Running meetings for a small remote or hybrid team comes with all the same challenges as the in-person variety, but with the addition of more potential communication issues, a greater likelihood of distractions, and more barriers to proper collaboration. That said, remote meetings also come with their share of advantages. For one, you can often use technology more effectively to bring everyone together and keep them focused on their task.

Consider the opportunity you have to use the new year to generate continuous feedback. Instead of trying to solicit this feedback over video, you can leverage digital collaboration tools like Figma or Google Sheets to collect your team’s input and organize it across an impact effort matrix. These tools even come with specific templates meant for doing just that. Not only does this make the feedback process easier, it also provides everyone with a useful visual that can help keep them engaged.

Large remote or hybrid teams

Although many may think this type is the most difficult meeting to manage, there is actually surprisingly little difference between them and their in-person counterparts. Both will require you to overcome logistical and organizational challenges due to the size of the group. You’ll also need to come with a coherent communication plan so that the discussion remains clear. Fortunately, like remote meetings with only a few team members, you can use technology here to your advantage.

Consider the group breakout session. While it may sound difficult to do remotely, plenty of video conferencing tools (including major players like Zoom and Microsoft Teams) now come with virtual breakout rooms you can use. When you combine these with digital collaboration tools for collecting feedback, organizing discussions, and visualizing your solutions, you may even have a more robust way of discussing your goals for the new year.

Simplify your meetings with PI Perform

PI Perform offers the best-practice toolkit for managers to organize, motivate, and engage their teams. This tool is beloved by managers, HR, executives, and ICs alike. Manage agendas for one-on-one meetings and team meetings, solidify action items, enhance team collaboration, and encourage continuous feedback, recognition, and goals — all from one place.

No matter the type of meeting you’re planning, we have the tools, resources, and advice you need to run effective meetings every time.

Follow our blog for more content dedicated to running efficient and effective teams, and maximizing your most valuable asset (your people).

David is a freelance writer and PI contributor. When he’s not writing, he’s probably thinking about food. He believes pretzels are superior to potato chips and you can’t convince him otherwise.

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