By Shaun Simmons of Cordant Recruitment , a national recruitment organisation

Summer is over with several employees returning after the holiday season. Many will feel refreshed and re-energised whilst others may have the holiday blues. So how do you ensure team spirits remain high and staff stay motivated as we move into Autumn?

Incentives such as prizes, awards and competitions for the highest performers have long been used as a means of engaging and motivating teams. However, avoid incentive programmes that start after the Summer as employees will be slow to get involved. Start before the holiday season and carry them into next year such as July to the following June. That way, staff will already be focused on winning when they return from their holiday and can quickly get back into the swing of the competition.

However, don't just operate one incentive scheme. For example, a competition judged on people's performance over a year is going to exclude new starters. Offer quarterly incentive programmes for new joiners, contractors and temporary staff such as the best quarterly performer or the best newcomer. Run them from Summer into Autumn so they're a great means of sustaining motivation both before and after the holiday break.

Then there are the competitions where people can compete against themselves which will also help drive performance and boost motivation as we move into Autumn. Announce competitions before Summer which run into Autumn and Winter offering prizes to those that have improved their performance the most compared to the previous quarter or last year. You will have new starters, contractors, high and low performers all trying to get a piece of the prize pie.

Pick a prize that is going to appeal to everyone and not just one particular category of person. Even better, let the winner chose a prize within a budget specification so the reward appeals to them personally.

Continuing along the line of incentivising staff, there is also the issue of returning from holiday to a backlog of emails and a mountain of paperwork. Staff should have the option to share their commission with another team member who is covering for them whilst they are away. This will incentivise staff to pick up work for others - and not just half heartedly - so returning from holiday is less stressful.

Celebrations and fundraising are also great ways of keeping spirits high in the office after Summer. Organise and encourage teams to enter and support charity events and if there are any major national or international events such as Wimbledon or the FIFA World Cup, then invite staff to decorate their desks, enter into sweepstakes and give the opportunity to watch the event either as a social occasion during or after work. Socialising events within the team is important for maintaining moral even if it's lunch in the pub or a drink after work; it all helps to make people feel valued and part of a team.

Finally, don't forget training and development. Maintain training opportunities even over the holiday season so employees go into Autumn eager to put their new skills into practice. Employees who are constantly building up their skills and knowledge all year round will be more engaged and happy whatever season we are in.