Boosting staff morale through the appraisal system should be top of an employer's wish list, according to a Birmingham law firm.

Employment law specialists at Hammonds say January is a perfect time to consider employees' welfare and performance, as a motivated workforce can be the key to getting your business ahead of its competition.

"Many businesses kick start the salary review process in the New Year or use it as an excuse to review performance generally," said Matthew Burton an employment lawyer at Hammonds in Birmingham.

Regular feedback is essential for employee motivation and is a key driver in improving morale. Appraisals are viewed as an opportunity for managers to make sure their employees feel challenged and valued for the year ahead, rather than unmotivated and without guidance.

But a recent Government survey seems to indicate that many workers think their annual appraisals are a waste of time that don't get fed back to management. It states that one in five employees suspect that their boss does not even think about their appraisal until they are face to face in a review meeting.

Mr Burton continued: "These days HR departments and management can't afford to treat appraisals as simply a 'tick-box' exercise.

"With the country facing an uncertain economic future it is crucial to pull out all the stops to listen to your staff and ensure they are happy and motivated so that they will be loyal and hard-working. Businesses also need to take steps to get the best performance out of staff to ensure that their operation is as efficient as possible." A deficient appraisal system often leads to employment disputes because problems arise when employees feel they are not being listened to.