New Year’s Business Resolutions

by William A. Schiemann, Ph.D.


It’s that time of year again for business owners to think about change, improvement and new achievements for their company in 2017. We know from research that 92 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail, but rather than say, “Why bother?” try going about those resolutions in a more effective way.

The following “secrets to success” are culled from more than three decades studying and working with successful companies.

1. Set a baseline. Leaders should spend time with their team to reflect on its past accomplishments. The New Year is a perfect time to take stock of where one is and where one wants to go as an organization at any level — the entire company, a department or a team. Creating a list of accomplishments for 2016 is a good starting place. Even if one’s unit is doing routine work such as processing payroll, it can celebrate on-time performance or accuracy. It requires work to do those things well. Other departments can celebrate new sales, products, processes or customers.

2. Reaffirm one’s vision and mission. Today’s workforce, especially millennials, wants to be a part of an organization that makes a difference. If a business has not translated its purpose and mission into terms that employees can rally around, it’s worth taking a day to work through this; even better is building or updating a compelling story with teams of employees from different functions, levels and locations. This will produce a rallying cry that everyone understands and buys into.

3. Help one’s employees reflect. Have employees spend some introspective time reflecting on their life goals and the role of their work in that. This may sound soft and squishy, but it is not. Achieving fulfillment in life is important to nearly every person we interviewed recently in our research. It can be helpful to offer them resources to help that thinking — books, training, a webinar or a mentor. Fulfilled employees are far more productive because they are more aligned, capable and engaged with the organization; unfulfilled people either leave or stay in a way that is debilitating for others.

4. Set realistic and stretch goals that will energize people. The realistic targets should be ones in which there is reasonable confidence of accomplishing. It’s best to break those up into smaller milestones that will allow one to celebrate accomplishments throughout the year. The stretch targets create a bit of risk and challenge, which, as we learned from our research, create greater fulfillment for people. Most of the highly fulfilled people in our study reflected back to times along the way in which they took risks and had some of their best learnings in life.

5. Measure, measure, measure. Vague goals never really generate much momentum. A long history of psychological research tells us that goals which are specific and measurable are the most motivating and likely to be accomplished. Nearly everything at work, even softer things like employee engagement or customer loyalty, can be measured. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth measuring. Those who don’t know how to set up measurements can ask their HR or quality department or bring in outside resources.

6. Feedback. Performance feedback is critical in enabling people to make course corrections in pursuit of goals. Without good feedback, we are often distracted by competing demands. Today, this is a big issue with the constant bombardment of information and many alternatives competing for our time. Timely, frequent feedback from a respected source — a measure, customers or a supervisor — will provide that extra momentum boost to reach those resolutions which otherwise will go unfinished.

7. Accountability. While most of us take responsibility for actions leading to those agreed-upon goals, stuff happens. It helps to have rewards tied to the accomplishment of goals. Stretch goals should be rewarded handsomely. Rewards are the last element that will provide the finishing touches to keep your resolutions on track.

And a final note: It pays to jump on these early in the year while there is plenty of time to launch new plans and goals. Remember, it will be impossible to accomplish stretch goals by doing the same thing as what’s been done before. Innovating and taking new approaches will set a business up for success in 2017.

William A. Schiemann, Ph.D., is CEO of Metrus Group. He is a thought leader in human resources, employee engagement and fulfillment, and author of Fulfilled! Critical Choices – Work, Home, Life.

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