The end of the year is filled with annual performance reviews, P&L reports, end-of-year budget meetings, and a thousand other errands, not to mention the never-ending to-do list of the holidays. In the busy month of December, it is easy to get buried in small tasks and miss important opportunities to get ahead on strategy for the coming year. Good business strategy cannot be reduced to a quick planning meeting.
These 7 questions are designed to zero in on the important things that get too little attention at the end of the year:
1. What initiatives worked (or didn’t work) this year?
Looking ahead is important, but remember to spend plenty of time looking back to see what worked. Most companies meet to discuss business performance, but in general, performance at the end of the year gets too much air-time. Take this chance to review quarterly reports and data from earlier in the year. What mistakes and successes can the team learn from?
The end of the year is also a good time for all professionals to update their LinkedIn profiles, work portfolios, and resumes. Adding milestones as they happen is much easier than trying to remember 5 years of work all at once. And, it is a handy way to track progress and set goals for the future.
2. What gaps does the team have? Which ones are the most important to close?
No team is perfectly balanced all the time, especially when the company needs to make changes to stay competitive. Some gaps are okay. It depends on what goals the team needs to reach in the future.
This team assessment is easiest to tackle separately from performance reviews. Individual annual performance reviews are useful, but they cannot give a holistic, big-picture view of a team. After finding the gaps, analyze what it would take to close them, such as incentives for the team to work harder, redistributed duties, improved technology, new hires, or more training. Prioritize which gaps to close based on projects and available resources. A plan like this is a much more compelling way to request a larger budget than simply asking the department head for more money.
3. How is employee engagement?
This question is on everyone’s mind, but it can be deceptively hard to answer. It is not a question that can be fully answered by directly asking. Answering this question takes an engaged and observant manager who is in touch with the team.
Look for key behaviors that show that employees take pride in their work—and consider each person separately. Here are some examples:
- Do they suggest new ideas and offer meaningful criticism and feedback on projects?
- Do team members stay late or volunteer to take on additional assignments?
- Has anyone’s behavior or performance suddenly changed?
- Does the team as a whole consistently meet and exceed goals?
A single dissatisfied employee can have a big impact on the team, so it is important not to let people fall through the cracks. Make time to talk with employees about their needs. Sometimes a small change can have a big effect on an employee’s well-being at work.
4. Where am I in my personal five-year career plan?
Self-reflection is important. The start of a new year is a good time to create a new five-year plan, but take a look at goals set in previous years. Vague goals are easy to ignore, so break large goals into smaller tasks and set target dates through the year. For example, expanding a skill set might require several training courses and webinars.
5. What new ideas does my team have?
Offer opportunities for the team to give suggestions at all levels. This is especially important for salespeople and other “front-lines” employees—they are usually the ones who know the customer best and can sense problems or opportunities that the data might not show.
Going to the team for ideas has a number of other benefits. It shows engagement and respect for their opinions.
6. What technology changes are around the corner?
Automation, smart devices, IoT, and other advances are changing the landscape very quickly, even in businesses outside the technology industry. Cybersecurity is more important every year. Keep the team up to date about what skills they need to build to stay competitive. Pay attention to market trends – last-minute technology upgrades are never convenient or cheap.
7. How should I allocate my budget?
Some managers attack budget planning first, and then move on to planning out their goals, hiring, and more. Instead, move budget planning to the end, after assessing performance and finding areas for improvement. Of course, goals and budgets sometimes have to be considered as a package deal, but resist the urge to plan out dollar values first. It can create bias about what is possible to achieve.
With the busyness of the holidays and the end of the year, it can be hard to make time to sit down for analysis. The truth is that this time investment pays for itself many times over in the coming year.
Need help with your end-of-year hiring or another business goal? Talk to a senior recruiting partner at (480) 939-3200, or set up a free consultation.