Reflecting And Planning For The New Work Year
As we head into a fresh year, now is a good time to reflect on the past year and set some new goals for your organization in order to enhance productivity, employee satisfaction, and retention rates.
We at Bored did a deep dive and spoke to organizational development leaders to give you some actionable solutions to help you accomplish this, and here’s what we think you should be doing to make 2022 even better than 2021. Include your team in assessing their performance over the past year, and set goals for the upcoming year.
To gather some of the best ways to do this, we spoke to Sadhika Katyal, an organizational psychologist experienced in consulting on recruitment, talent development, assessments, engagement, and work culture.
Katyal recommends that managers end the year with a recap of what has been done in the past year. This includes discussing what highs and lows the team went through together, and, most importantly, the key takeaways and learnings from those experiences. “Having every team member contribute to this discussion and share their inputs is valuable in cultivating cohesiveness and bringing everyone on the same page,” she says. “It also aids in information sharing and generating new ideas.”
Another important activity Katyal suggests is to reevaluate and review the values and purpose shared by the team, to understand how well the team has collectively lived up to those values. This can be done by identifying instances where your decisions and actions were aligned with your values, and how you can adhere to them even better in the coming year. “This will help teams and managers walk the talk,” she explains.
A good way to ensure that these discussions turn out fruitful is to inform team members in advance about what you intend to discuss. This will give people time to reflect beforehand, and come into the discussion with well thought out inputs. Also, not to mention that it’s always a good feeling when your manager actually cares about what you have to say, rather than just doling out instructions.
Finally, once recapping and reviewing the past year is done, managers can use these insights to chalk out a game-plan, or some key goals they want their team to work towards in the coming year. “What is it that the team wants to and should be paying attention to in the first few months of the new year?” says Katyal. “Once again, have every team member contribute to this, so that they are excited and motivated to bring in the new year with momentum, and are driven to succeed and finish even stronger than the previous year!”
Anticipate problems that may arise next year, and plan ahead on how to solve them
The best way to solve a problem is to get ahead of it. Creating a complete plan for the year ahead for your team includes anticipating possible issues that may arise, and putting in place a system to ensure they get solved as smoothly as possible.
Put in place a clear process for team members to flag issues and report them to the person in charge of them. If there is already a system in place for this, collect feedback from employees on how it can be improved, and reiterate the process to them.
This is particularly helpful in the case of remote teams, where it may be harder and more awkward for employees to report issues to someone they don’t physically interact with often.
When team members have a clear way to report problems and know what kind of response to expect from their managers, problems get solved faster and with less difficulty.
Schedule regular check-ins, and prioritize employees’ personal and professional development
In a 2019 study by CareerAddict, a whopping 79% of the 1,000 workers surveyed said they would consider bad leadership a factor in deciding to quit, with 4 in 10 going so far as to say that they would return to their old job if their former boss was replaced.
So how can managers foster a positive relationship with their team members?
Scheduling regular check-ins is one great way. “Checking in with employees and making sure they feel taken care of is essential to retaining them,” says Avantika Kapoor, a People Consultant at Beyond Blue Consulting, with expertise in HR, employee engagement, workplace wellness, and company culture.
In many organizations, feedback sessions happen only during appraisal season. This simply isn’t enough. More frequent check-ins are essential. “The exchange of regular feedback in the workplace is essential to succeed and thrive,” explains Kapoor. “Ultimately, the goal of feedback is personal development and growth, and that does not happen overnight—it is a constant process of unlearning and learning. As a result, receiving feedback without regular cadence provides no basis for development. Increasing the frequency of these check-ins, safe spaces, and open feedback builds trust and helps create more productive and positive manager-employee relationships.”
A great example of this, Kapoor recounts, is the biannual manager-employee tête-à-têtes during her time working at Yelp.
Before these tête-à-têtes, employees would be given a list of questions to reflect upon, and were asked to share their responses with their managers during the sit-down. These questions prompted employees to reflect on their last six months in terms of tangible professional achievements (big or small), personal milestones, and things they wished to unlearn or leave behind. They were also asked to assess their long-term goals to see whether these had changed or evolved over time, following which their manager would help them create an action plan for how to meet those goals.
This process placed an emphasis on employees’ professional goals and personal development, which today is more important to employees than ever before. As explained in a recent Gallup article, in-depth research (including interviews with top scientists, leaders, managers, meta-analyses involving hundreds of studies, and Gallup’s database of over 60 million employees) reveals that today’s top talent does not want a boss, they want a coach. “Performance management” must be transformed into “performance development”.
“One of the most important factors in selecting a position (and for managers to consider in hiring and leading people) is making sure the job is going to help you learn and fulfil your own career goals,” Josh Bersin, global industry analyst and founder of corporate HR research & advisory firm Bersin by Deloitte, is quoted as saying in the aforementioned CareerAddict study. “For some people, this means rapid advancement and challenge; for others, it means a reasonable workload and supportive work environment. When these expectations are clear and aligned, people love their work and stay for many years.”
Take steps to strengthen trust and set accountability in your remote team
Effective communication is even more crucial in the case of remote and hybrid teams. In the absence of meeting regularly in-person, maintaining close relationships with one’s team is much more challenging. Kapoor points out that building an interpersonal muscle with your colleagues and teams is crucial to fostering psychological safety that helps in achieving breakthroughs in the remote working world.
In the absence of this closeness, members of remote teams tend to struggle to trust one another, and there is often a lack of accountability.
Here are some of the strategies that Katyal recommends in order to build trust and set accountability within remote teams.
1. Be accessible and responsive
If you are part of a remote team, you already know that working remotely can make you feel isolated and disconnected from your colleagues. “[This] can lead to lower engagement, and lack of access to important information that stifles morale and hinders performance,” explains Katyal. She suggests that managers should clearly state the different communication tools their teams have access to, and make their availability known so that team members can reach out them. “Proactively connecting and checking in with team members frequently also helps in building trust and rapport.”
2. Don’t go into silos
Katyal rightly points out that when working remotely, it is easy to work more independently, and to feel it unnecessary to put in the effort that goes into connecting and collaborating with one’s team members. However, this hampers information-sharing and rapport-building between colleagues. “Create opportunities for teams to come together for both, formal and informal sessions,” she suggests.
3. Be transparent
“This is key, especially in times of uncertainty,” stresses Katyal. “One way of doing this is to have open and honest conversations, not only about the big wins and successes, but also challenges and failures.” This fosters relationships where team members feel safe and comfortable enough to communicate openly—to seek support when needed, and to come together to celebrate successes.
4. Set clear goals
Katyal recommends allowing teams to have autonomy over how they plan to work and get to the end goal. “Managers can earn trust by showing trust,” she explains.
Ultimately, there is one key theme that emerged from our research into the best ways to plan for the year ahead—involve your employees in the reflection and planning process as much as possible, and work towards fostering an open and communicative environment in your organization.
You’d be surprised to find what a team built on a foundation of genuine trust and communication is capable of accomplishing!