Like the dropping of the ball in Times Square, the bursting of fireworks over the Burj Khalifa means the time for New Year’s resolutions is upon us again. The beginning of January is when many of us press the reset button and set goals we believe will make us healthier, happier, more generous and, or more, successful in the year ahead.
However, it is not just individuals that can use the dawning of a new year as an opportunity to take stock. This is also a perfect moment for corporate executives to down tools, take a deep breath, and intensify their efforts to make their businesses more transparent, efficient and effective.
With that in mind, here are some suggested New Year resolutions for your business that might help keep your company on the road to success in 2015:
1. Improve Your Fitness
Rather than hitting the pavement or gym, improving the fitness of your business means streamlining decision-making, removing inefficiencies and making your organisation more agile, lean and productive.
To begin with, you need to clearly articulate your company’s goals so that every employee understands them. It is equally important that delegation of authority manuals, employee handbooks and Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) policies are up to date and easy to use, so there is complete clarity on their application.
Rather than adding a layer of bureaucracy that can slow things down, these tools – along with whistle-blowing mechanisms, codes of ethics and technological solutions such as CRM software – can help to simultaneously automate and regulate many of your company’s key functions.
2. Reduce Indulgences
While many people resolve to quit smoking or avoid unhealthy foods, the New Year is also a good time for businesses to eliminate indulgent or wasteful spending. Internally, this could involve a closer alignment of compensation with business results and the outsourcing of certain functions. Externally, a thorough review of your business relationships could lead you to improve your procurement and tendering processes or consider the use of crowd sourcing to find a more optimal mix of suppliers.
It is essential that your employees understand and accept the need for any spending cuts. According to a report published by Booz&Co: “It is critical that companies planning cost reduction initiatives obtain the positive emotional commitment of their employees to support decisions and to commit to behaviour change that reduces costs. A truly committed workforce can reduce costs more and sustain the reductions longer than a workforce under duress.” In other words, it is unwise and unsustainable to introduce sweeping cuts in your organisation without proper consultation.
3. Strengthen Relationships
Many individuals begin the New Year determined to spend more time with their family and friends. For businesses, it can be equally important to put more effort into your relationships with employees, partners and other stakeholders.
The key to building relationships is open and transparent communication. With that in mind, a stakeholder communications plan to help guide your interactions throughout the year can be a worthwhile investment. Honest and authentic reporting is also critical, even for privately-owned businesses, so your annual reports, sustainability audits, internal communications and public outreach – including social media use – should all be viewed as valuable opportunities to build greater trust from your stakeholders.
4. Be More Compassionate
Philanthropy holds a special place in our culture, and each January many of us commit to be a more generous person than we were last year. Businesses should be no different. Just like in Ramadan, the beginning of a new year is an ideal time for businesses to enhance the impact of their corporate philanthropy and expand the opportunities they provide for employee volunteering.
This should not be viewed as mere charity. The community in which you are based is often the home of your employees, customers and other stakeholders, and what is good for it will also be good for your business. However, the age of the glossy brochure is over – it is imperative that we move beyond the vague platitudes of corporate social responsibility and put in place actual streams of work dedicated to the achievement of tangible objectives.
The Abraaj Group, for example, has introduced an inspirational model for its efforts to support communities. Known as the 5+5+5 programme, Abraaj commits 5% of its fees, encourages its employees to donate 5% of their annual bonuses, and allows each employee to dedicate a minimum of 5 days per year to volunteer work. This approach has allowed the company to provide more than 8,000 volunteer hours in the past three years, and invest more than $60m in its stakeholder engagement programmes since 2005.
5. See It Through
A recent article in Forbes magazine cited research from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania that found only 8% of people manage to achieve their New Years’ resolutions. On this basis, whatever resolutions you make for your business, you need to give yourself and your colleagues the best possible chance of sticking to them.
It is therefore important to have realistic, short-term goals, and not just a long-term vision. Your resolutions should be specific, measurable and action-orientated. It should be clear what person, or which people, are primarily responsible for their implementation and what deadlines they are expected to meet. Employee input is essential, and systems that allow you to track progress, celebrate achievements and learn from failures can be invaluable.
The beginning of the New Year provides each of us with a rare opportunity to turn over a new leaf and make some positive changes. I believe this applies to us as individuals, family members, employees and business-owners alike. That said, committing to improve ourselves is not just an annual undertaking. With this in mind, perhaps there is no greater resolution that any of us can make than to consistently aspire to being conscious and aware of everything we say, do and think – in other words, the act of being present. Be present in all that you do this year. I wish you a healthy, happy and prosperous 2015.
As featured in The National on 4th January 2015.