I'm not big on New Year's resolutions. If you want to change something, there's no reason to wait for an arbitrary date.
However, the start of the year does feel timely for a company to kick off a set of collective resolutions--when they get back from the holidays and need a motivational jumpstart.
Just as individuals typically focus on self-improvement and wellness goals for their resolutions, January is a great time for startups to revisit their culture and values.
At our university, rapid growth can change the office culture quite a bit in the span of a year. We've brought on lots of new faces and want to leverage their fresh ideas and perspectives while also staying true to the values that have made our culture unique and rewarding.
That's why our three company resolutions are around how we communicate and collaborate--not tied to specific tasks and deliverables but as a reflection of who we are and how we treat each other.
Hopefully, you too can find them useful. Here they are:
1. Give more and better feedback
This is a big, ongoing effort for us. We revamped our performance review process in 2016, shifting from twice-a-year evaluations to a continuous conversation between managers and their direct reports. But it's still easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and push those discussions to a less busy time (as if!).
This year, I'm encouraging employees to keep feedback top of mind every day, whether it's about something they're working on right now or a career goal they're striving toward. We're defining available career-path options and reiterating that managers and individual contributors should keep the lines of communications open in both directions.
Employees have told us they want more real-time feedback. This isn't a burden on management--it's a perfect mechanism for getting to know people's long-term goals and finding the overlap with our own organizational needs. Then we can work together on plans that maximize the employee's talents and align with their interests, while also meeting business demands.
It can be daunting to tell a manager you're not satisfied. On the flip side, hearing that sentiment from a direct report can introduce self-doubt in a manager. We want to cut through the insecurity and self-consciousness and get to a place of true transparency.
2. Be present
Too many people look at screens during all-hands meetings. We send out surveys after every all-hands, and people tell us they really appreciate these gatherings... yet many attendees aren't even giving the speakers their full attention.
A quick look at the phone, then you're answering an email, and next thing you know, you've tuned out for 10 minutes of a discussion. You might've had something really great to contribute to the group in that moment, but we'll never know. Maybe you'll share it with us at the next meeting, at which point someone can explain that everyone else has already come to a decision and moved on.
We owe it to our colleagues--and to our customers--to pay attention and be present for the discussion happening right in front of us. And really, it's probably a good idea to have some non-screen time in your day.
I promise your world will not implode if you close the laptop and live in meatspace for a change.
3. Coach and mentor others
We're working to foster more cross-team support and encouragement. Rather than limit it to senior employees coaching junior colleagues, we want to open it up to everyone, based on our belief that each and every one of us has knowledge, experience, and expertise to offer someone else.
Some of these coaching relationships spring up organically when people connect through activities like lunch roulette (randomly assigned groups of four go out to eat together); coffice hours (mix-and-match pairs set up time to get to know each other over coffee); and our new hire buddy system.
Give people opportunities to learn skills outside their job function and explore other areas relevant to their career goals. Having regular conversations with people in different parts of the business can inspire employees to want to try something different, which supports our practice of hiring from within whenever possible.
A company's long-term success relies on more than just hitting short-term numbers. You need to pay attention to valued employees and make sure they're set up for success, with opportunities to learn, grow, contribute, and excel. That's where organizational New Year's resolutions come in.
Enjoy the holidays and indulge in the festivities. It'll be time to put those resolutions into action before you know it!