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How to Achieve Business Success in 2013 With Better HR

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With New Year out of the way, it's back to business. And for most organisations, this means priority planning for the next financial year.

What are your priorities and goals for 2013?

At the end of last year, I informally surveyed a number of businesspeople about what they had learned in 2012 and would be doing differently in 2013. Almost everyone listed people problems: issues or challenges that could have been solved with a more robust and effective HR policy in place, or simply by communicating better. It's staggering to me that while people could be a company's biggest business asset, creating an environment where employees can excel is so often overlooked as a business priority.

Here are some of the actual comments people gave, and how I suggest each item should be tackled from an HR point of view to help you hit your other business targets:

(1) "Under-promise and over-deliver" - To be able to do this, you need to have an exact idea of your workforce capacity. This can be established through competency analysis and workload planning. Don't push staff to over-sell and under-deliver through unrealistic targets, as this is a quick route to a bad reputation. Increase individual staff productivity and performance through individual training and development plans.

(2) "Surround yourself with capable people" - Understanding recruitment is key here. Remember: hire for attitude, train for skill. It's the busiest time in the year for recruitment right now, and there's no shortage of great candidates out there, so make sure you understand what you're looking for and are asking the right questions in your adverts, application forms and interviews.

(4) "Plan and look forward on the path to that success. You cannot drive a car looking in the rear view mirror." - Don't get bogged down by the past. Relying on old business models and marketing strategies in a fast-changing world is a recipe for declining revenues. Just look at HMV and Blockbuster. Robust business planning, informed by regularly updated market data, allows you to see where the gaps are in your current staff structure. Forward planning allows you time to attract and recruit the right talent to meet your changing business needs.

(5) "At the end of every week, ask yourself two questions: What could I have done differently and have I really given it my all this week?" - Self-assessment is important to be the best leader you can be. Embody the qualities you seek in your employees, and give them a path to success in their role with specifically targeted competency frameworks so they can streamline their efforts and focus on results.

(6) Activity creates results: More 1-to-1 meetings with contacts, more social media and more follow-up with existing clients." - This is about communication and keeping in touch with people. Allow your employees time to really get to know clients and customers, so they can meet their needs and deliver great customer service. If appropriate, build customer satisfaction metrics into staff targets.

(7) "Find time to laugh and enjoy life and don't underestimate the impact of exercise and a healthy diet." - Staff health and happiness is really important. It goes without saying that happy, healthy employees are more productive and positive. While you don't have to pay for their gym membership, you are legally obliged to ensure staff have adequate work breaks and to consider flexible working options, so they can have a good work/life balance. Does your working environment promote health and happiness? As well as your legal obligations around risk management and workspace assessments, think about how you can make the office a more enjoyable place to be. Have fun! You spend too much time at work to be unhappy there. Google and Innocent are brilliant at this.

(8) "Get an accountant!" - This is about knowing when to outsource. SMEs can benefit greatly from outsourcing, as expenditure can be adjusted according to demand, without the commitments of recruiting and training full time staff. This leaves you free to focus on what you do best: winning new business. Great outsourcing companies are like another member of your team, working alongside you to empower and train your staff with expert knowledge, and guidance when required.

(9) "Take time to communicate and listen to others. Trust and empathy go a long way in working relationships." - This is about integrity and great leadership: sharing your vision with staff and taking time to understand their strengths and needs. Great leadership does not automatically accompany great business skills. It's something you have to nurture and develop, so take some time to prioritise this in 2013 and you'll reap the rewards with a team of long serving and exceptional employees.

(10) "Stick to your principles and core values." - In slower periods it can be tempting to move in a direction that doesn't feel right, to gain quick wins on the bottom line. But you can rapidly find your business being pulled in too many directions and not succeeding in any of them. Establish a clear vision, mission and values for your organisation, and stick to them. This will create a unified structure and culture for your staff, producing better results in the longer term. It also clearly states your place in the market, and customers will seek you out based on shared values and principles. Stay true to your USPs. When your values, culture and behaviours are in alignment, it's phenomenal how successful you can be!

I've got 99 Problems but HR Ain't One

If you put this plan of action in place for 2013, you'll reap the rewards of a happier, healthier, more motivated workforce.

I wish you every success in achieving your goals in 2013.