As the end of year approaches at pace, in between the Christmas festivities it might be time to think about getting your HR house in order.

Most of us will have started the year with some sort of plan of action in the form of our HR strategy. Precisely what that strategy looks like will vary dramatically – anything from a formal strategy document to a roughly drawn out to do list! Either way, it will have outlined our target areas of focus for the year.

It’s not a perfect world

Of course we all know that strategies are created from a ‘perfect world’ perspective, and real life is very rarely like that! While we will undoubtedly have achieved a number of our start of year objectives, there will also be a number which have either changed shape, been only partially completed, or fallen off the bottom of our priority list altogether.

The thing most of us do wrong is that we start our years with this very clear focus… and then almost immediately lose it. Real life gets in the way, day to day issues distract us. Our strategy document sits in our drawer, untouched. We probably refer back to it a handful of times – we will likely tick off a number of objectives on the list, even without regular reference to it – but over time it is gradually forgotten about, and by the time we hit December all of our thoughts have turned to planning the year ahead, with little or no consideration to the twelve months which have just passed.

Reflecting, reviewing, and learning

What we miss when we do this is the opportunity to really reflect, review, and learn from our delivery that year. I have known both HR professionals and business leaders who don’t even start with their previous year’s strategy when they come to draw up the following year’s – they are starting with a completely blank piece of paper every time.

As we head into the final few weeks of the year, now is the opportunity to change our approach for the year ahead. First of all, make time to close off any niggling outstanding operational issues which could delay a fast start in January. It’s very tempting to use the Christmas and New Year period as an opportunity to put off anything you’d rather not address until January. In my experience though, most operational issues are only ever exacerbated if you put off dealing with them. Make a list for yourself, be ruthless, and work through them in the working days you still have left before you finish for Christmas.

Having done that, it’s time to draw up your strategy for the year to come. Your starting point should always, always be the events of the previous year. What objectives did you fail to deliver against? What were the reasons for this – lack of resource, change in business priorities, organisational restructure? Do these objectives need to be carried forward to the next year, amended, or taken off your list altogether as they are simply no longer relevant?

Similarly, with those objectives you have delivered, how can you build upon them? What still needs to be done, or what learnings can be taken from what you’ve achieved and used elsewhere.

Delivering the business objectives

Once you have this shortlist, it’s time to map it against the business strategy. Each and every component of your strategic plan needs to in some way support the delivery of the business. If it fails to do that, then it needs to be scrapped – it’s superfluous to requirements. When it comes to strategy, everything you include in it has to be critical to delivery. If that’s not the case, it a) shouldn’t be a priority for you, and b) probably won’t get done in any case.

Once you have your strategy, you’ve made your life for the remainder of the year a hundred times easier. Why? Well, that’s your roadmap, your focus, your direction of travel. Not only does it ensure you’re delivering business value, it also acts as an important reminder not to get too caught up in managing the day to day operational issues which arise – to the detriment of strategically driving your department forward and really making a difference.

With that in mind… isn’t it worth getting your HR house in order as we see out the end of the year? We should be one of the most critical business functions that any organisation has. A well written and properly targeted HR strategy ensures that we are just that.