And so unwillingly back to work, after what for many of us has been an extended break. It can be difficult to crank yourself into gear after the festive season. It’s cold, dark, we feel sluggish (well I do anyway) and you can’t quite remember exactly what it was you were doing before Christmas.

But once the office decorations are down and the ‘what did you do at New Year’ conversations are over, it’s time to get back on track and rev yourself up for the challenges of the year ahead.

So what are the key actions and conversations that will help HR professionals lay the groundwork for a successful 2018?


1. Let it go

The New Year is a good time to put to one side all the frustrations and irritations that were holding you back in 2017. Life’s too short to continue the feud you had going on with IT or finance, or to hold on to pent-up resentment caused by a department head who refuses to follow policy, a line manager who seems hell-bent on making your life difficult or employees who persistently pester you for information they could find for themselves. Start the year with a clean slate – or in the words of Ella from Disney’s ‘Frozen’ – let it go.

2. Revisit the strategy

The in-box is over-flowing and before you know it, you’re immersed in wall-to-wall meetings and engaged in the ongoing battle to keep up with emails and phone calls. But before the day-to-day minutiae takes over, stop for a minute. Take some time to revisit the HR strategy and make sure it’s still fit for purpose. Check in with the management team to make sure your priorities are aligned with theirs. Ask direct questions, for example: “Are any new initiatives planned that will impact our workforce in the next 6, 12, 18 months? What do skillsets are we going to need to acquire or develop? Have you identified the key players in your team? Are any of them at risk and if so, do we have the right succession plans in place? Remind them of their obligations. The deadline for GDPR compliance is fast approaching, which has implications for the whole business including the way you process employee data. Make sure you are focusing on what’s important to the whole business, and are not being hijacked by other people’s agendas.

3. Re-energise yourself – and the team

Use the first week back at work to jot down a few of the things you’d really like to happen in 2018 – and why they’d make a difference to the whole organisation. A new HR system, for example, could reduce the time that everyone spends on day-to-day HR administration, while simultaneously delivering better insight to managers. A new approach to mentoring could solve a skills shortage, and provide an opportunity for some staff to take on more responsibilities. By having a clear view of what could be achieved, you’ll find it easier to stay motivated and share your enthusiasm with the rest of the business.

The first week back at work can be challenging for colleagues too. Some people will have returned refreshed and raring to go, while others may be struggling to get their energy and enthusiasm back. If you have a team, it’s a good idea to get the team together as early as possible in the New Year to revisit priorities, set new targets and objectives and make sure everyone has the information and resources they need to do the job properly. Even if you don’t have a formal performance management process, sitting down on a one-to-one basis with direct reports can be helpful at this time of year too. It’s a good opportunity to chat about aspirations, plan any development that may be needed and ensure everyone is clear about expectations.]

4. Get out on the front line

When you’re under pressure with an endless stream of demands from the business, it’s easy to lose track of what’s happening on the front line. Make time in January to get out from behind your desk and talk to people from all areas of the organisation. If you can get a real handle on the challenges line managers are facing, you will be able to help them resource and manage their teams more effectively. If you can find out what employees are thinking and feeling, you will be able to nip problems in the bud and will be better placed to devise strategies to improve motivation and engagement.

5. Develop an outward focus

Remember to make time for yourself and see what’s happening in the outside world. Read up on what’s happening within your own industry sector as well as in the wider corporate world, so you can help the business plan ahead. Take an active part in your professional HR networks as well as local business networking groups to help you benchmark. Plan to attend at least two conferences or exhibitions to keep up with the latest thinking. If you can, go to at least one event which has nothing directly to do with HR – you will be amazed at what you can learn from other industries and specialisms and at how transferable some of the ideas you pick up will be.

Erika Lucas author image

Erika Lucas

Writer and Communications Consultant

Erika Lucas is a writer and communications consultant with a special interest in HR, leadership, management and personal development. Her career has spanned journalism and PR, with previous roles in regional press, BBC Radio, PR consultancy, charities and business schools.