HR New Year’s Resolutions: Focused Goals, Lasting Results

January 4, 2018

On behalf of everyone at BambooHR, welcome back to work for the new year! Today is a great day to work in HR because many of your employees are coming into work with resolutions to improve both their personal and professional lives. Matching these resolutions with your own HR resolutions can help improve their chances of success in both areas in the coming year.

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: life is life, whether you’re spending your time at work, with your family, on a hobby, or improving your community. Each moment becomes a part of your life story, connecting with every other aspect of your life and shaping your choices for the future. Your habits, hopes, attitudes, and expectations color everything you experience and develop a powerful momentum that can sweep you along a path of routines. Sometimes it takes a specific day or experience to draw attention to these routines, and those moments are often catalysts for change.

Harvard Business Review examined research from companies that tracked their employees’ behavior to see if they wanted to leave their jobs. They hired analytics companies to develop a “likely to leave” score, using a sophisticated analysis of their electronic footprint. This included monitoring behavior like checking LinkedIn multiple times on a company computer, analyzing social media posts and contacts, and badging in and out of the parking garage at odd hours for possible interviews. You know, standard Big Brother protocol.

Analysis of this data showed that employees are six percent more likely to quit after a work anniversary, nine percent more likely after the anniversary of their most recent promotion, 12 percent more likely after a milestone birthday (30, 40, or 50), and 16 percent more likely after a peer gathering such as a high school reunion.

Life milestones like these are often accompanied by epiphany moments—moments that leave us reflecting on our life choices, including our current job situation.

The beginning of a new year is an epiphany moment. reported that January 4th was their top job search day of 2017 and that six of their top ten search days also happened in January. So you have a choice: you can trust that your employees feel the same way about your organization that they did last year, or you can engage your employees with HR resolutions that help them improve their lives and careers.

Getting HR Resolutions Across the Finish Line

Before you can set HR resolutions to help your employees achieve their goals, you need to understand what it takes to set an effective goal. One of Bamboo’s yearly themes (from 2016) captures this process of achieving lasting change in just four words: Choose. Focus. Finish. Repeat.

You choose what to do. You focus on that task, blocking out other distractions. You keep at that task until you finish it. And when you’ve finished it, then you can move on to the next resolution propelled by the momentum of your successful change.

Gaining that momentum is important because changing even a single habit takes each of the four steps. Focusing on multiple outcomes or tasks at the same time divides your attention and creates competition for the limited time you have available. If you want to accomplish everything on the list you made during an epiphany moment, you’re more likely to succeed if you tackle it one goal at a time.

You’re also more likely to succeed when you take measures to provide accountability. But before you can explain a goal to someone else, you need to create an effective definition for yourself. It helps to think of the acronym SMART:


Outline the who, what, where, when, and why of your goal. Think of this as the first step in choosing to pursue your goal.


Translate the specifics of your goal into metrics. This is easier for goals involving numbers, like calorie-counting and budgeting, but you can also measure progress on more abstract goals; for example, you could count the number of morning planning sessions you’ve completed to track a resolution to get more organized. Breaking goals down into events over time creates points to focus on as you progress.


At this point, you’re going to get a good idea of whether or not your goal is achievable. This isn’t meant to limit your goals; on the contrary, this process helps you map out the smaller goals you’ll need to accomplish before reaching a larger goal. It recognizes that change takes time, and helps you enact that change one step at a time.


You can’t cross the finish line if you don’t know where it is. Some goals are sprints while others are marathons with multiple checkpoints. But as you define the metrics that quantify your goal, you should be able to pair each metric with a result. Sometimes, the result is simply discovery. You might not know what will happen if you stick to your exercise regime for three months, for example. But as you discover the results your actions can produce, you can calibrate your actions toward specific outcomes, such as continuing to exercise for the next three months and improving your mile run time. Knowing why you’re sticking to your goal helps you resist the pull of bad habits and distractions.


Again, a single look at your goals only gets you so far. Setting deadlines for measuring your results provides a sense of urgency and encourages accountability, whether you’re reflecting on your own progress or sharing it with a friend.

Focused HR Resolutions,
Lasting Results

Your HR resolutions can help your employees learn how to set SMART goals, and then provide the resources and encouragement needed to accomplish them. You can show your employees that your organization is invested in making their lives better—not just at work, but at home as well.

Focusing on a specific, values-related challenge for each month applies the “Choose, Focus, Finish, Repeat” formula to your organization as a whole, making it easier for your employees to engage with the challenges and see results. These challenges become even more effective when you can tie them to your organization’s values, making them a consistent part of your overall strategy rather than a one-time exercise.

Monthly company updates are great times to introduce and reflect on these value challenges. Making value challenges a consistent practice throughout the year helps employees come to expect them.

It’s also important to share the metrics you’ll be measuring with managers. By doing so, you can ensure everyone is on the same page, working to achieve the same things on the way to your collective goal.  

Here are some examples of values-related challenges:


This is a big one right when employees return from the holidays. Last spring, BambooHR set a company goal to get 15 minutes of activity every workday, whether it was an outdoor lunch or a walking work meeting. It wasn’t until mid-November that we finally took down the volleyball net. When employees saw the benefits, we went beyond the required activity challenge and developed a culture of wellness.


Few problems distract employees like financial concerns. Developing a proactive approach to financial literacy for employees can keep today’s “I should save more” from becoming tomorrow’s personal crisis. Consider sponsoring a financial planning course for your employees and tracking attendance. Many benefit providers offer presentations on their program results; partnering with them can make it easier to measure program usage and get an idea of your employees’ financial health.


Helping your employees develop good communication skills does more than make them more effective in your organization. Communication challenges could include exploring how to give and receive honest feedback, taking time each day to practice gratitude, and even seeking out opportunities for volunteer work with the organization’s blessing. As employees internalize these skills and apply them in other parts of their lives, they don’t just become more effective employees. They become better people.

If you develop HR resolutions to support your employees in their growth throughout the year, you can make the first part of January a true epiphany moment for your people—one where they can look at their experience with your organization and see a place where they want to stay, grow, and thrive.

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Brian Anderson

Brian Anderson expertly decodes all things HR, drawing on a decade of technical writing in the business organization industry to provide editorial support to internal and external learning programs at BambooHR. His writing explores the different motivations that shape the employee experience and the psychology of human resources.