09 April 2016 10:35:49 IST

Making resolutions for the new (financial) year

What should organisations focus on in this fiscal?

While most people make resolutions in January, management heads make theirs in April. The beginning of a new financial year defines the year-long business and growth of an organisation.

We are in the first spell of FY17. Organisations are probably concluding budget discussions and making preparations to roll out their annual operating plans. While the tone is being set for the year right now in terms of priorities, and strategy and approach, companies also take up hiring as part of their annual planning process. Hiring and employee development comprise critical aspects in budget planning, growth and expansion.

Companies conduct their annual business meets during this period, where they organise reward-and-recognition events and acknowledge the contribution of their valuable employees. An ideal time to focus on employee motivation and engagement as, for many organisations, the financial year coincides with their appraisal cycle. Promotions, new designations, enhanced or different roles and additional responsibilities create excitement and enthusiasm among employees to approach the new financial year with determination and vigour.

Peak hiring season

The beginning of a new financial year is considered a peak hiring season. With budget planning, on the one hand, and the appraisal cycle, on the other, an office is a full house with all members of the management team at peak efficiency. Senior executives opt to fit interview schedules in their agenda to make the best of their time spent in the office. It is considered a good time to inject new blood into the organisation to help achieve newly-set targets.

The first quarter of the financial year is also induction time for the next batch of management trainees and leadership associates from business schools. Recently, I happened to reconnect with a former colleague, who currently manages professional relationships with management schools for a global consulting firm at the APAC level. His primary job is to maintain a rapport at the highest level with top-tier institutes and ensure the best talent joins the company. He was sharing some of the emerging placement trends he has observed at premier institutes, as well as the corporate response towards recruitment from campuses.

Increasing curiosity quotient

Our premier institutions select the best students through robust and rigorous selection processes, resulting in the presence of considerable ‘brain power’ in our campuses. The students are inquisitive and well-informed, and they would like to work in a company that offers intellectual challenges.

In the talent-driven market, it is as much the student who is making a choice about his employer as the company selecting the student. Selection is not only about the company’s process, but also the candidate’s perspective. Organisations are taking special care in staffing campus recruitment teams appropriately. They do not want to face an embarrassing situation where the potential employee knows more about the company than the recruiter.

I know of a software company CEO who participates in the selection of his direct reports, and then the selection of management trainees. For hiring between different levels, he lets his management do the needful.

Millennial talent is uninhibited, aggressive in a positive way, and extremely confident. These young professionals are more than ready to challenge the status quo. Long gone are the days of traditional hierarchy. Companies are devising strategies to attract, engage and retain the best people.

Profit and purpose

In recent times, there has been a strong preference to be associated with a socially responsible enterprise. It is not only the most profitable companies that attract the best talent, but also a company which is focussed on the triple bottom line: profit, people and planet.

There was a time when people looked for jobs in the most financially successful companies. When the finance fad faded away, professionals wanted to work in organisations that were people-friendly and employee-focused. Success and people aside, individuals now look for companies that are actively focused on CSR initiatives. Many organisations showcase their CSR activities, sustainability initiatives and diversity practices in their pre-placement presentations to inspire candidates to join them.

There is also a marked preference for students to work on some of these initiatives themselves early in their careers, in order to gain an all-round experience. This is a significant departure from the past, where MBA graduates wanted to work in conventional functions and roles such as branding, finance, human resources or information technology.

Contextual intelligence

Prof Tarun Khanna of Harvard Business School, in his article for Harvard Business Review , describes how organisations need to develop contextual intelligence to be successful in different markets. This is true not only for the company’s business strategies but also for people practices. Khanna elaborates how successful companies in home markets fail miserably when they simply copy-paste their strategies to completely different markets without understanding the ground realities.

While best practices can be emulated, the essence of the practice would be to understand the context and apply discriminating skills that can point out what will work and what will not. Such skills are critical as they help leverage available data and evolve new insights to identify business opportunities in tune with the organisation’s strategy.

Contextual intelligence cannot be more appropriate in any other function as it is in human resources, because people are unique and diverse. Be it people management or talent acquisition, contextual reasoning helps in effective human resource operations. It helps comprehend the complexity of a problem without regarding the same as a complicated issue.

Organisations, at the beginning of every financial year, retrospect to make changes in their approach to business and people, based on the experiences and learning over the year that has gone by, and plan afresh to include new skills and strategies that will give them an edge over competition.

A fresh fiscal year focuses on the three-dimensional bottomline, applying contextual intelligence to optimise on strengths and opportunities and eliminate weaknesses and threats.