Most organizations have a yearly review cycle at the end of which, the manager and the employee formally discuss the employee’s overall performance during the year. These reviews are also called Annual Review or Year-End Performance Reviews. In some companies, these review meetings are accompanied by an official performance rating and compensation or yearly bonus discussion.

What to discuss during year-end reviews?

The annual review meeting aims to discuss the performance of the employee and identify growth opportunities that are aligned with their career aspirations.

More specifically, a great year-end review meeting should cover the following:

  1. Performance rating (if applicable)
  2. Achievements
  3. Superpowers
  4. Opportunities for improvement
  5. Career objectives

Let’s go over each of these in more detail –

1. Performance rating

Many companies have a pre-defined scale of formally rating all employees based upon their contribution to the organization, their achievements, and the overall performance of their peers. If your company has a similar rating process, start the year-end review meeting with this discussion topic.

Pro-tip for managers: Just sharing the rating isn’t enough! Take this opportunity to explain what the specific rating means for the individual and give an overview of how the ratings are finalized.

Pro-tip for employees: Most companies have reference documents explaining the rating process. Go over these documents ahead of the discussion. A few follow-up questions that you can ask your manager to better understand the rating –

  • What does a rating of XYZ mean for me?
  • How does this impact my bonus or compensation for the coming year?
  • What could I have done better?
  • How did I do compared to my peers in the last year?

2. Achievements

Performance rating discussion should gradually transition into going over the accomplishments. During any feedback discussion, it is always a good idea to start at a high note by discussing what the employee accomplished in the last year. Managers should highlight employees’ achievements like completed goals, development of skillsets, excellent project delivery, etc.

Pro-tip for managers: During the year, keep a running note of instances where your team members achieved their best. This is a great way to ensure that you are prepared to provide specific feedback during year-end reviews.

Pro-tip for employees: Make a list of projects and deliverables that you are proud of. If your manager misses a few projects, feel free to highlight them. Share details on why you think that was a significant achievement for you. Your manager might not always have details on each project and sharing your hard work will help

3. Superpowers

Throughout the year, most people focus on learning and try to get better with every new project. A year-end review is a good time to pause and identify strengths, also known as superpowers. Discussion around employees’ strengths should be supported by specific examples. Employees can leverage their superpowers more often in projects.

Pro-tip for managers: Personalize this discussion by sharing what strengths stand out to you along with specific examples. This will help your employee understand what matters to you and what the organization values.  

Pro-tip for employees: Before the discussion, make a list of what in your opinion, are your superpowers. If you see a good overlap with what your manager has, great job on self-awareness!! If you see low overlap, bring that up during the discussion and get your manager’s perspective.  

4. Opportunities for improvement

A discussion on development opportunities should answer the following three questions –

  • Are the manager and the employee aligned on existing gaps and growth areas?
  • How can the employee work on the identified growth opportunities?
  • How will the progress be measured?

Pro-tip for managers: Knowing your employee’s career objectives will help you curate more specific improvement opportunities for your team members. Leverage your regular career development discussion with your employees to plan and be prepared with specific projects/opportunities that the employee can own.

Pro-tip for employees: Prepare for the discussion by identifying growth opportunities for yourself. It can be something that you wished you had done better in your earlier project or a new skill that you would like to take up in the coming year. Don’t shy away from bringing up this list during your discussion with your manager.  

5. Career objectives

Taking this time to discuss short-term and long-term career objectives will ensure that both the manager and the employee are working towards a common goal. The career goals identified in this discussion should help guide the nature of projects and opportunities that the employee takes up. Knowing that they are working towards their career goals will keep the team motivated and engaged at work.

Pro-tip for managers: The discussions in  1:1 meetings with your direct reports will help you understand how your reports are feeling in their role and learn about their career aspirations. You can leverage this to identify growth opportunities for your report ahead of the year-end review discussion and be more prepared for the review meeting

Pro-tip for employees: Be prepared to talk about your short-term and long-term career goals and what keeps you motivated in your current role. Leverage our guide on career discussion with your manager  to navigate this discussion like a champion