As we draw closer to the end of the year, it always helps to sit with your team and discuss progress and blockers over the past year. Of course, most companies have systematic review meetings, but an end-of-the-year review is special as it puts things into perspective as to how far the team has grown over the span of a year. This post discusses everything you need to know about such end-of-the-year review meetings, including how to have a more productive review.
But before we get started, let's take a look at what is exactly meant by an end-of-the-year review meeting.
What is an End of Year Review?
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 review meetings?
The annual review meeting aims to discuss the performance of the employee and identify growth opportunities that are aligned with their career aspirations.
Let’s go over the elements of an end-of-the-year review meeting 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?
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
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
End-of-the-Year Review Meeting Agenda
Use this meeting template to conduct your Performance Reviews
End of Year Review Meeting: Tips for Employees
For employees to make the most of end-of-the-year review meetings with your team and manager, there are some tips that can help you be better prepared when you show up for such meetings. While the experience can be varied depending on what sector you work in, these are a few general tips that can help-
1. Carry out a personal annual review to assess your performance
Before you get on a meeting with your superiors or your team, it's important to carry out a personal annual review. This can be something as simple as sitting down with a pen and paper, and going through all the highs and lows of the past year, strictly in professional terms. Journaling helps you analyze how the past year has been, both in terms of successes and your failures. Personal annual reviews are not always easy, as it can be challenging to judge ourselves. But such reviews help you go better prepared to an end-of-the-year review meeting with you team.
If you know your successes and what can be improved, you can contribute more in such meetings. Self-awareness always helps.
2. Ask questions about how you can move ahead
Use the end-of-the-year review meetings with your manager as opportunities to know how you can advance in your career and contribute better to the team and the company. These end-of-the-year review meetings can also be clubbed with employee development conversations. Managers and team leads are always encouraged when the team members take up initiative to contribute better to the company's long-term vision. Your questions might help the team chalk out a plan for the things ahead that can help you learn better skills and make meaningful contributions to your team.
3. Avoid ambiguity in your words and actions
Whether you're reflecting on the year gone by or asking your manager a question, always be specific and pointed in your words and actions. Don't leave any room for ambiguity or misinterpretation. When you're specific with regard to what you need and how you can contribute better, your manager will be able to help and guide you better. A quick tip here is to go into all end-of-the-year review meetings with full preparation. Carefully list down all questions you'd like to ask and any clarification you seek from your manager. As the old adage goes, "Well begun is half done."
End of Year Review Meeting: Tips for Managers
When managers are addressing team members in end-of-the-year review meetings, it's important to keep the general best practices in mind so that the meeting is fruitful for all attending parties and also pushes the team as a whole closer towards the company's long-term vision.
1. Give positive feedback first
This is true for every meeting, but is specifically applicable to end-of-the-year review meetings with your teams. When you objectively analyze your team members' performances, focus on the positive aspects first. This sets the mood right for the meeting and makes your team feel their contributions to the company are meaningful. In case you have negative comments coming up later, starting with positive feedback first softens the blow and makes the tough conversations relatively easy.
2. Inspire team members to aim higher
Whether it's working closely with the company's mission fort he upcoming year or getting a step closet to their personal goals, end-of-the-year review meetings should be used as an opportunity to inspire your team to aim higher. This helps them end the year on a positive note and start the next year with renewed expectations and vigor. As a manager, if you can show your team you'll be a partner in their success, this sends across the message loud and clear that you're interested in helping your team members reach their full potential.
3. Clearly note the areas where improvement is needed
While positive reinforcement and goal-setting are important aspects of end-of-the-year review meetings, no annual review is complete without discussing the areas that have scope for improvement. Avoid coming off as complaining, but make sure you put forward your points with clarity and compassion. Delineate action items, goals, and to-dos for your team to tackle in the year ahead. Discuss potential blockers and how to move past them as a team. Remove all ambiguity from your words and deal with any contradicting ideas with civil discourse.
End-of-the-year review meetings are wonderful opportunities for the team to sit together and work on common growth andmutual alignment with the company's long-term vision. Summarizing, a great year-end review meeting should cover the following:
1. Performance rating (if applicable)
4. Opportunities for improvement
5. Career objectives