14 Practical Tips for your Year-End Performance Review

The end of the year is approaching and it’s time for the dreaded performance review. Whether you are a manager or employee, this may not always feel like the most wonderful time of the year. In many cases, it may seem like an inconvenience or even a waste of time.


But what if year-end reviews could produce a great conversation that engages team members to be their best?


This article outlines practical strategies to help turn the dreaded year-end performance review into a constructive, positive experience. 

Tips for Managers

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1.Set Clear Expectations

Setting clear expectations is one of the most important components of an effective performance review. If expectations are not set, how will your employee’s performance be measured? How will you or the employee know whether they are underperforming or exceeding expectations?


Ideally, expectations should be set at the beginning of the performance review cycle to ensure your employees know exactly what is expected from them and how it is measured throughout the year. Clearly documenting performance objectives throughout the year ensures accountability between managers and employees.


2. Effectively Document Feedback

Whether on a notepad, Excel spreadsheet, or an online performance management system, documenting feedback throughout the year is vital to the review process. Keeping an organized log of the feedback makes review time much easier for you and your employees.


If you haven’t been documenting this throughout the year, take time to do this now.  Intentionally write down as many things as you can remember about your employee’s performance from the past several months. Having these items written down before you give your feedback will help immensely when evaluating how your employees have performed over the past year.


3. Frequently check-in throughout the year

Remember that conversation you had in the hall with one of your employees back in February? Chances are, you probably don’t. Though these conversations may seem insignificant, the culmination of these side conversations can be extremely helpful to reference when coaching your employees.


When it comes to check-ins, the intention is key. Some managers do not see the point in a formal check-in process because they check in with their employees every morning at work.  While this is a great way to stay in the loop of how things are going day to day, it is not effective for long-term employee development. By being intentional and documenting this feedback gradually, you can create an open, transparent dialog that moves beyond your daily hallway conversation.


4. Request 360° feedback leading up to the review

Oftentimes, managers can have a siloed, one-dimensional perspective on employees. Even though you work around them and frequently check-in, there are many experiences your employees have that you as their manager do not directly see. However, others who are inside and outside the organization engage in unique interactions with your employees. Through the use of 360° feedback, these interactions provide greater insights beyond the scope of your individual perspective.


If your organization does not utilize 360° Feedback, you should consider implementing a process that allows you to send and receive feedback throughout the organization. By asking for feedback, you gain a more holistic view of your employees. Feedback from co-workers or clients gives you insight into the true character and performance of your employees that would be nearly impossible to find from your own experiences. This knowledge can be extremely helpful when preparing to coach and evaluate your team.



Coworker Feedback Quote


5. Evaluate your own performance as a manager

Spend some time reflecting on how well you think you have done managing your employees over the past year. Is there room for improvement? What can you do to make sure your employees are staying engaged?


You would be surprised to see how many people are disengaged at work! According to a recent Gallup state of the workplace report, only 33% of employees are engaged at work and you as a manager play a vital role in increasing engagement.



Engagement statistic graphic


Gaining the will of your team is one of the most important things you can do as a manager. As you reflect on your performance as a manager think about ways you can gain this mutual trust. This could be something as simple as taking them out to lunch or asking them how their day is going. Doing these small things on a daily basis will solidify your relationship with your employees. You would be surprised at how candid employees will be when they trust you.


6. Create a framework to facilitate effective meetings

The secret to effective meetings is a solid framework that guides the meeting in the most effective way. An hour or two is a short time to discuss an entire year’s worth of performance.


Having an effective meeting structure is essential for maximizing your time spent during the review session. Utilize an agenda that organizes the discussion-prioritizing the most important topics. Although every job and organization is different, we believe that effective meetings consist of three main transferable components.

  1. Preparing ahead of time
  2. Having a meeting “Scribe” that documents and drives the discussion
  3. Not forgetting the context (in this case it would be the performance review)

The video below outlines these steps in more detail.


7. Give constructive feedback

This may seem like a given, but oftentimes it can be difficult to give an employee honest feedback that is not positive. You may worry your comments will upset them and sometimes it does.  However, if you have given frequent feedback and recognition throughout the year, your crucial conversation will be better received.  It’s false to assume that employees only want positive feedback. People want to know where they stand and get coaching on how they can be better.  


Providing constructive feedback is the best way to coach your employees. Although the conversation can be difficult, these crucial conversations help grow and develop your team members in the long term.  Just make sure the feedback is balanced and frequent.


8. Set new goals and expectations

After you complete your evaluation of past performance, it’s important to discuss what’s next. Most of your performance management conversations should focus on how a team members can continue to grow and maximize their value to the organization.  You should understand their strengths and help team members figure out how they can best apply their strengths in their role.  

Your organization’s goals and priorities are likely to change.  This may mean your team members goals should change as well.  A manager’s role is to make sure their team members are aligned with the most current and pressing priorities.  

Bulls-Eye Dart Board

After new goals have been set, you should revisit these goals on a frequent basis.  It’s not helpful to set goals to only look at them 12-months later. We have a great article about coaching on personal goals where we go into more detail on this topic. 

Tips for Employees

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9. Record your wins throughout the year

No matter how big or small an accomplishment may seem, it is important to keep a running list of all of your wins. Not only will these serve as useful talking points with your manager, but they will also serve as intrinsic motivators.


We have all had a bad week where we felt like we did not accomplish anything and did not do our best. Weeks like this inevitably will happen, but remembering the things that have gone right can keep you focused on achieving the results you know you are capable of obtaining.


10. Closely monitor changes in day to day activity

Does your day to day look completely different from what it looked like back in January? Even if your daily job functions are the same, it is not a bad idea to reflect on how your role has evolved over the past year. 

Keeping these changes in the back of your mind will be helpful when entering the review conversation. Your manager may not always notice how your role has changed. The progression of these changes can serve as great talking points, especially when discussing topics around compensation and merit increases.


11. Share your personal goals and vision

Let’s face it, some people are workaholics and live at the office 24/7, but most people have hobbies and activities they enjoy doing outside of work. Just because your manager is your boss, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t know about goals you have outside of work.

vision spelled from scrabble pieces

By sharing your personal goals with your manager,  you show you are motivated and passionate about pursuing something outside of the work environment. This not only serves as an intrinsic motivation for yourself but can also build comradery between you and your manager. Chances are your manager cares more about your personal development than you would think!


12. Frequently Check-in with your manager

You might already be doing this, but if you aren’t, try to make a conscious effort to check-in with your manager throughout the year. This frequent communication serves as an effective feedback loop to ensure you are meeting expectations throughout the year.


Not only will this help your manager, but it will give you clarity as to what your priorities are and insight into how well you are performing.  This will keep you from wondering how you are doing and allow you to be laser-focused on accomplishing your objectives.


The last thing you want to happen is to go into the review conversation believing you have been performing well to find out you and your manager are on a different page. Ensuring there is alignment with your manager will help you be your best.  

When you Check-In, you should address these three questions:

  1.  What were your accomplishments since you last checked in?
  2. What are your current key priorities?
  3. How can your manager best help you?

13. Be coachable

Very few people enter into a role as a true expert and chances are you will mess up far more times than you can imagine. Showing that you are coachable starts with how you handle your mistakes. When you make a mistake don’t sulk and make excuses for why there was a negative outcome, but rather take this opportunity to show how coachable you are to your manager.



coachable quote graphic


When it comes to review time, think of your manager as a coach rather than your boss. When you receive feedback you may view as negative, don’t get defensive but rather acknowledge that there are areas you need to improve and ask questions on how you can achieve better results. This not only shows your manager how coachable you are but will also show them that you are committed to further developing yourself.


14. Show Initiative by preparing ahead of time

When heading into your performance review the worst thing you can do is to not be prepared. When your manager asks you how you think you have performed this year don’t give them a blank stare. Show that you have prepared for your review by arriving prepared with notes, talking points, and questions.


At the appropriate time in the review,  highlight your wins and have an update on your personal and professional vision and goals. Coming prepared will make your manager much more likely to agree with you and will make them more likely to trust you with greater responsibilities.


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Whether you are a manager or an employee, utilizing these strategies will help turn your year-end performance review into a constructive experience. We all want to be engaged where we work and work with others who are engaged as well.  Both employees and managers are responsible for making this happen.


If you are looking for a better way to manage your performance reviews, our team would be happy to walk through a tour of the Performance Culture software with you and show how easy it is to create and facilitate performance reviews. Request your free live demo today. 

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What type of experiences have you had with year-end reviews? If you have any other tips we would love to hear from you!

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