How To Have a Great Year End Review [for Leaders and Employees]

Year end reviews are an invaluable practice for both employees and their leaders. For leaders, taking this time is an opportunity to review your employees accomplishments and areas for improvement, and also show them that their efforts are appreciated and valued.

The Meetingnotes Team
November 15, 2023

Year end reviews are an invaluable practice for both employees and their leaders. For leaders, taking this time is an opportunity to review your employees' accomplishments and areas for improvement, and also show them that their efforts are appreciated and valued. 

That being said, it’s important for leaders to support their employees before the year end review starts, and to go into the meeting prepared with a plan, structure, and a clear idea of what’s going to be discussed.

In this article we’ll cover:

<div id="1"></div>

Essential topics to discuss in a year end review

The basics that should be covered in a year end review can vary from company to company. Factors can include how many people work for your organization, the management style and culture at your organization, and the preferred way your organization wants to communicate their core values to employees. 

There are, however, some topics that as a rule of thumb should be included in most year end performance reviews:


Taking time to recognize the wins and hard work each employee contributes to the organization is a great way to start the year end review on a positive note. Highlighting tasks, projects, and initiatives that went well will boost your employees’ confidence and show them how to replicate success moving forward.


Similar but different to accomplishments, strengths are individual skills and traits that your employee demonstrates aptitude in. Mentioning these during a year end review gives your employees a validation on what areas they exceed in, and how to use them to their advantage.


With everything that gets done in a year at an organization, it can be easy for an employee’s responsibilities to change from time to time. Taking a moment to review responsibilities during a year end review can help ensure they’re not overloaded and that their skills are being utilized to their full potential. 

Areas for improvement 

A year end review is a perfect time to take a look at where an employee can improve in their performance. Sharing these insights can help give employees new goals to strive towards or new skills to develop in the future. 

Company priorities

Year end reviews are an excellent place to set expectations and highlight what the priorities of the company are. The end of year review can then serve as a benchmark for what is expected of the employee when it comes to their work and meeting the expectations of the organization.

<div id="2"></div>

Year end review tips for leaders 

Because leaders are usually the ones running year end reviews for their team, it’s good practice to follow a few general guidelines when it comes to running them. 

Share the feedback before the meeting starts 

Receiving negative feedback can be an emotional experience for anyone. This is especially true if it is being delivered without an opportunity to review and digest it first, causing a knee-jerk reaction which can lead to a negative year end review experience. Sharing your feedback with your employee before the meeting starts will give them the opportunity to reflect on it and come to the meeting more prepared to discuss it. 

One solution to make it easy to share your feedback well in advance of your year end reviews is Fellow. Fellow is the only all in one AI meeting management solution that solves your meeting problem. When you sign up with your work email, Fellow automatically connects to your calendar and attaches a meeting agenda to every meeting event. Its AI Copilot then joins your meetings to record, transcribe, summarize, and share your meetings with attendees. 


Start with positive feedback 

Setting the tone for the year end review is essential. Opening up with negative feedback can create a sense of dread or embarrassment in your employees, and will make them less receptive to the feedback and the conversation as a whole. Start the conversation on a positive note by mentioning an accomplishment, win, or strength of your employee. 

Be specific

When sharing feedback, it’s important to avoid being vague or generalizing about behavior or work patterns. Identifying specific instances and offering appropriate specific solutions or remedies will help set expectations for your employee and set them up for success in the future.

Pace the discussion

It’s important to keep in mind how an employee may feel when receiving large amounts of feedback. Receiving feedback about multiple instances, projects, or tasks can be daunting and confusing to keep track of, so be sure to section your feedback into categories that are digestible and easy to understand. 

Encourage communication

It’s important to not simply talk at your employee when sharing feedback. This can make them feel discouraged, undervalued, and alienated from the feedback process. Taking time to ask their views and opinions on the feedback will make them feel included and like an active participant in the feedback process.

Document the discussion

When it comes to year end reviews, documentation is key. Not only is it important to create a digital paper trail of what was said, it’s also a valuable document for your employee to refer to afterwards when planning goals and objectives. 

<div id="3"></div>

How to support employees before year end reviews

Whether this is their first employee year end review in your organization, or if you’re implementing a new strategy when it comes to year-end reviews, offering support and guidance to your employees when it comes to attending year end reviews is ideal. Here are some best practices to share with your employees:

Encourage them to consider their own performance 

Employees should not be only considering their performance just as they’re being called in to be evaluated. Doing so can put them on the spot and not make the review as effective as it can be. Encouraging employees to conduct a self evaluation performance review prior to the year end review will help prepare them for the meeting, and potentially bring to light other areas for praise or improvement that you may have missed. 

Prompt employees to ask questions 

Given the context of the meeting, it’s important for employees to engage with you and ask questions surrounding the feedback, team, and even the organization as a whole. You can prompt your employees to ask questions by sharing example questions and leaving a section for their questions in your year end review meeting agenda.

Foster transparency with peer review 

Encouraging your employees to seek feedback from other teammates actually makes your job as a leader easier. It can be challenging to gather feedback about one employee from multiple sources, but adopting a 360 degree feedback model will help shape a more complete feedback cycle for you and your employees.

Recommend coming to the meeting with their own ideas 

As a leader, sharing strengths and areas for improvement is obviously beneficial for your employee, but prompting them to come up with their own recommendations will help them be more self reflective and open to external feedback because it becomes more of a conversation rather than a one-sided review. 

Promote a growth mindset 

It’s easiest for employees to receive feedback when they view it as a gift towards their personal and professional development. Promoting a culture of having a growth mindset when it comes to feedback will enable your employees to take the feedback and turn it into results later on, without feelings of resentment or negativity. 

<div id="4"></div>

End of year review meeting agenda templates 

There are different kinds of year end review structures depending on the size and culture of your organization. Some may be more formal while others are considered more relaxed and informal. Using a template to structure your year end Below are three example year end review meeting agenda templates:

End of year performance review meeting agenda 

This template starts with a check in to open up the conversation, and then transitions into respective sections for reflection, goals, support, and action items. 


End of year one-on-one meeting template 

This template is a great example of a more informal end of year review meeting. It has a clear section to outline wins, areas of improvement, learnings, and goals. 


360-Degree feedback review meeting template 

Using the 360 method for year end reviews is a huge asset because it includes feedback from the employee, you as a leader, and the feedback of their peers. This template has sections for peer feedback, manager feedback, questions and thoughts, areas for improvement, and goals to set for the upcoming months.


<div id="5"></div>

Year end review FAQs

With so many moving parts, there are sure to be questions surrounding year end performance reviews. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions:

What is the defined purpose of an end of year performance review?

The purpose of a year end review meeting is hosting a space where both the employee and leader can receive valuable insights and feedback

What is the best way to approach a year end review to ensure it’s an efficient use of everyone’s time? 

Year end reviews benefit from structure without being overly stiff. Ensuring each category of feedback has its own respective section in the meeting agenda will help ensure the meeting stays efficient and effective.

Why do I have to prepare in advance for an employee review as a leader?

Sharing feedback with anyone always benefits from advance notice. The more prepared in advance you are, the easier it will be for your employees to take your feedback with grace and open mindedness. 

Why are year end reviews typically formal in nature? 

The formal tone surrounding the meeting tends to be because of the importance of what is discussed during a year end review. This can differ, however, depending on the culture and dynamic of your organization. 

As a leader, how can I easily keep track of all my year end reviews?

If you’re leading a large team, it can be a challenge to keep track of each individual year end performance review. Luckily, there are solutions on the market to help make things easier. 

Fellow makes it easy to send out feedback requests and document your year end reviews in one place. 

Its AI powered features mean you can seamlessly document every year end review by allowing your Fellow AI Meeting Copilot to record, transcribe, summarize, and share your year end review meetings with attendees for crystal clear documentation and reflection. 

Don't let unproductive meetings slow you down

Don't let unproductive year end reviews slow you down

See the impact of fewer, shorter meetings, increased accountability, and enhanced productivity with Fellow.

End your year on a productive note with increased accountability, enhanced productivity, and better meetings run through Fellow.

Get started with Fellow todayGet started with Fellow today

Got something to contribute?

Become a contributor, and add your unique take on these topics to our website.
Become a contributor