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

End of year reviews, or annual performance review, occurs once per year. In these meetings, managers typically review an employee's overall performance and results. This kind of review is typically a formal conversation about an employee's achievements, goals, opportunities, and areas for growth.

The Meetingnotes Team
November 15, 2023

It is always useful at the end of the calendar year to gather employees together to conduct a year-end review to discuss where things are now and where improvements can be made in the new year. Additionally, it is nice to go over the highlights of the year and compliment employees on what they have done right to help the company. Both sides of the coin should be discussed.

To make these meetings as productive as possible, it is nice to go over some important criteria to keep in mind during these meetings. Having a game plan ready before the year-end review is ever conducted is a great way to show respect to your employees by showing them how seriously you take meetings like this. Before we dive into that though, let us first review what an end-of-year meeting is and what it seeks to accomplish.


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What is an End of Year Review?

End of year reviews, or annual performance review, occurs once per year. In these meetings, managers typically review an employee's overall performance and results. This kind of review is typically a formal conversation about an employee's achievements, goals, opportunities, and areas for growth in the upcoming year.

These meetings are intended to be structured without being overly stiff. The purpose of the meeting is to provide valuable insights both to the employee and to the manager who is conducting the meeting. Both sides should take something away from the meeting that is of value to them. The reason for the formal nature of the meeting is to convey that important topics are being discussed in the meeting and that all sides should try to take this seriously.

The exact timing and format of the meeting are up to the employer, but it should be clear to all sides that these meetings are important and that everyone who goes to one should try to come prepared.

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What Should You Cover in Year-End Reviews?

Every company is a little different as far as the precise topics that need to be covered in their year-end meetings. This is going to vary based on the number of personnel who work for the company, the style of management that the company exerts, and how the company feels it can best convey its core messages to its employees. That said, there are certain topics that transcend all companies and should be mentioned in the year-end meetings almost without exception.

A few of the topics that may be covered in an end-of-year review include:

  • Accomplishments - This is a great time to recognize the hard work that an employee has put into the company all year long. They may put their head down and get their work done without any expectation of recognition for that work, but it is always nice to know that your employer sees the strides that you are making in your job and is pleased by your performance.
  • Responsibilities - The end of the year is a time of reflection for everyone. It may also be a time to go over an employee's responsibilities and how those may change in time. It may be time to take some of their workload off, add some on, or shift their responsibilities entirely. Whatever the case may be, it is a good time to go over those new expectations with them in this meeting.
  • Development Areas - Are there areas where the employee can improve? Are there areas where management can improve? The answer to both of these questions is likely a resounding "Yes!". Therefore, it is a good idea for both sides to have some time to respectfully inform the other about ways that they can develop and improve. Just make sure it doesn't dissolve into personal attacks.
  • Strengths - The flip side of development areas are strengths. Recognizing where employees and their managers are already strong in their work is something that should be noted as well. If you want to keep people around happily doing their jobs, it is best to take some time to let them know what you feel their strengths are. Managers also like to hear about the areas where they are doing their job well. This lets them know what they are doing that is generally seen in a positive light by employees.
  • Company Priorities - The company will have shifting goals at times as it attempts to orient itself to the market around it. When underlying conditions change in the industry that it operates in, you can expect that the company will also need to shift the way that it does business in order to keep up with all of those changes. As such, it is a good idea to check in with employees and managers alike to ensure that they understand what the most important targets are for the company at this time.

Not every meeting will touch on all of these points, but they have been recognized as central to many end-of-year meetings across many different sectors. Thus, it is a good idea to keep these ideas in mind as you approach these meetings. You might even want to keep a list of them handy so that you can refer to them in the meeting and make sure no major points slip through the cracks.

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End of Year Tips for Employees

Often, employees feel like they are being led around in their jobs rather than feeling like they have an active role to play in the work that they do. This is unfortunate because it means that they don't necessarily feel as invested in the work that they do for their company as the company might have hoped. However, employees should also try to shake themselves out of this mindset as much as possible if they would like to advance in their careers and in their life. One way to show that they are starting to do so is by preparing for the end-of-year meetings that they will surely be called into.

1) Take Time to Consider Your Performance

The moment when you are called in for your end-of-year review should not be the first time that you are thinking about your performance as an employee. You will feel too on the spot when going through your review if you don't take the time to reflect upon your performance from the past year. You should attempt to think about how you have done both in terms of successes and your failures. It can be challenging to judge ourselves, but it is what we are called upon to do when we head into our end-of-year review.

2) Ask Questions About How You Can Advance

This meeting is the time to ask questions about how you can advance to the next level within the company. You should address your questions not only as a set of inquiries about how you can better your station in life but about how you can continue to contribute to the overall success of the company. Employers often want to hear about ways that their employees are willing to step up to take on more responsibilities, and that is something that you ought to emphasize. Remember, a promotion is not just about making more money and having a fancier title for yourself. It is also about contributing more toward the overall success of the company.

3) Ask Specific and Pointed Questions

One mistake that many employees make when entering their review is only having a general overview of the questions that they are most interested in asking. They might have some sense of the information that they want to get from their employer, but they forget to narrow things down into a more specific set of questions. When they ask specific questions, they can receive the type of information that they are actually after. However, when they ask broad questions, they can expect to walk away from the meeting with less certainty about the answers to those questions than when they walked in.

Try to create a list of specific and pointed questions with follow-ups as necessary to obtain the information that you wish to gain from your employer. Otherwise, you may have to wait another year until you feel the timing is right to get your answers.

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End Of Year Tips For Managers

Managers are the ones who run these end-of-year meetings, so it is pretty important that they use some of the best practices available in order to get the answers and results that they need from these meetings. It is important to take to heart some of the tips that other managers have used before when working on setting up their end-of-year meetings.

1) Start with Positive Feedback

It is always nice to kick things off on a pleasant note, and the entire meeting will likely be taken with more grace when one is generous with their feedback. People like to hear about the things that the company sees them doing right, and that is why it is always nice to try to start on a positive note. It helps employees see that their work is valued, noticed, and appreciated. It can also be helpful in softening the blow to some extent if there is less favorable news that needs to be shared with them at a later time.

2) Give Employees Something to Reach For

It is NOT valuable to spend the entire meeting focused on things that could have been done differently. There is a time and place to mention areas where an employee can grow in the coming year, but this should not be the central focus of the meeting. Instead, it is better to promote a growth mindset among employees. This means encouraging them to think about ways that they can develop and improve as workers. You want to encourage them to harness the skills that they already have to continue to work themselves up higher and higher on the ladder.

When you show employees how they can be partners in their own success, they are more likely to strive to reach those targets. They can start to see how implementing certain changes in their behavior may be precisely what they need to do in order to reach the career development goals that they have for themselves. Sometimes, the only thing that they need is a little encouragement and guidance from their managers.

3) Give Feedback on Just One or Two Areas at a Time

Hitting an employee with every piece of feedback that you have prepared for them all at the same time is not ideal. It can cause them to receive too much information all at once, and this may cause them to shut out some of the information that they are receiving. If you can limit the feedback that you provide them to just one or two areas where they can stand to gain the most, then you will be doing the employee and yourself a big favor.

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End Of Year Review Template Agenda

You want to promote the right kind of end-of-year meeting, and that certainly means showing up prepared for what you are about to go over in the meeting. One way to do this is to have a template of ideas and agenda items that you would like to cover while in the meeting. For example, you may want to make yourself a performance review agenda with bullet points that look like this:

  • Areas of recognition (positive)
  • Areas to improve upon
  • What this year has taught you
  • Ways for the employee to advance in the company
  • The company's top objectives at this time
  • Goals for the new year

This is a very easy way to remind yourself of the agenda items that you can't afford to miss, and to help ensure that you cover every topic that you mean to cover in this type of meeting. Remember, it is easy to get caught up in the wave of meetings that you have to take on at times, and it can become a challenge to keep up with everything that you have stacked onto your plate. Create an agenda to help keep it all straight and allow your meeting to flow as naturally as possible.

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