Year-end reviews can be a sticky subject for employees and managers. Employees are likely stressed about this cyclical period. They are unsure what to expect and fret around what to write in their reviews.
Managers and business leaders, opposingly, may feel like they don’t have the time or bandwidth to thoroughly complete their employees’ reviews. However, performance reviews are an opportune time to get feedback and prepare for the next year.
First Things First, Review Prep
One of the biggest mistakes that occurs with year-end reviews is managers not properly preparing for the meeting. When going into a review with an employee, make sure you have a meeting agenda of what you want to discuss together. Having this agenda will ensure you stay on track during the conversation. You may decide to share it with the employee before the review, so they can come prepared with talking points or questions. Doing so also emphasizes that this is an open conversation, rather than a one-sided lecture from the boss.
Now that you know how to get ready for a review, you need to focus on what you’re going to talk about. You definitely don’t want to go into the review without a plan. That’s where this article can help. Keep reading to learn three key points to touch on during year-end reviews.
1. Leadership Feedback
While it’s not the first thing many managers have on their mind, reviews aren’t just about telling employees how they’re doing. It should be a time for them to talk about whatever is on their mind, which may include your performance. This is a chance to talk about your leadership style and ask for direct feedback. Your leadership is always a work in progress. And a good leader is open to feedback and ways to improve upon their skills.
Soliciting feedback in a review period may be jarring to your employee. Again, sending the meeting agenda ahead of time can help eliminate any awkwardness. Ask the employee what they find useful and what they don’t find useful. You may find, for instance, that the daily check-ins are a bit too much or that some employees would like to hear from you more often.
Asking for feedback throughout the year is important, so don’t just wait until the end-of-year review. While you may gain great insights during a review cycle, ask employees during regularly scheduled meetings how you’re doing. Let them know if you’re trying something new or working on a particular skill. Showcasing your leadership capabilities on a daily basis can help model positive behavior to all your employees.
2. Areas of Achievement and Improvement
Most employees going into a review period expect to survey how the year went for them. Again, a review is a chance for employees to evaluate themselves. It gives them the opportunity to grade how the year went, including what went well and what didn’t. If an employee has been with the company for some time, they may mention how they’ve improved over the years.
From a manager’s perspective, you may not know everything the employee is doing on a day-to-day basis. This is why it can be beneficial to ask an employee directly in the review what their proudest accomplishment was this year. They may mention something that has slipped your mind. For instance, you may have mistakenly forgotten the big deal they closed last spring or how they led a project with another team.
Keep in mind that entry-level employees may need a bit more encouragement to answer these types of questions. Remember, this may be the first time they’ve reviewed themselves. If that’s the case, some coaching may serve them well. Ask specific questions such as, “What are you hoping to achieve in the next six months?” The more specific you are, the better chance you have of gaining deeper insights on their goals.
3. Future of the Company
Lastly, you want to touch on the future of the company during a review. Inform employees about exciting opportunities for the future, and ask them about their priorities. You may learn something interesting during each of your reviews with employees. Someone may bring up an idea that you’ve never thought of before. Or, they may have an inside scoop on how a competitor is navigating a challenge. This part of the conversation can be more open-ended, however you want to get a sense of the employee’s opinion.
Asking about how they envision the future of the company is also a way to hear about what matters most to employees. Some may discuss financial or revenue impacting strategies while others may use this time to talk about work-life balance. Whatever they bring up, listen openly. Give them the time and space to speak their thoughts completely. Even if you have an immediate answer, try not to shut down their ideas. You never want them to feel too ashamed or embarrassed to speak their thoughts, especially since you’ve asked for them.
Again, it may be helpful to ask specific questions here. For instance, “What kinds of products do you think we’ll be selling in five years?” Or “How do you see us handling an influx of new employees next year?” If an employee doesn’t have an immediate answer, that’s alright. Ask them to think about it and schedule time with you when they’re ready to speak their mind. They may have been so focused on their own evaluation that they didn’t have the chance to think about the company overall.
Year-end reviews can be stressful, especially for employees. During the review cycle, make sure to address why evaluating performance is important for employees and the company as a whole. Also, be overly communicative about deadlines and expectations. You don’t want employees to spend hours upon hours reviewing themselves rather than focusing on the work at hand. So while you can’t guarantee that every review will go smoothly, you can ensure the process is seamless and manageable for everyone.
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