Year-End Reviews – It’s that time of the year again…..

Year-end performance reviews are critical conversations that need to be approached with the correct mind-set. This blog explores this challenge and offers some insights on how to.

The email reminders from HR are heading your way. It’s that time of year again; time to book year-end reviews.

Where is the time coming from….?

“Where will I get the time to do this properly”; many managers and leaders exclaim. This of course translates into, ‘I have much more important things to do’ as we all are given 168 hours each week, so not having enough time is never a rational excuse. In the end it is all about priority and being in control of your time. What can be more important than taking time to invest in developing your people I wonder?

I am reminded of a story where the CFO of one company said; “what happens if I spend all this time and money developing my team and they leave, it will be such a waste of money?” to which their wise CEO responded; “what happens if you don’t and they stay, how much will this cost us?”

Do we have to do it now…..?

The prevailing mind-set is all too often that developing people is of course vitally important, few would rationally disagree. The trouble is that it is rarely ‘urgent’ and many have questioned the need for regular calendar driven performance and development reviews at all; arguing that development should be a continuous improvement process and there is no need for year-end exercises.

I have to admit, that in an ideal world, they have a point. My observation is that absent the discipline of year-end reviews, often linked to promotions, bonus and pay rises, then I worry they may never get far enough up the priority list to ever be done at all, plus they may well lack the rigour needed to be of any real value.

Finding the time to do the quality preparation, and then the reviews themselves, is not the only problem.

Conversation quality is sometimes suspect

Far too many end-of-year review sessions dissolve into meaningless ‘tick-box’ exercises. Resulting in both parties framing the meeting as ‘bear trap’; an opportunity to take a reasonably harmonious relationship, add some personal judgement and somewhat ambiguous key performance indicators and metrics, and turn it into a dissatisfied outcome all round. No wonder the prospect of such ritualistic reviews are often met with impending dread.

Check your mind-set

The mind-set of both the leader /manager and the colleague under review is something worth reflecting on. Start by checking your own frame of mind, here are some questions to consider:

  • How do you really view these meetings?
  • What can you do to make them productive and valuable, both for yourself and for your team member?
  • What questions do you want to ask?
  • Are you in listening and learning mode, so you are able to pick-up on any feed-forward advice for yourself that gives you insights on how you are executing your leadership and management responsibilities?
  • Are you curious and ready to ask probing questions to unearth insights that lie below the surface of your colleagues answers?

Some questions you can chose from….

A great review is a high-quality conversation between two people who have both done some preparation. Remember it takes two to Tango!

So, regardless of the process forms you are being asked to complete, set the review meeting up with a few pertinent preparation questions for your team member to consider ahead of the meeting.

As a pragmatist, I ask three simple questions to get the conversation flowing:

  1. What did you get from your work over the last year that you appreciate?
  2. What do you want from your work next year that you are not getting now and how can I help you get this?
  3. What aspects of your role, if any, do you think you should stop doing and why?

I asked Chat GPT to give me some great questions too and here is what it said:

Reflecting on the Past Year:

  • What do you feel were your major accomplishments this year?
  • Were there any unexpected challenges, and how did you overcome them?
  • What projects or tasks gave you the most satisfaction?

Goal Achievement:

  • How well do you think you achieved the goals set for you at the beginning of the year?
  • Were there any goals that you didn’t achieve, and what lessons did you learn from that?

Skill Development:

  • In what areas do you feel you have grown the most professionally?
  • Is there a skill or competency you’d like to develop further in the coming year?

Team Collaboration:

  • How would you describe your collaboration with team members and colleagues?
  • Were there any notable instances of teamwork or challenges in working with others?

Feedback and Improvement:

  • What feedback or constructive criticism do you have for the team or the organization?
  • How can the organisation better support your professional development?

Work-Life Balance:

  • How would you rate your work-life balance this year?
  • Is there anything the company can do to support a better work-life balance for you?

Company Culture and Values:

  • How well do you think the company’s values align with your own?
  • Are there any initiatives or changes you’d like to see in the company culture?

Recognition and Appreciation:

  • Do you feel adequately recognized for your contributions?
  • Is there a specific accomplishment you would like more recognition for?

Future Goals:

  • What are your professional goals for the upcoming year?
  • How can the company support you in achieving these goals?

Feedback on Leadership:

  • How would you rate the leadership and management in the team/organisation?
  • Is there any feedback you would like to share with me that will help me improve my leadership and management skills?

Try not to ask them all! Pick the ones most pertinent to you and your colleague under review and send them out at least a week ahead of the review meeting so that time can be found for reflection and considered thought.

Then make sure you allow time ahead of the meeting to get your mind-set clear and time afterwards to de-compress and write up any notes you have taken. Then share the notes as a record of your conversation as soon as you can.

I have helped many leaders gain valuable insights from these reviews so please do not hesitate to, contact me, if you believe I can help.