Acing your End-of-Year Reviews

It’s that time of year again… Whilst we’re not quite into the Christmas countdown just yet, it certainly is the season to plan your End-of-Year Reviews.

Evaluating employees’ performance, assessing skills and development areas, and reviewing goals: it’s a process many leaders and managers find daunting.

How do you deliver feedback in a way that will genuinely help the individual and the company?

Having a powerful conversation

Knowing how to have a good one-to-one conversation is key. Making your feedback come across more as coaching than criticism, with a two-sided exchange that encourages the employee to explore their own ideas and ultimately reach their own solutions.​

So what are our top tips for having a powerful productive conversation?

#1 – Prepare

It may seem like stating the obvious, but the first step to a productive end-of-year-review is preparation. Go back over an employee’s record, any mid-year reviews, and projects or tasks they have delivered. Speak to other managers or team members if relevant. Gather evidence for any feedback you want to give (positive or developmental) and to help set goals going forward. Plan an agenda or framework to follow in the review so that you don’t lose focus.

# 2 – Listen – properly!

Listening properly is a real skill. Our brains work faster than people talk, meaning our minds tend to wander, or we jump in with comments before the other person has finished. When it comes to a year-end review conversation (or any conversation, for that matter!) make a point of talking less and listening more. Give your employee your undivided attention, let them finish giving their whole message before you speak again, and try to listen with empathy and without judgement.

Don’t be afraid of silences or pauses. Your employee may just be contemplating their answer, so give them the space to do that.​ Slowing the conversation down will allow for a much more natural flow. Also be aware of non-verbal elements to your conversation, reading your employee’s body language and facial expressions to fully understand what they are expressing.

# 3 – Ask the right questions

To draw things out of your employee you need to use an effective questioning style. Avoid asking leading questions or closed (‘yes’/’no’) questions or bombarding them with more than one at once. Instead, pose open questions (what or how) or what we call ‘high-gain’ questions, which begin ‘Tell me’, ‘Explain’, or ‘Describe’.  Try to avoid ‘why’ questions as they can sound accusatory. With the right questioning style, you’ll create more of a coaching than lecturing atmosphere, which should prove reassuring and productive.

# 4 – Know how to frame your feedback constructively

Few of us want to deliberately hurt someone else’s feelings, but what if a less than satisfactory performance needs to be discussed?

The key is to keep things positive and constructive. Even if you are addressing a weakness or negative aspect of performance, you can frame it in such a way that avoids simply criticising or ‘telling off’ but instead present it as a constructive lesson to support the employee’s growth. Focus on what they could do to improve in future rather than criticizing what happened in the past.

Feedback should always be fair – based on evidence and fact, not opinion. Also try to be aware of any personal issues affecting your employee’s situation or performance, and frame your feedback accordingly.

# 5 – Promote a two-way discussion, not a one-way download

Go into the end-of-year review process viewing it as is an opportunity for a frank, constructive and respectful dialogue which works two ways – NOT a pulling apart of one person’s performance or a one-way download of information from manager to employee.

Make sure your employees know in advance that you view their reviews this way and you’ll create an atmosphere of trust and positivity going into the process – which can only reap rewards.

Still feel like you could do with more guidance? At Willow & Puddifoot we run specialised group or on-on-one courses on how to conduct an effective end-of-year review. Contact for more information.