End Of Year Review Tips For Employees and Managers

5 topics you should cover at your annual performance review to help your team reach their potential and set new goals.

End Of Year Review conversation

We’ve almost arrived at the end of the year, which means you’re probably starting to prepare end of year performance reviews as you think about your business objectives for the year ahead. As you move into Q4, it’s a good idea to get ahead of the game and think about what you need to cover in your annual reviews.

In order to get you ready, Fellow has put together a complete guide to end of year reviews with functional tips for both employees and managers:

Before we get into the details, let’s take a closer look at what an end of year review is and what you should be covering in them. 

What is an end of year review?

An end of year review, also referred to as an annual review or a year end performance review, occurs once a year, where a manager goes over an employee’s overall performance. This kind of review is a little more formal than a career conversation. Its purpose is to go over achievements, goals, opportunities and any other ideas you may have for the upcoming year. 

This annual review is the perfect time to go over constructive feedback, both from the employee and the managers’ perspective. It’s also the right time to talk about HR related topics if you’ve been thinking about taking some days off or feel like you’re deserving of that raise you talked about last year. Your year end performance review is certainly focused on professional development, but it’s also a good relationship building opportunity. 

What to cover in your end of year review

1 Accomplishments

First and foremost, start the annual review on a high. If you’re meeting with your manager, don’t be shy to bring up the accomplishments that you’ve worked so hard to see through. Nobody knows the details of your accomplishments quite as well as you do, so it doesn’t hurt to talk about the things that you’re proud to have achieved.

A recent article by Forbes discusses the importance of keeping track of your achievements throughout the year: 

“Keep a file of emails citing you for a job well-done or customer testimonials or presentations or other output that you produced. This can provide tangible evidence of your claims and a good reminder so you don’t forget anything.” 

If you’re a manager, you want to let your employees know that you notice their accomplishments and are grateful for the hard work they’ve put in to make things happen.

All of us know the feeling all too well when you walk out of a meeting, wishing that you remembered specific points to bring up. This is something that you want to avoid as much as possible with an annual review, so be sure to take note of all the great achievements you’ve made this year. 

💡 Pro Tip: Using a feedback tool like Fellow can help you keep track of your teammate’s praise and suggestions for improvement – all in one place.

Employee feedback app

2 Day-to-day responsibilities

We’ve recommended that you go over your big wins during your annual review but it’s also important that you chat about your ongoing daily responsibilities. This is your opportunity to discuss how much responsibility you have and whether it’s too much or not enough.

Again, it would be impossible for any manager to know about each task you work at each day, so make sure to paint a clear picture of your responsibilities within the company. This is a great opportunity to discuss how much you have on your plate, whether it be too much, or if you have some extra time to take on a little additional responsibility, or the time to take part in some kind of training or development initiative. 

3 Areas to develop

A lot of people find it really challenging to give any kind of feedback when it’s not positive. This means that oftentimes, constructive feedback isn’t discussed, which can become problematic.

Even if you’re not outwardly doing something wrong or poorly, there’s always room to learn and grow. For the sake of your own personal and professional development, be proactive in asking which areas you can develop more. In the same article by Forbes, they outline how to effectively ask and receive constructive feedback: 

“…ask about specific skills – e.g., analysis, presentation, communication – as well as qualities — e.g., attitude, enthusiasm – you should work on. Let your manager know that you would appreciate this candid information so you can improve. This invitation to feedback can put your manager at ease and hopefully yield some useful insights. Where possible, ask for specific examples where you fell short or a negative quality surfaced, so you’re clear on exactly what you need to work on.” 

4 Strengths

Now that you’ve delved into the areas that you can further develop and perform on, it’s time to talk about strengths. This is the perfect opportunity to understand what your manager recognizes and values in your work. It’s definitely going to motivate you to keep up the good work and apply these skills to even more aspects of your job.

Make sure that you’re discussing specific examples of what you’re doing well so that you can keep up the good work and thoroughly understand what types of skills, behaviours and qualities are valued by your manager and the rest of the team. 

5 Priorities for the company

We’d love to say that it’s all about you, but the truth is, it’s about your performance which contributes to the success of the company. In an ideal world, your individual priorities line up well with the company’s goals.

Just like you want to understand what your manager values, you also want to understand what the company values, too. This is the time to talk about if there are going to be any organizational or structural changes that you should be aware of or that may impact you and the way you do their job. 


Now that we’ve gone through some general rules of thumb for year end performance reviews, let’s take a closer look at some tips that employees should consider for this meeting:

End of year review: tips for employees

1 Take time to reflect

Before you walk into your year end performance review, take some time to reflect on all of the work that you’ve done in the past year. It’s really rewarding to think back on the contributions you’ve made to the organization and to compare the goals that you initially set to what you’ve now accomplished.

These accomplishments help push the company towards larger organizational goals and it’s important that you make this connection and that you’re prepared to communicate your contributions to the company with your manager. 

2 Inquire about how to get to the next level

When you realize you’re completely comfortable in your job, it’s time to ask about how you can move towards the next stage of your career – that is, if you feel deserving of it and have worked hard to get to where you are now.

See if your goals align with the position you’ve got in sight so that you can make sure that you’re taking tangible steps to move closer to the end-goal.

It’s also smart to ask your manager about any kinds of openings or opportunities in other areas of the company that you may be interested in. Asking these kinds of questions really highlights your initiative and desire to do well– something that’s attractive to all employers. 

3 Follow up

Ongoing communication is really important when it comes to your annual review. Make sure that after you’ve outlined your professional goals, you set up a follow-up conversation about these achievements you’re working towards.

Take the initiative and suggest to your manager whether you think that you should follow up next month or next quarter, or during your weekly one-on-one meetings.

You need to be aligned on the expectations so that you have time to work on your goals before revisiting the topic.

In a recent interview between CNBC and CareerBuilder’s Chief People Officer Michelle Armer, they discuss the importance of following up after your year end performance review: 

“Though performance reviews play a key role in evaluating where an employee stands at an organization, Armer says it’s important for employees to know that they don’t have to wait until performance review time to have these conversations about their work and goals at a company.” 

This brings up a great point that we should be trying to foster ongoing communications with our managers and not feel as if we have to wait for a formal conversation to discuss progress or anything else that comes up along our journey to attaining goals. 

4 Be specific

Make sure that you are specific with your manager as you outline specific goals, inquiries, recommendations, suggestions or ideas. The more clear-cut, the better. This is no time to beat around the bush.

Don’t be afraid to be straight-up and to ask for the same transparency in return, because it’s going to give you much more valuable instructions to achieve your goals and aspirations. 

5 Listen actively

Listen actively during this conversation, and better yet, jot down some notes about any thoughts and suggestions. Documenting this is going to enable you to refer back to specific feedback that is actionable.

When you’re aware of your manager’s feedback, it enables you to actively work on suggestions and keep this information in mind as you carry out your daily responsibilities. Being an active listener means that you can provide solutions much more effectively and in a more timely manner. 

Never forget what was discussed

With Fellow, you can see a history of every 1-on-1 conversation you’ve had and ensure that you’re staying focused on important decisions and action items.

One on One Meeting Tool

End of year review: tips for managers

1 Give positive feedback first

Start your year end performance review by going over what your team member did a great job on. It’s important to start the conversation on a positive note, because you’re setting the tone for the rest of the discussion.

When you give positive feedback, you teach your employees which kinds of behaviours are valued, which means you’re much more likely to see that behaviour continue, while it’s applied to even more situations. Make sure that you’re also asking your employees questions about what they think went well so that you can foster an open discussion about their achievements. 

Nice work

2 Set goals and new challenges

Annual reviews are the perfect opportunity to set new goals and define new challenges for your team members. It’s important that you’re both clear and specific about these new goals that you’re setting together, so that the expectations are clearly defined and there’s no chance of a miscommunication.

This is an exciting topic of conversation and you want your employees to look forward to these new challenges, so be sure to take a positive approach to goal-setting and to make them realistic and achievable. 

3 Promote a growth mindset

Promote a growth mindset with your team members by encouraging employees to look for opportunities. In fact, as a manager, it’s a good idea to keep your eyes peeled for professional opportunities as well. Remind your employees that growth is not static but a fluid learning process, that doesn’t necessarily mean moving up in the org chart (although it can), but moving laterally and gaining new competencies that compliment their existing skill set.

Assess the progress that your employees have made and measure the results so that you can consider what kind of new opportunities will provide value.

4 Limit feedback to one or two areas at a time

Overloading employees with too much feedback at once isn’t productive – it’s simply overwhelming. Even if someone has several areas that they need to work on, choose one or two points to really focus on. This is going to avoid making your employee feel negatively about the feedback and also avoid a lot of confusion as they try to remember the list of things that they were told they need to improve upon.

A recent article by Girlboss, highlights the importance of talking about prior feedback during your end of year reviews: 

“Address any previous feedback during your end-of-year review, regardless of how formal or informal the feedback… Measurable progress, and proof that employees are taking proactive steps to integrate feedback when applicable, is key.”

5 Find a solution together

Facilitating a two-way conversation where your employee is involved in finding solutions is going to empower them and make them feel like they have a big part to play in their own development- which they do! It’s important to try to see your employee’s perspective and approach situations empathetically.

Give suggestions but make sure that at the end of the day, they’re taking charge of their careers. Ask for their feedback on your management style and demonstrate your willingness to receive feedback as well.

6 Ask for 360 degree feedback

360-degree feedback is a powerful tool for managers, as it helps you understand how people on the team feel about each other’s work.

“360° feedback helps to give a fuller picture than just relying on one or two opinions. Multiple sources of feedback give a 3D view of an employee so they can better understand their personal development gaps,” says an article by Qualtrics. “But 360° feedback shouldn’t be just about gaps – it should highlight your employees’ strengths, while giving them constructive ways to improve upon their weaknesses.”

Consider using a feedback app like Fellow to collect 360-degree feedback and get the full picture about your team culture and dynamics.

360 feedback

Summary

Whether you’re an employee or a manager, the most important thing you can do for an annual review is to be prepared for it. Although these reviews can feel a little nerve wracking, they’re the optimal opportunity to learn, grow and build a better relationship with your manager or team member.

Make sure that in your review you’re covering accomplishments, day-to-day responsibilities, areas to develop, strengths and the priorities of the company.

If you’re a manager, remember to give positive feedback first, set exciting goals and challenges, find solutions together, and use 360-degree feedback to understand the full picture.

Refer back to this guide whenever you need some valuable tips for your annual review, whether you’re an employee or a manager. Thanks for taking the time to hangout at the Fellow blog! We wish you all the best for a successful finish to Q4.

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