End of Year Reviews: A Leader’s Guide to Team Assessment
‘Tis the season… for the dreaded end of year reviews. Except they shouldn’t be dreaded.
End of year reviews are a valuable and essential tool for both employees and employers to foster growth, improve productivity, and ensure alignment with organizational goals.
But most leadership review strategies miss the mark. Only 14% of employees strongly agree that the performance reviews they receive inspire them (Gallup).
This year, don’t simply re-hash the same old conversation. Throw that approach in the trash, where it belongs. Here’s how to prepare for an end of year review that kicks off the new year on the best note yet.
The Purpose of End of Year Reviews
Benefits of an Annual Team Assessment
What defines a high performing team? Continuous improvement. The best teams aren’t grown overnight. That growth requires careful attention from leaders and a solid foundation.
As a manager, you’re not only responsible for guiding your teams towards success but also for nurturing individual growth and development. Learning how to do an end of year review plays a pivotal role in achieving both.
Team assessments provide a structured opportunity to learn how things really are at your company. To gain insight into team dynamics, understand how happy, safe and respected employees feel, and how they feel about leaders, understand goals, and define success. Understanding what’s brewing inside your teams’ heads is the key to fostering a deeper understanding of strengths and areas for improvement.
Higher performance simply comes from leaders and teams doing more of what is working, and less of what is not. We can’t assume either, as to know is not to assume. So, these assessments should take out the assumptions and give data for improvement and growth.
Setting the Right Tone for Constructive Reviews
You definitely don’t want your end of year reviews to feel stiff and awkward. They should feel natural, but still be comprehensive and provide value. So, learning how to prepare for an end of year review involves structure and careful planning:
- Schedule it in advance: Give everyone involved ample time to prepare and make sure there's no last-minute anxiety.
- Create a safe space: Cultivating an atmosphere of trust, respect, empathy, and collaboration is essential for a productive end of year review. Emphasize that this is a two-way discussion, not a one-way critique, and encourage employees to share their thoughts, concerns, and aspirations.
- Gather information: Don’t go in fixating on that one event. Look at performance metrics, feedback from colleagues, and employee self-assessments, for a more informed discussion and to see the progress the employee has made over time.
- Don’t lump employees together: Each person and their performance is unique, so focus on that diversity and the human in front of you.
- Create an agenda: Share key themes in advance, so employees don’t feel ambushed on the day. Make them feel heard and understood by asking if there’s anything they’d like to discuss, and use their insights and your own to create an agenda, to share ahead of the team assessment.
Preparing for Year-End Performance Reviews
Gathering and Analyzing Performance Data
Incorporating 360-Degree Feedback
Annual team assessments need to be complemented by 1:1s and 360-degree feedback throughout the year. Otherwise, your employees could be feeling left in the dark for the other 364 days.
360-degree feedback is like taking X-rays from all angles. It provides fresh and honest insight from peers, managers, direct reports, and clients, to help understand where and why performance is lacking, improve teamwork and accountability, and foster self-awareness. Rounded input helps to break down the natural, inherent biases we all have.
Conduct a Cultural Survey, too. It will:
- Uncover blind spots limiting employees’ growth.
- Highlight areas of good and bad practice and behavior, providing insight into what people should Stop, Start and Continue doing.
- Understand how leaders answer their team’s needs and shape employee experiences.
- Develop leadership review strategies and ensure a strong link between teams and corporate goals.
- Develop culture and track progress.
Conducting Effective Year-End Reviews
Best Practices for Delivering Feedback
- Focus on empathy: Suspend judgement, and use clear, respectful language to facilitate open communication.
- Practice active listening: Seek to understand their perspective. Show respect, don’t interrupt, ask thoughtful questions, and offer support to help them grow.
- Focus on behavior:Swap character judgements for behavior insights. Instead of saying, “You always miss deadlines,” try saying, “I wonder if you are saying ‘yes’ to too much.” Remember your job is to give them perspective on actions and their impact.
- Don’t use the "Feedback Sandwich":Be kind and honest, not nice and fluffy! Keep positive and constructive feedback separate. When providing constructive feedback ensure you give specific examples, and end with how you would improve. This approach ensures the data doesn’t get lost and always ends of positive note.
- Ask for feedback as a leader: Stepping into the spotlight can be a real ‘gulp’ moment but being receptive sets a positive example for teams, and strengthens trust in leaders. Ditch the ego. Negative feedback should always be approached with an open mind and a willingness to listen and learn.
A culture of regular feedback makes sure that no surprises crash the party at the next end of year reviews.
Facilitating Open and Honest Conversations
Balancing Achievements and Growth Areas
Setting Goals and Expectations for the Coming Year
Collaborative Goal Setting with Your Team
Aligning Individual Goals with Organizational Objectives and Purpose
What are the key objectives of conducting end of year reviews?
How can leaders prepare effectively for team assessments?
What are some best practices for delivering constructive feedback?
It’s better on top!
For managers and talent professionals that truly CARE. Sign up to the DX blog and you’ll always be on top of the freshest leadership tips. Promise!
Need some time apart? Are we emailing you too often? Just give us your feedback, and we promise we’ll respond. We really do care. And if it’s still too much, just unsubscribe. It’s cool.