How to Write Your Year-End Review [For Employees and Managers]

How to Write Your Year-End Review [For Employees and Managers]


It's the year-end review season.

You know the drill.

Call your direct reports into a meeting room (or online meetings these days), give them an official-looking document, and begin the same, tired conversation of what worked and what didn't.

The result: a bag full of mixed messages that disappoint even the top-performing employees.

Ditch this approach if you want to reinforce star performers and guide the average ones. This guide includes everything you must know about year-end reviews, including:

  • What are year end reviews?
  • How to conduct a year end review?
  • How to write year end reviews?
  • Things to cover in a year end review
  • How to write a year end review: tips for employees
  • How to write a year end review: tips for managers

What are year end reviews?

An end-of-year review, as the name suggests, is an annual review of employees' overall performance done by their managers. Also known as a year-end performance review or annual review, they are a bit more formal than general career conversations. Its objective is to review employees' achievements, opportunities, and goals for the next year.

How to conduct a year end review?

Before the meeting, the employee should review their performance and create a list of goals and objectives for the upcoming year. They should also take the time to reflect on their accomplishments, successes, and challenges to discuss during the meeting.

During the meeting, the manager and employee should focus on what went well and what could be improved. The manager should be open to listening to the employee's ideas and discussing potential solutions. The employee should also be prepared to ask questions and provide feedback.

How to conduct a year end review

Once the meeting is over, the manager and employee must create a follow-up plan to ensure that the employee is held accountable for their goals. The manager should provide feedback and support to help employees reach their goals.

Overall, performance conversations can be difficult, but with the proper preparation, focus, and follow-up, these conversations can be productive and beneficial for both the manager and the employee.

Also read: Online meeting etiquette rules to follow.

Keep record of all your year-end reviews. Record, transcribe, and summarize your online meetings.

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How to write year end reviews?

Writing year-end reviews is a systematic process. If you are wondering how to write year-end reviews, here are a few things you must include as an employee:

1. Make a strong opening statement

Always begin your year-end review with a positive opening line.

Year-end review example: "I successfully met or exceeded my goals and took the unexpected role of interim leader."

This statement shows that you not only achieved your goals but also took on a new responsibility and handled it well. It sets the tone for a positive review and communicates a sense of accomplishment.

2. List everything you accomplished

Listicles are effective. They offer a mental reprieve as it is less taxing to read well-spaced bullet points. So, when you write your accomplishments, list them down instead of writing them in large blocks of text.

That way, other managers who didn't work with you closely will also be able to review your accomplishments in minutes.

Year-end review example: Instead of saying you trained Anna, Josh, and others, say that you trained X resources and list the name of each person.

Another year-end review example: Instead of saying you worked towards your goal of enhancing your financial reports, list all the books your read, classes you attended, and other minutest of details that show you have improved your reports.

3. Answer the unsaid "so-what" question

You had a great year. You worked on multiple things. But what was its impact on the business or overall team strategy? For example, by training X number of resources, did your team's efficiency improve? If so, by how much?

Use quantifiable data to show how you have saved or generated money for the business. If you didn't meet the goal and have to talk about it, include it in the middle so you can end your year-end review on a high.

Pro Tip: Use bullet points and complete sentences rather than short phrases. It's hard to understand brief notes.

Things to cover in year-end reviews

Every company is different. Therefore, the topics covered during their year-end meetings will also be different. But a few areas transcend all companies regardless of their size, industry, and nature of business. Here are some of those topics:

Accomplishments: It is an excellent opportunity to show appreciation for employees who put their all into the company. It's always nice and motivating for them to know that their employer sees and values their hard work and progress.

Responsibilities: The year-end is a time for reflection for everyone. It's also the time to review employees' responsibilities and communicate what might change in the future.

Development Areas: Is there room for improvement for the employee? Is there room for management to get better? The answer is a resounding "Yes!". The year-end review is the platform for both sides to respectfully tell others how they might grow and improve. Make sure it doesn't turn into a personal attack, though.

Strengths: While discussing areas of improvement, make sure to discuss the strengths too. Both sides should recognize each other's strengths. That keeps them motivated and appreciated at work.

Business Priorities: Your company's objectives will occasionally change as it aligns itself with the evolving market. You may anticipate a change in how it conducts business to keep up with those changes.

To ensure everyone knows the current top priorities, it is a good practice to communicate the same with employees and their managers.

year end review

Year end review tips for employees

Here are a few guidelines every employee can follow while sharing feedback with their peers or colleagues during year-end reviews:

1. Be specific

Consider specific traits important for your colleagues to get the job done. Talk about qualities and examples where your colleague demonstrated these skills to avoid miscommunication.

2. Offer suggestions

As mentioned above, provide practical examples to give a sense of direction to your suggestions. It will also allow you to understand their rationale and identify any areas for improvement.

3. Listen actively

We think four times faster than we can speak. So, if your colleague is talking to you, you only need around 25% of your mental capacity to hear the message.

Taming the remaining 75% of your mind to focus on the conversation makes active listening one of the hardest things to do. But if you can achieve that, you will know more about your colleagues—their interests and personalities.

4. Follow-up

It's unfair to throw an icy bucket of opinions at someone and leave it at that. If you have some feedback to share, ensure you follow up on the matter and see if there is any improvement.

How to complete year-end self-assessment (for employees)

Think about what you achieved throughout the year and what you want to improve next. As a rule, don't blame anyone if you can't meet your target. Instead, think of a constructive way to talk about it.

1. Evaluate strengths

Highlight your strength by listing what went well, what skills you used, which project you enjoyed, and so on.

2. Areas for improvement

Improvement is a critical part of career development. Improvement is part of your career development. Identify improvement areas so your manager knows your aspirations and how they can coach you better.

3. Be forward-looking

Think about where you want to be in the next few years. What are your goals and ambitions? What skillset do you need to achieve them? Explain, in detail, what you enjoy doing the most and the skills required to ace your job next year.

Year end review tips for managers

Saying "great job!" isn't enough when giving feedback to employees. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Start with positive feedback

Give specific details on what your team members do good so they can understand the kind of conduct you expect from them going forward.

2. Set new challenges

Even if you only have positive feedback to share, you should motivate your employees to keep improving by assisting them in setting new goals and challenges.

3. Don't base feedback solely on results

Be careful not to rely solely on results while giving positive feedback. Sometimes even after giving their all, the project could fall through for several reasons outside anyone's control. In such a scenario, holding your employees accountable might be unfair.

4. Be clear and specific

It's crucial to explain why certain things might affect your employee's performance. Employees can relate to and reflect on their previous behaviors by bringing up particular instances and considering how they might improve.

5. Have a growth mindset

People without a growth mindset believe their abilities are static; therefore, they often construe feedback as a personal attack. This is the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset.

year end review: managers should have a growth mindset

When you frame your comments in a way that emphasizes action rather than traits, it is clear that you are calling their attention to specific areas because you think doing so would help them perform better. Making assertions supported by facts and observations is the best prevention strategy.

6. Address feedback on one or two issues at a time

Even if you see several improvement areas, giving it all at once might overwhelm your employees and leave them confused. Focus on enhancing one or two areas at a time to avoid confusion. The metrics of your employee's performance can be analyzed to choose which talent to focus on developing initially.

7. Find a solution together

Allow your employees to respond to your comments to understand their point of view and deal with the matter appropriately. Ask them what actions they believe they could take and offer suggestions for improving their performance. Remember, it is your responsibility to put their actions into context.

Also read: 20 great tips to ace your first one-on-one with employees.

Final Thoughts

Whether you are an employee or manager, year-end review is a moment everyone dreads.

But with these simple strategies, you can transform your year-end performance review into a constructive experience and make it more enjoyable and engaging. You'll be all geared up to launch the new year with a feedback culture that sets everyone on the long and winding road to success.

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