10 Tips for a good year-end review

Have a performance review, appraisal, development review or end of year review coming up? Exactpi gives you lots of tips on how to best prepare.

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Preparing for a Year-End Review? Get Ready

The end of the year isn’t just about holidays and celebrations; it’s also when many employees have their annual year-end reviews. Whether it’s called a performance review, an appraisal, a development conversation, or a year-end review, almost everyone takes stock with their manager at the end of the year. This conversation isn’t just about reflecting on past performance; it’s about jointly looking at future goals and development opportunities. This article explores the significance of the year-end review and explains the difference between appraisal and performance reviews. Naturally, you want to ensure that you and your achievements shine in that discussion, so Exactpi provides you with plenty of tips in advance.

The Significance of the Year-End Review

The year-end review allows employees and managers to evaluate the past year, discussing strengths, successes, and areas for improvement. Additionally, it focuses on setting new goals and discussing developmental opportunities for the future. This contributes to planning professional growth and provides direction for the upcoming year. Moreover, the conversation offers the chance to address concerns, problems, and expectations, fostering open communication and a positive work environment.

1. Understand the Purpose of the Year-End Review

Every company can determine its own review cycle; there are no legal rules for this. In many companies, you have a performance review in the early months of the year and an appraisal review towards the year-end. However, there’s a growing trend towards continuous feedback throughout the year rather than at specific points. Moreover, employees are increasingly responsible for their own development process. In such cases, your input is definitely expected.

Pay attention to the type of year-end review you’re invited to: an appraisal review differs from a performance review. Refer to the personnel handbook to understand the review cycle in your organization. Also, if you receive or request the agenda for the meeting beforehand, it can help you gauge the scope you have to present your perspective.

Definitions:

In a performance review, improvement is key. An employee and a manager discuss the current work practices to identify any issues. They collaborate on solutions to enhance the employee’s performance and teamwork. Ideally, the conversation should be egalitarian, allowing both parties to determine and influence the content and flow of the discussion. The focus is on the future.

This differs significantly from an appraisal review, which centers around the past period and your performance within it. During this conversation, the manager gives their judgment on your performance. The dynamics are asymmetric: the employee can only acknowledge the judgment and respond to it. An appraisal review highlights measurable past achievements. For instance, it discusses whether previously set objectives were adequately achieved by you.

2. Engage in self-reflection ahead of time

Take the time to reflect on your professional journey over the past year. Identify not just the successes you’ve achieved but also the challenges and growth opportunities you’ve encountered.

3. Refer to your job description and previous evaluations

To assess whether you’ve performed well, it’s crucial to understand precisely what’s expected of you. Refer to your job description and review past appraisal and performance reports. Evaluate how much improvement you’ve implemented and what remains unchanged. Create a list of your significant achievements during the period and the progress you’ve made.

4. Take Initiative and Propose Solutions

It’s possible that your duties changed during the year due to factors like staff shortages, AI, war, or increased prices. In such cases, earlier objectives might no longer be realistic. Demonstrate what you’ve accomplished and where adjustments in goals might be needed.

 

Prepare by considering the feedback you desire and what you aim to work on in the coming year. What support do you require? Think about your goals for the next year and how your manager can assist you. By proactively presenting your goals and solutions, you demonstrate a thoughtful approach to your role and a genuine desire for self-improvement.

If you want to prepare optimally and make a lasting impression, create a Personal Year Plan using this step-by-step guide.

5. Maintain a professional and positive demeanor

Enter the conversation with a constructive attitude, being open to improving in specific areas. Try not to perceive criticism of your performance as a critique of your personality; instead, see it as a learning opportunity. It’s intended to help you grow professionally. Therefore, avoid getting upset and focus on how you can indeed benefit from this feedback.

If you have criticism of your manager or colleagues, first consider whether your manager is the appropriate person to discuss it with. There’s an inherent dependency in this relationship that requires you to safeguard yourself for the coming period as well. Keep your criticism professional and work-oriented. Stay true to yourself, explaining how it affects you or the work process. In the year-end review, steer clear of gossiping or speaking negatively about someone’s personality.

6. Voice your future aspirations

Contemplate where you want to be in the coming year. Set clear, achievable goals that aid your growth, both professionally and personally. If you have a particular job change, salary raise, or promotion in mind, the year-end review is the time to discuss it. Express your desire and substantiate it with your merits. If it’s a wish but premature to realize, inquire about what’s required to eventually achieve your goal.

7. Identify potential courses or training

Continuously developing yourself is essential. At the end of this year, there might be more budget allocated for training than in other periods. Take advantage of it. Do you want to take a course? Mention it in your year-end review. Be specific and research in advance where you’d like to study and the associated costs. You can also focus on personal development through a career coaching program (e.g. using TMA). Managers appreciate employees who know what they want. If the budget isn’t unlimited, consider what you might contribute to fund your growth.

8. Clarify expectations for next year

Make expectations explicit on both sides. Ensure that, by the end of the year-end review, you precisely understand what’s expected of you in the upcoming year. Ask questions until you’ve established concrete measurable tasks, goals, and outcomes together. It’s useful to differentiate between short and long-term actions:

Short-term: What adjustments can you implement in the next week or actions can you realize in the next month?

Long-term: Discuss how you’ll know that a problem no longer exists a year from now. What improvements will there be? How will things be different? Also, talk about how you’ll monitor and oversee this process periodically.

To conclude the conversation, make concrete agreements and goals with your manager. Ensure they are SMART—Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic, and Time-bound. This makes them tangible and trackable. After the year-end review, put these discussed goals into action. Sustain the momentum by conducting regular self-assessments, seeking feedback, and challenging yourself. Utilize this period of reflection not just as an annual ritual but as a wellspring of inspiration throughout the year.

9. Prepare for negotiations regarding employment terms

The job market is more competitive than ever. If your expertise is in demand, leverage that in a discussion about your salary.

If your evaluation isn’t entirely positive, it’s wise to postpone salary discussions for another time. In such cases, focus on presenting an enthusiastic, detailed account of your work. Then casually inquire if salary discussions can be revisited later.

Request a separate meeting for this at a later stage once you’ve processed the criticism and the atmosphere is neutral again. Be realistic: if your goals weren’t achieved due to factors beyond your control, it doesn’t automatically mean that a salary raise is off the table. However, if you had influence, give yourself time to improve before engaging in this discussion.

If a salary increase isn’t an option for any reason, you can also focus on job benefits that are valuable to you but don’t incur significant costs for your employer. Consider options such as the previously mentioned training, well-being programs, the possibility of extended unpaid leave, remote work opportunities, or extra vacation hours.

10. Don't simply sign for agreement

Carefully read through the summary of your year-end review. If you disagree with any points, ask your manager if they can be amended. If not possible, sign only for ‘acknowledgment’ and not for ‘agreement’ and request your manager to add your objections to the report. This is important because a report from a performance review might later become part of a dismissal dossier.

A successful conversation

Bonus tip: Year-end reviews don’t have to solely focus on performance. Feel free to discuss aspects such as your workspace, team collaboration, or the work environment. By considering all these aspects, the year-end review becomes not just a moment for evaluation but also an opportunity to enhance the work atmosphere.

A successful year-end review requires preparation, open dialogue, and the willingness to improve. It’s not just a snapshot of performance; it’s a continuation of your professional journey. So, consider the year-end review as an opportunity to grow, learn, and progress together with your team.

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