What is a Year-End Review? How to Prepare and What to Expect

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 11 October 2022 | Published 25 October 2021

Updated 11 October 2022

Published 25 October 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Maintaining success in the workplace involves regularly checking in with your own progress to assess your performance and ensure that you're meeting expectations. Many organisations institute annual reviews at the end of each year, where managers meet with each person on their team to discuss their overall contributions. Understanding what to expect in an end-of-year review is helpful for both professionals attending their yearly meetings and for managers conducting these assessments. In this article, we explain the purpose of a year-end review, discuss its key elements and share tips for successful yearly reviews.

What is a year-end review?

A year-end review, also known as an end-of-year review or an annual performance review, is a yearly assessment where managers summarise the contributions and behaviour of their team members in the workplace. Yearly reviews often include official assessments of a professional's skills and professional abilities related to their role, allowing their manager to track their growth over time. You can also use your annual review to discuss your aspirations and trajectory in the company.

The structure for a year-end review can vary depending on the organisation. You typically complete a year-end review with your direct supervisor because they have the chance to directly observe your actions and how you function in your role. Many organisations schedule the year-end review to align with their fiscal year, but you may also complete your yearly review based on your hiring date.

Related: What Is a Performance Appraisal? (With Definition and Types)

Why are annual reviews important?

Annual reviews are important because they provide both managers and their team members with opportunities to share their perspectives in a formal environment. As an employee, you can use your yearly review to document your contributions to the company. If you made significant progress in your role, assumed leadership during projects and generated value for the team, you can discuss these details during the performance review. Many businesses use information in the performance review to make choices about raises and promotions, so your annual review is a great opportunity to advocate for your success.

As a manager, you can use performance reviews to share meaningful feedback with your team. They give managers an opportunity to identify trends in a team member's growth and progress over time. If you want to give constructive advice to someone, the annual review can help you explain the long-term benefits of implementing a performance improvement plan. Managers can also use annual reviews to identify top performers on their teams.

Topics on end-of-year reviews

Here are some of the primary elements that you discuss during performance reviews:

Key duties

Many performance reviews begin with a discussion about the daily duties you complete as part of your position. This is to determine if you're doing anything new as part of your job or if you expanded your responsibilities. For example, if you recently started compiling sales reports within the past six months, you can mention this during your performance review. Your manager may want to update your job description or note that you took the initiative to complete more tasks for the team.

Achievements

You also discuss your achievements and accomplishments for the year. Mention the main highlights and successes that you contributed to as part of your position. Getting excellent feedback from customers, renewing a high-value client contract or earning a top ranking among your teammates are all examples of achievements to mention during your annual review. You can talk about the strategies you used to achieve specific outcomes and why you're especially proud of certain achievements.

Areas for improvement

To get the most value out of an end-of-year assessment, you also talk about the aspects of your job you want to improve. Mention the skills you want to improve and some of the experiences you had in your role that you may have done differently. During the review, managers may mention some constructive feedback on changes they want their team members to implement. When discussing areas for improvement, you may also agree on a timeline for applying new strategies and achieving specific outcomes.

Related: What Is an Employee Evaluation Form? (Plus How to Create One)

Growth and goals

Your performance review at the end of each year is also an opportunity to talk about your position in the company and mention your career aspirations. If you have any ideas for your role or specific goals within the organisation, mention them to your manager during the performance review. You can explain that based on your excellent performance and increased responsibility in your position, you want a raise to reflect the increased value you bring to the business. You may also ask your manager about the path to getting a leadership role and express your interest in a potential promotion.

Related: What Is a Personal Development Plan? With Template

Organisational values

Some companies use the annual review as an opportunity to discuss their mission and values. Your manager may ask you to talk about a time over the past year that you represented one of the values of the company, such as teamwork or integrity. Having a conversation about your role in company values during an annual review can strengthen the company culture and improve morale on your team by encouraging you to reflect on the impact of your actions.

Feedback for management

At the end of your yearly review, you often have the opportunity to share feedback with your manager. Provide advice on how they can support you and what tools or resources you want to be more successful in your role. Express how their leadership contributes to your behaviour in the workplace and what opportunities you want to increase the quality and efficiency of your work.

How to prepare for a yearly review

If you have an annual performance review approaching, use these steps as a guide to prepare:

1. Reflect ahead of time

Because yearly performance evaluations happen at the same time every year, you know when to expect them. When you know your annual review is approaching, start preparing and reflecting on your performance. Think about the past year, considering your top achievements and what you want to change for the future. The more time you have to reflect before the meeting, the better you can express yourself.

2. Read last year's review

If you already had one or more yearly reviews with your current employer, read your performance documents so you can think about your progress. You can usually request copies of your previous annual review assessments from human resources or directly from your manager if you don't already have a copy in your personal file. Read through your assessment from last year and determine if you accomplished the goals you identified during your review or made any of the improvements you discussed with your managers. Being able to show that you applied feedback from your previous reviews seriously can help increase positive scores on your assessment.

3. Make a list

Consider writing a list of topics you want to discuss during your annual review. You can bring notes with you to ensure that you remember every important subject throughout the meeting. Write down a list of your strengths, areas of improvement and goals for the next year. Organise your outline and consider leaving space so you can take additional notes during the meeting.

4. Have a positive attitude

It's important to enter your year-end meeting with a positive mindset. Recognise that the purpose of the review is to help you to improve and to provide you with recognition for your contributions. Be ready to accept feedback and have an open conversation about your contributions with your manager to ensure the meeting is productive.

Tips for conducting a performance review

As a manager, you often attend performance reviews with your own supervisor and conduct performance reviews with the people you oversee. Here are several tips you can use when giving a performance review to a member of your team:

Use a self-assessment

Before evaluating your team members, ask them to complete a self-assessment survey and rate their own performance. Giving everyone an opportunity to evaluate their own skills and contributions can help you understand their perspective and learn about factors that you may not have been aware of as a manager. You can compare their self-assessments to your evaluation and have a conversation about any differences.

Related: How to Write a Self-Evaluation

Evaluate team members individually

Consider the individual contributions of each person and how they meet the standards of their position. If someone is doing an exceptional job in their role, but another team member is an over-achiever, it's still important to praise the first individual and give them recognition for their contributions. This gives everyone the opportunity to get a positive year-end review within the context of their individual job.

Begin with positive feedback

When sharing the results of your evaluation, start by sharing positive feedback. Discuss the individual's strengths and some of the areas of growth that you noticed over the past year. By beginning the review with a compliment, you can show appreciation to your team and make it easier to discuss some of the areas of improvement you want to address.

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