Year-End Reviews and Goal Setting to Maximise Employee Performance

Year-End Reviews and Goal Setting to Maximise Employee Performance

​Christmas and year-end reviews: two things with entirely different moods. How do you deliver that tough feedback in the season of goodwill to all? And does it ever actually do any good?

The answer: that depends on you. Whether you have them at Christmas or at the end of the fiscal year, here’s how to optimise your year-end reviews to deliver the biggest possible performance boost for your team.

What are year-end reviews?

A year-end review is an annual performance evaluation covering each employee’s goals, accomplishments, and challenges during the past year. You’ll give constructive feedback and discuss the coming year’s goals and priorities. These are the main topics you need to cover:

Scope of work

Watch out for scope creep–the slow engulfing tide of extra work that’s not in an employee’s job description. If your employee is burdened with responsibilities beyond their pay grade or job title, they may burn out and leave. Talk to them about what they’re working on and evaluate whether anything should be taken off their hands. 

Strengths and weaknesses

We all have them. Talk to your employee about how their strengths and weaknesses have changed in the past year and what’s supported or hindered them. 


It’s vital to celebrate wins. Keep your employee motivated by talking about what they’ve achieved–and let them share their own list of achievements with you too, as you may not be aware of all the areas where they’ve grown. Where possible, quantify achievements so you can really see the impact.

Priorities and objectives

Look at how your employee’s done on their objectives from last year. Have they put the highest-priority goals first? Set new objectives for the coming year, and make sure you’re clear with them on which two or three goals are top priorities. 

Areas for improvement

Giving feedback is hard, and so is receiving it. Be honest but reassuring–you’ll be surprised how many people breathe a sigh of relief when they hear the words “your job isn’t at risk,” even if it’s obvious to you that their performance is a solid B. If you dare, you can also level the playing field by asking them for some feedback about your management!

9 tips for a good year-end review

Start positively

“What went right” is the ideal first topic for a year-end review. Write yourself a meeting agenda and put it first. 

  1. Reflect on goals and priorities

Discuss how the employee has progressed on their objectives and whether they’ve faced any challenges in juggling their priorities.

  1. Discuss daily responsibilities

What does your employee do each day? Make sure you understand what’s on their plate–you may be surprised at how much they’ve taken on. Offer to lighten the load if necessary, and make sure they realise you mean it. 

  1. Be specific

Try to present quantified data or specific examples to back up feedback, whether it’s positive or negative. For example, instead of “you’ve been doing better at hitting deadlines,” it’s great to be able to say, “You’ve hit 20% more deadlines.”

  1. Listen actively

Active listening means showing you’re paying attention–nodding, asking follow-up questions, and reflecting back what you’ve heard to make sure you’ve understood it. This will make your employee feel valued and respected.

  1. Set new challenges

Work with your employee to set challenging but realistic goals for the new year. These could include technical goals like learning a new skill, career development goals like earning a promotion, or personal development goals like improving work-life balance.

  1. Work together on solutions

Discuss what could go wrong–and how you could solve it. For example, will your employee need extra training to secure that promotion? Be honest about any potential obstacles on your end too–for example, if your workload has increased and you have less time to spend managing people, what other support could you put in place for your employee?

  1. Make time for questions

Leave 5-10 minutes for questions at the end of the review. Of course, you can answer questions at any time, but you’ll often find your employee has some burning questions at the end that haven’t been addressed. 

  1. End positively

Even if you’ve covered some rocky terrain, the end of a year-end review is the time to think positive, thank your employee for their hard work, and give them some encouragement to start the new year on the right note. 

When you follow these tips, you’ll find year-end reviews may actually be enjoyable–and even if you do have a rough one, you’ll have sown the seeds for a better one this time next year.


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