Year-End Performance Reviews: Best Practices for Managers & Employees



Important year-end performance reviews

It’s that time of year again —the season of the performance review. A number of employees and managers have unfavorable opinions about performance reviews, with more than three-quarters believing traditional performance reviews are unhelpful. 


Nonetheless, many organizations feel they are necessary to keep businesses moving forward and employees growing. By preparing and streamlining the performance review process, you can make the annual task more productive and favorable for all involved. 


The intent of a performance review shouldn’t be punitive as many employees may see them, but rather an opportunity for mutual growth. Key objectives for the end of year review should include discussing the employee’s performance, outlining challenges they’ve faced, identifying weaknesses in both the company and the employee, and delineating improvement goals and expectations for the next year. 


For Employees

It’s a challenge at the end of the year for employees to remember, let alone quantify, all the different contributions they’ve made in the past year. It may be too late to go back and try, but throughout the year, it’s a wise idea to keep notes along the way so come review time you can easily include them in your self-evaluation.

  • Clarify exactly what your daily responsibilities are, especially if they vary from your job description or if they have changed over the last year. Your manager may or may not know what additional tasks you’ve taken on voluntarily (like if you’ve stepped up to help out other teams or departments), especially since many teams may have spent considerably less time face-to-face in an office the last two years.

  • Have a few examples prepared from coworkers, clients, or managers of situations where you excelled. 

  • Review what unique skills or training you have that differentiates you from your colleagues. 


Some love it and some hate it, but it’s clear that remote work is here to stay for many organizations. If your role has changed to entirely remote this last year, be sure to include both the challenges and successes you’ve had working remotely. Perhaps you appreciate the flexibility to shift your working hours to care for family, or that your company acknowledged the difficulties but noted you still met your deadlines.


In your review, you should discuss specific goals or deficiencies and come up with a plan to address them in the new year. Make sure these goals are measurable and schedule a timely follow-up meeting with your manager to ensure you are on track to achieve those goals. 


For Managers

As a manager, being well prepared for year-end reviews can save time and avoid miscommunications. Be clear about the specific job role and the expectations of each employee and address how those expectations may have changed over time. Pay particular attention and discuss with your team members your evaluations of important skills such as the following:

  • Communication

  • Collaboration and teamwork

  • Problem-solving

  • Quality and accuracy of work

  • Attendance, punctuality, and reliability

  • The ability to accomplish goals and meet deadlines 

Additionally, be transparent about the new challenges of managing a remote team: not just yours, but also theirs.

When asking employees how they are coping with change, it’s important to be compassionate and understanding of the challenges they’ve faced at home and work. It’s also imperative to be careful not to ask questions that may be too personal or violate workers’ rights

Despite the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic’s influence on in-office versus remote work, try to have these conversations in person whenever possible and revert to video if it’s still not feasible to do in person. Much can be gleaned from body language and non-verbal feedback and can queue managers into how their feedback is being received. 

Heading into a new year, it’s wise to start creating a plan for short-interval, periodic check-ins to make sure your previous review outcomes and action items are still on track to produce success throughout the year. Consider monthly or quarterly check-ins to keep employees engaged but also to help them stay on track with goals throughout the year and not just at the year’s end. 


Update your year-end goal planning

Having a streamlined and centralized process for each employee and manager to plan for their review is invaluable, especially with an increasingly remote workforce. Create a plan today to propel your team into a productive new year.


Click here to learn more about how SyncHR’s talent, performance, and workforce management solutions can help your organization maximize productivity, performance, and employee retention. 


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John Cuellar

John Cuellar

John is responsible for SyncHR’s product, engineering, and system operations teams. He is focused on streamlining the business processes related to HCM and finance by distributing SyncHR to all members of the workforce and by using patented security and workflow to control these developments. John is also responsible for delivering SyncHR as a cloud based application with “extreme ratio” financial metrics.

He has a background in engineering, workplace applications, and business administration, bringing over 25 years of experience deploying strategic HCM applications. Prior to co-founding SyncHR, John was the CEO of Harbor Technologies, since acquired by Mellon Financial Corporation. Previous to Harbor Technology Group, he spent an internship with the Swiss Bank Corporation in their derivatives pricing and trading group and also worked as a senior manager for the US Navy. John received his Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and his Master of Business Administration from the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley.

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