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End of year reviews are an excellent tool for managers to check in with team members and assess performance, while for employees they are given an opportunity to find out how they are doing and seek advice on improving skills where they need them.

That might seem like a positive and rational part of professional life but, in reality, performance reviews, and especially big yearly ones, can often inspire fear in reviewees and anxiety in the managers giving them their feedback. So, knowing how important end of year reviews are, how can you use them to effectively and objectively evaluate your team’s performance. Here are some tips on how to do just that.

Define what you want to achieve

Before you are able to get the results you want from performance reviews you have to know what it is you are trying to achieve. Depending on your field, the project or the particular team member in question, your objectives will change. For some it may be fine-tuning their skills, for others it might be a need to improve productivity or communication, whatever it is, before you hold the review define the results you want from it.

Keep notes throughout the year

End of year reviews should be exactly that, a review of the entire year. Just because they might be held in December or January doesn’t mean the most recent events should necessarily get prominence in attention. To make sure the review is balanced over the previous 12-month period keep notes on a monthly or quarterly basis, these can then inform your talking point when it comes to holding the meeting.

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Talk with others

360-degree feedback has become an increasingly common method for measuring how a team member is performing outside of the raw data of work productivity. It involves talking with those who work with the person on a regular basis, such as relevant managers, team leads, co-workers and direct reports. The feedback you receive will give you a broader idea of how they fit into the project and organization as a whole.

Keep criticism to a minimum

This is not just about not wanting to negatively affect moral or “being soft” with your team, if something needs to change it is your responsibility to let them know that. However, if there are so many things that you need to criticise you should have been picking up on them and dealing with them throughout the year. By all means say what needs to be said but unloading a torrent of criticism at end of year reviews is never what should be aimed for.

Review previous goals and set new ones

If there is good continuity on your team, end of year reviews can be an excellent cornerstone around which to build effective goal-setting with your team. Ask them three areas where they would like to improve and offer another two yourself for where you think they should improve. Create a pathway of milestones to achieve this and then review the success of reaching those goals at the end of the year.