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The Official Year-End Performance Review Checklist

Whether you’re a seasoned HR pro or are implementing a new year-end assessment process at your organization for the very first time, there are several things you can and should do to make annual review season a huge success for everyone involved.

Follow this step-by-step guide to deliver annual reviews with real impact.

1. Determine your deadline

This part is super easy. Just identify when you need everyone in your organization to complete their performance reviews—and then back out a timeline to ensure you’ve given them ample time to get through all the necessary steps (see below).

2. Communicate key milestones

You can’t expect anyone to take any action on the year-end assessment process if they don’t know the rules of engagement. So, be sure to communicate—to both employees and managers—exactly what’s expected of them throughout this process along with key milestones and useful instructions to help them get the ball rolling. This should include providing any necessary login details for accessing your organization’s performance management solution.

3. Educate managers

Despite all your efforts to be as buttoned-up as possible from the get-go, employees will inevitably have a lot of questions. And when they have questions, they’ll likely go to their managers first to get answers.

So, take the time to empower managers with additional resources and information to help them help you throughout this process. The more transparent you are with them about your expectations, the better they will be able to guide their teams when questions arise. Think of it as though you’re simply paying it forward!

4. Suggest 360-degree feedback

Assessing an employee’s performance goes way beyond the manager-employee relationship. To get a better sense of an employee’s total contribution to the organization, we recommend implementing a 360-degree review process. This is an opportunity to invite colleagues who’ve worked closely with a given employee to provide candid, oftentimes qualitative feedback about that person’s performance and contributions.

5. Suggest pre-review check-ins

Performance reviews can sometimes feel overwhelming to many employees. Instead of jumping directly into annual reviews conversations, encourage managers to touch base with employees early on to make sure they’re clear on what’s expected of them as well as to answer any questions they may have. It’s also a great opportunity to touch base on goals. We are a huge proponent of ongoing performance-based conversations, with this being just one of many such employee-manager conversations taking place throughout the year.

6. Schedule employee self-review

Performance reviews should be a two-way dialog (i.e., not just a manager weighing in with feedback). This includes having employees assess their own performance based on the goals and competencies set for them earlier in the year. Having a clear window into how employees perceive their own accomplishments and contributions will help tremendously with how you set new goals and expectations for them in the year ahead. It will also provide key insight into points of disconnect that can guide how you ultimately coach your employees to succeed.

7. Schedule manager review

Once all 360-degree feedback and self-reviews have been compiled, it’s now time for managers to log into the performance management tool to both review that content holistically and begin rating their employees against the goals and competencies set for them earlier in the year.

8. Assess compensation

Now that all annual reviews have been input into the performance management tool, HR and other business leaders can determine allowable merit-based compensation. This must happen before the employee-manager conversation takes place.

9. Conduct performance review conversations

This is truly the culmination of this entire process—and likely the moment that you and your employees have been waiting for. Have managers schedule one-on-one time with their direct reports—preferably, in person—to go over their year-end assessment. This conversation should include, but is not limited to:

  • Career Pathing: How employees can develop and grow within the company.
  • Development: How employees can course correct for areas of low performance.
  • Compensation: How employees will be rewarded for their performance.

Remember, performance reviews are two-way dialogs, so make sure that managers also give employees an opportunity to ask questions or request additional feedback. The goal of this process is to ensure that employees are crystal-clear on what’s expected of them—whether in the form of new goals or development plan corrections—to help them succeed in the future. Doing so will not only create a more dynamic and communicative employee-manager relationship but also improve employee engagement and happiness overall.

10. Track completion rates

This may seem like a no-brainer, but one of the biggest benefits of your performance management tool is that it can let you keep track of who’s making progress as you get closer to your deadlines as well as who’s not. For those running a bit behind schedule, send reminders via email or other automatic notifications to make sure they are aware of critical deadlines.

11. Leverage reports and analytics

Many performance management tools give HR leaders a wealth of data and reports to assess, at a quick glance, employee performance across the entire company. Use these resources as much as possible to strengthen employee performance over time. The more you know about your company’s strengths and weaknesses, the better you can develop strategies to guide the organization towards success. This information is truly worth its weight in gold!

Now that you’ve been equipped with this step-by-step performance review checklist, you’re ready to tackle the year-end assessment with flying colors.

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