Many companies have appraisal or year-end staff meetings in December and January as a means to review and discuss their employees’ current year performance and prepare for the year ahead. However, I find some managers have a hard time differentiating between a regular one-to-one meeting and an appraisal meeting, what topics to focus their time and attention and if it’s appropriate to talk about year-end ratings. Here’s the deal. If you are having regular one-to-one meetings, whereby you are reviewing progress on a month-by-month basis, giving and receiving continual feedback, addressing performance issues promptly and celebrating real-time success, then your year-end meetings are essentially a recap of the year’s performance, key learnings and a preview of what’s to come.

I would like to share three sections for a successful year-end meeting which will set a positive tone and give managers valuable insight into their employee’s self-awareness and level of motivation. You might find this especially useful if you’re not having regular one-on-one meetings throughout the year.

Each section should be given equal amount of time. Aim to have your appraisal meeting for at least an hour per employee.

1.       Conduct high-level overview of current year’s achievements and challenges. Ask your employee to come prepared to discuss their interpretation of the year’s accomplishments and areas of challenge. As a manager, you are actively listening to how your employee describes their overall efforts, it’s impact on others and their key learnings. In this section, the employee is doing 90% of the talking. You only add to what has been said or address any omissions. This is not the time to be discussing about new performance issues. A good practise is to have the employee self-appraise against the company’s rating criteria. Encourage your employees to come prepared with examples, metrics and feedback to support their rating. I advise managers against giving their final rating in these meeting but rather use this type of meeting as one form of input into your rating decision.

 2.       Give and receive feedback. Ask the employee to share which of their strengths contributed to the year’s success. After they share, share your observations about how they stood out. Address any areas they may be unaware of or blind spots. Take this time to recognize their efforts and its impact on you and their team. Then inquire about which areas they still need to change to be more effective in their role. Listen carefully for any new areas of development then share your thoughts. Another important step here is to ask for their feedback on YOU. That’s right, ask them what they think about your strengths and areas of opportunities. By going to this extent, you demonstrate the importance of feedback when you ask for it and act on it.

 3.       Move onto next year’s goals and opportunities. Up until now, you have spent two thirds of your meeting time on the past and present and the next section directs your focus onto the future. I recommend a high-level overview of what is expected for the upcoming year and its impact on their role. Gauge their level of motivation by inviting them to share what excites them about the company’s direction. If there is a significant change impacting their role, use this time to discuss their concerns and address their questions. If there are any new role opportunities on the horizon, talk about their interest and desire.

You want to end these meetings with the employee feeling engaged and inspired about the year ahead. How will you know if you’ve achieve this?

Notice their non-verbal expression. Are their words congruent with their body language? Are they smiling? Do they look excited? Is there a twinkle in their eyes?

Listen to what they are saying. Are they contributing to the discussion with ideas and thoughts? Are they leading the discussion? What words do they use to describe how they are feeling about this year and next year? Is it positive or negative?

Listen deeper to what is not being said. Are they happy with their level of control in their role? Are they happy to be working for you? With their peers?

If you are having doubts about how engaged your employees are, use the three sections described here for year-end meetings to go deeper. Keep the dialogue going by setting up regular one-on-one meetings in the New Year.  Make it a resolution that sticks! 

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