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4 Key tips conduct a successful year-end review – Post COVID

4 Key tips conduct a successful year-end review – Post COVID

Let’s face it. This is likely the most challenging year-end review of your career. Businesses across industries have been slow; teams are isolated, exhausted, and overwhelmed. Leaders and managers are still grappling with the numbers on their screen.

Yet the task of conducting a year-end review, uncomfortable though it is required. In March, Facebook announced that it would be giving all 45,000 employees the same "exceeds expectations" performance review rating for the first two quarters. Of course, few organizations have decided against a year-end appraisal this year, though abandoning performance reviews could result in managers losing critical business performance data in a moment in which they are expected to make tough decisions. I feel, this year’s performance conversation can be the pivotal moment in learning and growth, in understanding how the people and the organization survived, and learnt how to react in tough decisions.

If you are uncertain about how to conduct a performance conversation this year, wondering how to hold people accountable and concerned about those missed goals and how it should look in your next year’s plan, read on.

The purpose of performance conversations to align individual action and aspiration to the team and organization’s goal. The new performance conversations should be more collaborative, adaptive and individualized, based on conditions of the team and organization.

The key to a successful year-end review this year will be to manage a balance between Empathy and Accountability.

This means cutting that fair amount of slack, letting people know that despite setbacks everyone is required to bring their best. The following broad outline can help in a balanced performance conversation.

Connect with the Person – Appraise not just the performance but also the person. Understand the efforts along with the outcomes. This is your opportunity to check and understand your team. It is your chance to show you care. Invite the individuals to talk. Ask about their struggles, challenges, efforts and wins. This connection builds credibility for the next stage in the conversation.

Reflect Together – flip the conversation into a positive dialogue. Look at the whole picture. Reflect together on –

  • Where has the company/team stepped up?
  • What makes you proud to be part of the organization?
  • How did people reach out to each other in support?

This reflection brings out the sense of pride and builds trust. Remote working would have meant many times not getting the actual feel of the team’s effort. An ongoing conversation in support and guidance and frequent check-ins will create a better work culture. This is your golden opportunity to instill a continuous performance culture.

Invite to Review – On the strong foundation of credibility and trust, accountability flourishes. Ensure that the review explores both the goals and the process and fully understand where the performance was great and areas it fell short. Many goals would have been revised as projects and plans changed drastically during the pandemic. Review the revised goals. Reprioritize and move beyond the annual KPI to a more agile goal review process. At this stage it will be important to remember that while old metrics and goals need to be dynamically reprioritized, the attitude of every employee bringing his best to the table cannot be overlooked.

Unpack the Learning – A performance conversation is not a bludgeon to hack the past performance but a compass to navigate and leverage the learning in working in the shaky business landscape and the learnings in the process. Gallup reports that only 14% of employees strongly agree that their performance review inspires growth. Managers should keep the focus on the future -- identifying opportunities, quickly communicating changes and preparing for potential pivots.

Year-end reviews offer opportunities to develop in your team the sense of pride, accomplishment and responsibility.

In conclusion, 2020 may have been a year of surprises and shock, but ensure you are their rock of support. Connect, reinforce and motivate –

  1. Prepare to speak balancing empathy and accountability.
  2. Reflect together on the objectives achieved, the adjustments and changes made and the still unfinished goals.
  3. Mine the experiences for learning and growth.
  4. Build accountability and focus on future possibilities.

About the Author

Dr Latha Vijaybaskar catalyzes positive transformations. As founder and Leadership Coach of V.I.T.A.L Conversations, she works with teams and individuals to enhance productive engagement and positive leadership. Her latest book Masterstrokes – Reinventing Leadership in Uncertain Times can be ordered on Amazon