Making end of year reviews painless (and valuable)

In an ideal world, the professional development process takes place throughout the year in a series of regular meetings which ‘culminates’ in an annual review meeting. As I’m sure you know, the annual review season is fast approaching.

This annual review is an opportunity to summarise an individual’s achievements, to reflect on the things they’ve learned and look to the future and new objectives. It’s a chance to incorporate and reflect on thoughtful feedback.

I say ‘in an ideal world’ because this isn’t the experience many of us are familiar with.

From line managers and line reports alike, I’m often asked questions about the professional development process: mainly variations on the theme of whether or not it actually makes a difference.

This suggests to me that line managers don’t know how to optimise the whole experience, not just the end of year review. In this post, I’ll share some of the questions that are put to me and my thoughts on how to make this a really enriching process.

Whose job is it to prepare?

Both line managers and team members feel dread at the prospect of the annual review. When I probe a little deeper, they describe the panic to gather feedback, searching through emails and calendars to piece together a picture of past performance.

This doesn’t serve either party very well and for that reason, I do understand the dread.

Preparation is key. Line managers you are in control. You should factor in time to reflect, prepare for these conversations, gather feedback throughout the year. By embracing a coaching style you will also be better able to have difficult conversations with positive outcomes.

When it comes to holding these conversations, consider the difference in the way people learn. People have vastly different learning styles, each conversation requires a different approach. These are skills you can absolutely pick up in our Coaching Essentials For Managers and Leaders programme.

How do you get the most out of a conversation with a ‘stuck’ employee?

People become stuck (and can still be highly effective employees) for a number of reasons.

What I’ve found motivating in my coaching practice is to work out what someone’s values are. Uncovering them is the best way to rediscover and reactivate their drive. In fact I believe understanding one’s values is so important, that i-Coach developed a Values Tool to help people identify them.

By encouraging someone to work out what their values are, you are in a much better position to help them work out where they will benefit from development and how you can work together to find a situation or environment in the organisation for them to prepare for career success.

What is the problem with a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to conversations?

I find it helpful to scrutinise the title of the process: Personal Development Review.

Personal: meaning it is about the person: their personal aspirations, performance and achievements. Development: each person’s development needs and learning style is totally unique. Review: looking back on the experience they’ve had and the lessons they’ve learned. These are totally the possession of the individual.

A one-size-fits all approach to conversations is an indication that you haven’t worked out who your line report is as an individual. There are skills and techniques you can employ to help you listen to learn your team: their learning style, communications preference, their values. This is a brilliant way to motivate and inspire.

Are Personal Development Reviews still relevant?

One of the questions I’m asked is whether it still has a place in today’s increasingly iterative, highly-connected workplace where we talk much more frequently and informally.

In lots of ways it’s actually easier than ever to collect feedback as you go. To create folders for feedback on individuals, to send out online surveys for constructive feedback. Doing this also demonstrates to your line report that you do think about their development throughout the year and you care about their experience at work.

Adopting a coaching mindset

By welcoming in those coaching skills as a manager, you will become an enabler of better performance and a healthier working environment. The manager-coach has the ability to have different conversations, build trust and encourage a learning mindset in others too. Find out more.