by Shayne Thomas
29 Aug 2019
The Official Year-End Performance Review Checklist
Follow this step-by-step guide to deliver annual reviews with real impact
If you haven’t been paying attention to your calendars lately, you may have missed that we’re already at the end of August. That means it’s time to say farewell to summer, at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere, and hello to “pumpkin spice” season. (Don’t deny it, you were probably just as thrilled as I was to see Starbucks re-launch its #PSL goodness this week!)
Caffeinated deliciousness aside, however, the end of the year is a time when many businesses—and their employees—take stock of the past year and start planning for the year ahead. For HR professionals, this means getting year-end performance reviews underway.
Whether you’re a seasoned HR pro or are implementing a new year-end assessment process at your company for the very first time, there are a number of things you can and should do to make annual reviews season a huge success for everyone involved.
It’s important to note that, at Cornerstone, we believe in continuous performance management that culminates with a year-end assessment, as that approach has been proven time and time again to drive greater levels of clarity, productivity, and engagement among managers and employees alike. By continuing to check in throughout the year, you will make your annual performance reviews much more meaningful and impactful. Not to mention, doing so can provide you with critical data and insights that paint a more accurate picture around performance. And by using our check-ins feature, you can build an unofficial record that measures progress and performance throughout the year, which will most definitely come in handy when annual reviews season rolls around.
However, as a small- to medium-sized business, you may not yet have the resources or bandwidth to tackle performance management in as systematic as a way. (And that’s ok!) Little by little you can build and grow a program that makes performance management a year-round conversation that provides more opportunities to assess your entire company’s progress against goals, identify areas for growth, discuss career pathing, and a lot more.
There are a lot of moving parts to this process. So, to help you get moving in the right direction, we’ve created this handy performance review checklist to make your life easier:
- Determine your deadline This part is super easy. Just identify when you need everyone in your company 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). To ensure that you’re not inadvertently rushing the process, aim to send out your first round of communications in early September, especially if you plan to kick things off officially at the beginning of Q4.
- 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 company’s performance management solution. (If you don’t have one, Cornerstone can help!)
- Educate managers In spite of 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!
- 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 company, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. (If you manage a large team, we thank you in advance for making this a priority!)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. Cornerstone’s solution, for example, offers 9-box grid analytics for this very purpose. 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 as a whole 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. And if you don’t already have an amazing performance management solution in place to make this entire process a lot easier and more meaningful for your entire company, Cornerstone can help.