End of Year Review, Performance Review, or maybe you call it an Annual Review… It comes by many names, but it often delivers the same feelings! 

For many we speak to, it can fill them with nerves and trepidation as it is a conversation that naturally takes us out of our comfort zone to evaluate and review our work, or it pushes us to take up conversations that we may find difficult such as asking for career development or an increase in pay. 

But this year is your chance to take ownership of your end-of-year review, to feel confident and prepared to get the most from this important conversation and get your New Year off to a great start professionally. 

The main trick to feeling in control is preparation, and we are ready to help share our top areas for you to focus on to help put you in the driver’s seat for your annual review. 

Review and Preview

Time to sit in a quiet moment, grab a pen and begin the process of reflection and envisaging. It’s important to find the right mix of both, looking at the year past but also being ready to say what you’d like to see from the year ahead. Often going back first helps you find the answers for going forward next!

Sometimes, staring at a blank page and trying to reflect on the year past and the future ahead can be a little daunting, so here are some questions to help get you in the right mind process. 

Review – What are you most proud of this year? 

This question helps you to look over the work you’ve done and identify the one that you knew went right. But let’s look at more than just the work; what about it was right? Did the task challenge you? Did you learn something from that time that you now use in others areas of your work? Was it because this was doing a particular element of your job that you love? Or working with colleagues you don’t normally get to work with? 

Work best as you can to unpick this moment in time and evolve your answer from just ‘the X project’ – let your managers know the how, what and why this project inspired you and how it got the best from you. 

Review – When have you felt your best this year? 

Similar to the question above, try your best to find the reasons behind that period of time. This will help you identify the meaning and purpose you are inspired by in your role and show your leadership team your passion for certain areas and the strengths you have.

Review – What have you learned this year? 

This is a question that is always good to reflect on before sitting across the table. Even if you think it may not be asked, find your answer and raise it yourself. To be able to show your growth and grasp the opportunity to learn from tricky situations, new challenges or difficult projects shows your employer that you are evolving your role and position.

Review – What felt hard this year and why?

It can be daunting to lay your cards on the table about any weaknesses and what you found hard this year. But preparing and reflecting on this answer ahead of time allows you to take more confidence in your response as you can present it with solutions. From certain projects to working with difficult team members, letting them know what you found a challenge, how you overcame it and how you plan to conquer it in the future shows tremendous strength and resilience. 

Preview – Are you happy with the career path you’re on? 

Or do you see this role developing and evolving? Did your reflections help you realise you love one aspect of your role more than another? Is there an area you’d like to develop further in? Do you like the idea of one day moving further up to management, or do you want to pursue new challenges in your current role?

Preview – What would you like to do or learn in the next 12 months?

Do you see your role being identical in the next 12 months? If not, where can it take you? Would you like to work more with marketing as they launch the product and understand that process more? Would you like to shadow managers more and gain more insights into team leadership? Envisage your growth and how you can get there. More often than not, career development can be a long process, but letting your employer know you’re ready to take early exploratory steps is encouraging as to your commitment and desire for a future with the business. 

Preview – What support do you need next year? 

It is not always about proving yourself; the annual review is a great opportunity to let them know if there are areas of your role that are putting too much pressure on you or areas you think you could be supported in. 

And if, after these questions, you’re still struggling to find what to discuss, some other great prompts to finding the achievements, successes and challenges can be:

  • Look over the calendar, starting from January, and reflect on the trade shows, events or projects you’ve worked on over the last 12 months. 
  • Look over sales figure sheets and unpick the times when you had great successes and the ones that fell short. 
  • Look over the company website, LinkedIn etc and recognise the prominent markers in the business calendar and how you supported those or had an impact on them.

Get your questions ready too!

The annual review isn’t just a window to reflect purely on your own work. It is your chance to also understand and speak more with our senior team about the business, its future for the year ahead and what part you’ll get to play in that. Some good questions to have prepped include 

  • What are the company’s goals for this year?
  • What are my team’s goals?
  • What are your targets for me?
  • How will I know when I’ve hit those goals? What does success look like for these?
  • What support will be in place for us to achieve these goals?

Prepare for Feedback

Rarely is receiving feedback or even the most constructive criticism comfortable, but it most likely will feature in all annual reviews. Sometimes by preparing for any potential feedback can help you feel more comfortable discussing those areas of difficulty and can take the raw edge from the moment.

From all the work you’ve done so far reflecting on the year, where do you feel your employer may not be feeling as positive? Are there areas you know you could’ve done better? Was there something that stopped you from achieving those goals? How can you prevent that from repeating itself? It’s important in these difficult moments to remember that all receive feedback from the CEO to starter levels, and without opportunities for improvement, there can’t be growth.

So get ready to stay open-minded, and with some mental preparation ahead of time, you’ll be more able to respond professionally to constructive feedback.

Process and Purpose

For the bigger conversations, the pay rises and the promotions, it is important to match the process to your purpose to help set expectations and prevent any disappointments if you don’t get the chance to raise them. 

For some, the annual review can happen by way of a pre-filled form that gets discussed with HR and management; for others, it is a quiet meeting with leadership teams. 

Either way, it is good to know the process to project your outcome. If you’re looking for firm answers by the close of the meeting, but you know it is mostly a form-filling process with HR, then it can be wise to send any topics for discussion ahead of time to your management team that might divert from the typical process.

I.E to let them know you’re wanting to discuss your salary, drop them a quick email and let them know you’re looking forward to the annual review and look forward to the opportunity to discuss the year’s success and accomplishments and would very much like to take the opportunity to discuss my remuneration for the year ahead. 

For the more relaxed conversation processes, it can be good to send a brief agenda. Share a few bullet points from your reflections and successes, and include a time to discuss your career growth and potential roles further in the business. This helps keep a conversation on track and ensures you reach the topics you want to discuss as well as their meeting agenda.

By pre-warning them of the bigger questions ahead, it can give them a moment to prepare and come to the meeting ready with answers for you, particularly if this is the first time you are voicing these wishes!

If you’d rather skip the preparations, then set expectations that you may not get your answers immediately but be ready to ask for a follow-up meeting to discuss the requests and conversations you’ve had. Ideally, ask for the follow-up at the time, or if not, send a closing email after your review expressing your thanks for their time and reflections and how you would like to secure a time to discuss the mentioned career growth/pay rise etc. 

If you’d like to discuss preparing for your annual reviews further, or have any career questions, do not hesitate to reach out to the Noble Futures Team on +44 161 820 3510 or on [email protected].