How to create useful year end conversations – 3 key steps

The end of year review will be in sight for many of you.  What can you do to help your colleagues prepare well and make the most of this opportunity?

Many ‘year end’ conversations are over-stuffed with items that ‘must be addressed’ – from rating the past year of performance through to discussing development needs and career options. It’s vital that managers realise most of their colleagues will take away one or two messages from that meeting, regardless of all the notes you might both write.

Step One

Encourage managers to first think about what that key message is.  Do they want their colleague to go away feeling proud of what they have achieved, acknowledged that they made a great effort even if the results have yet to show, or perhaps that some of their behaviour needs to change?  We recommend managers write down this one key message for each of their team, and have it in sight during the conversation.

Step Two

Second, have two or three good questions to open up important topics to be discussed at the meeting.  If the topics relate to events that have happened, develop questions that encourage learning from experience – whether the experience was good or bad doesn’t matter.   Having the questions ready will make the conversation much easier, allowing the manager to focus their attention on their colleague, rather than worry about what to say next.

Step Three

Finally, think through anything that ‘must be said’, so the manager doesn’t forget it, or avoid it.  If some difficult feedback must be given (and probably it should have been given earlier, but we know that doesn’t always happen), write out the actual words.  If an achievement is worthy of a special comment, think about why – what was the impact – and again make a few notes.  People who have thought through what they want to say will feel more confident with their communication.


When a manager goes through these three simple steps in preparing for year end conversations, the results are reported as better by both manager and their colleague.  Even if there is extensive paperwork, these steps will help managers ‘see the wood for the trees’, ensuring year end conversations create value for them, their colleague and the organisation.


Download 3C’s useful guide for 3 Quick Wins for Managers to Love Appraisals