Year-end interviews: the importance of careful preparation

Whether they take place at the beginning or the end of the year, individual interviews remain an essential opportunity for exchange within companies. Two experts offer advice.

End-of-year interviews Annual appraisal Performance management Goal setting Feedback systems Dörte Resch Matthias Mölleney

The end-of-year performance review is a must in every company. This moment of evaluation and sharing allows an employer and his/her employees to look back on the past year and define objectives for the coming year. To be conducted in the best possible conditions, these discussions must be carefully prepared. "It is not a matter of planning these meetings just on principle," stresses Dörte Resch, Director of the Institute for Research and Development in Cooperation at the FHNW, the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland. "Every company should consider why they want to hold a meeting for each of their employees."

Usually, these meetings are integrated into a performance management process. It is therefore important to determine a strategy beforehand to determine the expected employee competencies and the indicators for their evaluation. The objectives of the company, the team and the individual, as well as how this process is to be organized, should also be defined in advance. "It is about assessing employee satisfaction with management, superiors, team culture and tasks," says Matthias Mölleney, founder of peopleXpert and director of the Center for Human Resources and Leadership Management at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HWZ). "This approach creates favourable conditions for mutual development."

Employee satisfaction

In addition to evaluating past performance and setting future goals, the end-of-year or beginning-of-year performance review is also an ideal opportunity for employers to hear what employees may want. Employees should get involved and review their past year's performance. They can take stock of their performance and the objectives they have set themselves, while also thinking about what they want to achieve in the coming year.

According to Dörte Resch: "Employers should always question how their employees feel and what issues are of concern to them. The interview is an opportunity for mutual exchange and to gauge general satisfaction with the work situation. The atmosphere should therefore be kept open at all times so that participants can discuss and express issues that are important to them."

The employer's task is to open discussions and facilitate genuine exchange. "A constructive and supportive attitude is important," says Matthias Mölleney. "It's not about settling scores but about finding a balance between demanding and encouraging. A team leader should be guided by the following three principles: respect, trust and esteem. The employee deserves the same respect that is expected of him or her. Trust is the most important asset in a team and should absolutely be at the center of leadership work."

The importance of regular interviews

Although these meetings are usually held once a year, they need not be restricted to that. In fact, an employer would be well advised to schedule a series of evaluations throughout the year. "The year-end interviews should be the most boring of all," says Matthias Mölleney. "A manager and an employee who regularly debrief on performance and achievements will not be surprised by the annual meeting's outcome. In other words, if employees find themselves nervous before the year-end meeting and don't know what to expect, it reflects a lack of employee follow-up by management."

As work patterns continue to evolve, these meetings must also be adapted to the company's actual situation. "It all depends on the organizational structure and the way leadership is understood," says Dörte Resch. "In a company with a more self-organized management style, other types of discussions are needed than in a company with a more hierarchical structure." For Matthias Mölleney, the end-of-year meetings may need to be redesigned: "In very modern, flexible organizations, employees rarely work exclusively for one superior throughout the year," he says. "The question then arises as to who should conduct the year-end performance review. Other forms of evaluation seem to be necessary here, including feedback between colleagues, for example."


On the theme

Choose a feedback system adapted to your company

Management distinguishes four typical methodologies to enable companies to assess the competencies of their employees and managers. From the most pragmatic to the most comprehensive, these systems are also a valuable aid for companies to improve not only the workplace environment but also the services offered.

90°: from top to bottom or from bottom to top

This system consists of employees evaluating their superiors, and vice versa. The employer and employees then evaluate themselves on the basis of questions asked by the feedback providers.

180°: from top to bottom and from bottom to top

Direct supervisors conduct an evaluation of employees, while employees are also selected to evaluate their supervisors. This perspective works in particular for companies where the manager leads a specific group of employees.

270°: asking for feedback from colleagues

This system offers an additional element and allows for a differentiated and therefore more precise evaluation of the feedback recipient. However, it is up to the HR manager to determine how the colleagues who provide feedback are selected.

360°: include customer feedback

Numerous studies have proven that internal engagement is linked to customer satisfaction. A 360° feedback involves developing questionnaires for customers to evaluate managers. Valuable but delicate, this type of feedback should be systematized in order to guarantee that it is constructive.

Sources: Feedback systems: Progressing together through feedback (Article, 20 September 2022) only in French

Last modification 02.11.2022

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