As businesses wind down for the holidays and the year comes to a close, employers everywhere begin conducting performance evaluations. How individual employers carry out their year-end reviews varies, but the end goal is usually the same: to assess and evaluate the performance of employees, identify their strengths, weaknesses, shortcomings, and accomplishments from the year, while setting goals for the upcoming year.

Traditionally, a performance evaluation has two parts. First, the employee will complete some kind of self-assessment/questionnaire provided by the employer. In it, he or she will answer questions about their accomplishments, how they feel they've done throughout the year, their goals for the upcoming year, and so on. Second, the employee will sit down with the employer to go over and discuss the evaluation, strategizing goals and tasks for the New Year.

While there's certainly nothing wrong with that model, there are definitely ways in which evaluation procedure can be improved upon. Sometimes the process of performance evaluations can become so routinized that the things discussed are easily glazed over and forgotten, leaving little behind in terms of guidance and improvement. As employers, if you see very little output coming as a result of your year-end reviews, it might be time to mix up how you approach your employees.


Because you could turn those boring, overlooked evaluations into an opportunity for collaboration, professional growth, and brainstorming to improve your business/company as a whole. You can use the necessity of employee evaluations as an opportunity to create a piece of professional programming that will ultimately benefit the structure, culture, and performance of your business. Here's how.

1. Make the evaluation questionnaire holistic.

Don't just ask a few questions that scrape the surface of how the employee feels about their year in review. Instead, break the evaluation up into categories, posing questions that are for both evaluating and being evaluated. For example, you could first have a section about the employees personal performance, asking questions like, which accomplishment are you most proud of? How does your performance this year compare to previous years? Where did you struggle the most?

Past that initial section, offer the employee a chance to think critically about their role by asking them about other elements of their work life. Maybe have a section that asks questions about their work-life balance or coworker relationships. You could even include questions about office culture, professional growth opportunities, or attitudes towards their work. By getting the wheels turning, you're more likely to get the employee thinking about how they can improve on a personal and professional level. And, as we know, happy and aware employees make for a successful business.

2. Create conversations around the evaluations.

One of the best ways to make sure performance evaluations are taken seriously is to create evaluation and improvement-based conversations around them. Start by getting the employees together into small groups. Then, give them a series of discussion points that prompt conversation about professional development, company goals, and overall work satisfaction.

By having employees engage with both employers and coworkers, your evaluation period can have a more lasting effect and inspire greater action. Having employees bounce ideas back and forth and share the experiences of their professional lives can offer mutual beneficial learning opportunities that will ultimately help the work place (and your business) thrive.

3. Host community and personal goal-setting activities.

Benjamin Franklin said it best, "if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail." That's why setting goals and developing action plans to achieve them is so important. The most important way to apply what you've learned from a performance evaluation is to set goals that move both individual and company progress forward. As part of that, it's important to have both personal and communal objectives for everyone to focus on throughout the upcoming year.

On a communal level, employers should share some of their goals they'd like to see the business as a whole achieve in the upcoming year. Then, employees can contribute goals for the categories included in their evaluation questionnaire. Once company-wide goals are determined, employees can then determine how best their personal goals fit into that equation and contribute to the bigger picture/company goals.

The Take-Away

If you're going to spend time on performance evaluations, you might as well find a way to make them as beneficial to employees and productive as possible. With that in mind, try tailoring your review process to meet your employees-and business-where they're at, so you can plan for the best year yet.