A growing number of companies, including GE, Accenture, and Deloitte, have done away with the annual review, opting instead for quicker feedback via monthly or quarterly check-ins. But there can be something powerful about looking at the past year as a whole—and it can be a good tool for personal growth, especially for entrepreneurs, says Lori Scherwin, founder of Strategize That, a management consulting firm.
"It is very important to set periodic career goals, otherwise what are you striving for?" she asks. "Setting goals requires a baseline, and a year-end review is a perfect mechanism to track progress, review your accomplishments, challenges, opportunities, and events from the prior year."
You can assess your results by giving yourself a year-end review. Here are six steps to make it happen:
Take time to write out every major event from the past year, suggests Scherwin. Bucket those into categories, such as projects, presentations, leadership, teamwork, compensation, and personal growth.
To ensure you captured everything, go back through calendars, meeting notes, and reports to find anything you might have missed, suggests human resources consultant Lisa Phalen.
And be sure to include life accomplishments, adds Scherwin: "Business success and life success are interchangeable," she says. "Happiness in one area has a trickle effect."
For each accomplishment, give yourself feedback. Try to be honest, fair, and objective, says Scherwin, and include qualitative and quantitative information. Qualitative measures include verbal commentary on your overall performance or certain attributes, such as "need to contribute more in meetings," and give you fodder for next-step goals. Quantitative remarks rank your skills using a scale such as one to five, where one is "needs significant improvement" and five is "outstanding."
For strongholds, ask yourself what skills or traits you used to make them happen, Scherwin says. "In weaker areas or challenges, identify what got in the way. Isolating factors is critical."
When it's quantifiable, match numbers to your results, such as increased revenue, cost avoidance or money saved, and increased customer or employee retention, says Phalen. This can help you determine how productive you have been versus being caught up with being busy.
If you wrote out goals for the year, pull them out and compare notes, suggests Chris Guillebeau, author of The Happiness of Pursuit.
"There are usually a few goals that I don’t achieve for whatever reason," he writes in his blog. "Sometimes circumstances change and the goal is no longer relevant. Other times, of course, I just fall short."
Guillebeau has been giving himself an annual review since 2005, and said the process boosts his success rate, which is around 80%. "I think that’s a good percentage, because if I consistently achieved 100% of my goals, I’d worry I was setting them too low," he writes.
Ask five key stakeholders their view. "You might find you are judging yourself too harshly, or conversely, too optimistically," says Scherwin. "Identify the gaps and come up with consensus."
You can also consider asking your colleagues for their feedback on your performance. Remember, when you ask for input, you can't dismiss it. Look for similar comments, which are indications of accurate assessments.
"How will you improve in your weaker areas? How will you continue to dominate your strongholds?" asks Scherwin. "Focus on both. What do you want to work on? What will make you most fulfilled?"
Going forward, keep your goals front and center, suggests Phalen. "Each time you've hit a milestone or have a measurable example of something on your plan, jot it down as you go throughout the year," she says. "Then at year-end, you can simply look at what you've tracked and summarize it."