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These are the conversations leaders should have before the end of the year

Leadership development consultant Karen Eber says if you want to strengthen commitment from your employees, then you need to be doing this in their year-end summary conversations.

These are the conversations leaders should have before the end of the year
[Source images: Rawpixel; Nothing Ahead/Pexels]

Do you remember the conversation that convinced you to accept your current role? When your hiring manager described expectations, why they wanted to hire you specifically, and the vision for your growth and development? You learned how they believed in you and what they felt you would bring to the role. The conversation left you feeling valued, supported, understood, and seen. Your acceptance was a direct result of buying into this vision described for you. 

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Now imagine that your year-end performance management conversation had the same tone. Instead of spending 5 minutes discussing strengths and 45 minutes focused on development areas, what if a leader were to set out to rehire you in the conversation? Not just looking backward, but describing your opportunities for growth and development, laying out the path forward, and what you would bring to the work. 

It’s tempting to think of year-end conversations as a formality or a check-the-box exercise—especially in years that feel so different. But leaders who don’t approach these discussions with care can do significant damage. The way the conversations are conducted leaves a lasting imprint, often leaving employees feeling undervalued and discouraged, even in years of strong performance.  

Summary touchpoints are different from regular check-in conversations and should accomplish three things:

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  • reflect on the past year
  • help the employee understand their value and impact
  • rehire the employee

Yep, you read that right. Rehire your employee.

When you are hiring a candidate for a job, you thoughtfully describe their value, impact, and development opportunities. Your whole goal is to share a vision that creates hope and excitement so that they accept the position. That shouldn’t stop after the employee is hired. 

We need to tell people what we value most in them. Often we assume people already know what they are good at and we don’t make the effort to tell them. But if a leader isn’t telling employees what they value and appreciate most about them, how will the employees know? Tell employees why you need them in this job, what you value about them, and how they might grow and develop as they continue. 

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If you want to strengthen commitment from your employees, then you need to be doing this in their year-end summary conversations and a few times throughout the year. Rehiring your employees is one of the strongest retention tools leaders have. Employees are questioning daily whether they should stay in their roles or take advantage of a hot job market to make changes. When an employee doesn’t see a career path or doesn’t believe their manager has a vision for their career and development, they leave. If you want to retain employees, you have to help an employee discuss that vision. 

The year-end conversation is a wonderful time to rehire your employees. Yet managers and employees often dread these year-end conversations. They often fall flat and are deflating because they focus on the wrong goal. Managers often focus on completing the company process and forget about the person with hopes, dreams, and needs. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Setting your intention and preparing to rehire your employee can turn a bad conversation into a great one.

Bad year-end discussions look like this

  • Treating it as a one-way dialogue, talking at the employee instead of having a rich, two-way discussion.
  • Failing to tell the person what you value most about them and leaving them deflated, disengaged, and not feeling valued. 
  • Addressing positive items for 5% of the discussion and using the rest of the time talking about development gaps to improve upon. Employees are too busy bracing themselves for the negative comments to remember the positive ones. 
  • Bringing up things for the first time, often without examples, which should have been addressed in ongoing touchpoints. 
  • Avoiding discussion of other career growth opportunities for fear of not being able to backfill the employee’s role. 
  • Forgetting about the person and approaching it like a check-the-box exercise to complete a performance management requirement.
  • Asking the employee for feedback. A summary touchpoint is about the employee, and that should be the only focus. A leader should set up separate conversations to ask for feedback.
  • Failing to rehire the employee by not discussing the importance of their work and growth potential.

Great year-end discussions look like this

  • Dedicating time to prepare for the discussion, including gathering feedback from others to provide a varied perspective.
  • Asking the employee to share their reflections of the year, what they are most proud of, and how they are interested in growing and developing.
  • Helping the employee reflect by sharing their success and what created that success.
  • Having the employee describe what their best day at work was in the past year and how you can both create more of them in the upcoming year.
  • Describing in detail what the employee does well, what you value about them, and what they should continue doing. 
  • Inquiring how the employee can grow and contribute their strengths more. 
  • Reviewing development areas (which have already been discussed in check-in conversations with specific examples), discussing employee progress, and what help they need.
  • Discussing opportunities for growth in the current role, through projects, or in future roles.
  • Rehiring the employee. Make the case for why the employee has continued growth, opportunity, and value in this role and/or with the company and why you need them. 

Approach your year-end reviews with the mindset to rehire your employee. Help your employees reflect and understand how they are valued. Connect them to a vision for their future that allows them to feel excited about their growth and opportunity. Most important, create a renewed commitment. If you want to retain your employees, rehire them in your year-end conversations before they leave. 

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Karen Eber is the CEO and chief storyteller at Eber Leadership Group, a leadership development advisory company. She is also an international consultant, keynote, and TED speaker.


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