By Jamy Sullivan, Executive Director of the Legal Practice for Robert Half

For most of us, the end of the year comes with heightened activity at work as we complete critical projects before breaking to spend time with friends and family. As an employee, you may have an end-of-year review to undergo — and to administer if you’re also a manager.

Besides being an occasion for reflection, the close of the year is also a time for looking ahead to growth strategies — for both you and any people you manage.

Let me share a few tips for making the most of this hectic-but-cheery time of year. From preparing for your performance review to celebrating with your team, remotely or in person, you can cap off another year with promise and purpose.

Employees: Optimize your performance review

The end-of-year review is not just a post-mortem on your accomplishments (and sometimes missteps); it’s an opportunity to reset or recommit to your career targets.

Take time to assess where you are on your goal path and what you need from your manager to stay on track or accelerate your progress. This should be a two-way conversation, meaning you and your manager should be active, collaborative partners in your future.

Organize your talking points in advance, and be prepared to discuss the following:

  • Examine your performance from the last year and identify areas for growth. First, review significant accomplishments and contributions to your team and the company as a whole. Be very specific in your examples. Second, articulate areas of opportunity for your career. Highlight any training you’ve completed and research and request new training that would help with ongoing development.
  • Solicit feedback from your colleagues. This is an important step, so push your inhibitions to the side and ask for honest opinions from your coworkers. What you learn could be incredibly valuable. Your manager will see your diligent preparation as well as how much you value input from your team members.
  • Appreciate the changes. Take stock of shifts in your responsibilities and improvements in your performance over the year. Be sure to focus on your work-life balance, the impact of remote or hybrid working conditions, and new skills and experiences gained during the 12 months.
  • Be prepared to discuss goals and aspirations. What is it you’re looking for next in your career? Perhaps a promotion and/or a salary increase? What can your manager do to help get you there? Have some ideas ready to facilitate a productive conversation.
  • Research market data for salary and bonus trends, as well as in-demand skills. The Salary Guide From Robert Half is a good resource for this. At a minimum, you’ll be prepared to negotiate if compensation is discussed. You may also uncover new paths to the next step in your career.

Download The Salary Guide From Robert Half.

Managers: Combine employee engagement and holiday giving

To support morale and retain valued employees, managers should recognize employees throughout the year — but it’s most expected at the end of the year. 

Even if your team is remote and dispersed, there are many ways to recognize and reward your team and build engagement. The holiday bonus is a popular one, but there are many other engagement opportunities perfect for this time of year. Here are just a few:

  • Give back to your community. This is one of my personal favorites because it’s such a great team builder. Have your team vote on a charitable organization they would like to support and develop a fundraising or gifting activity in which they can physically or financially participate. You could “adopt” people or pets in need during the holidays, fulfill a wish list of items a charity needs, assemble activity or emergency kits, or create an online donation portal linked to participation
  • Plan playful team events. Host an ugly holiday sweater contest, gingerbread house-decorating or culinary events to learn about traditional holiday foods for Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Those are a few ideas I’ve seen bring teams together in a fulfilling way, and they work well for virtual teams.
  • Close operations early for holidays. This is one that almost everyone loves, and it resonates with me as the “gift of time.” Many employees experience burnout and haven’t been able to take enough time away from work this year to spend with their families or focus on wellness for themselves. If you can offer your employees time off — and encourage them to turn off the computer and not check email or be on call — you’ll show how much you appreciate all the efforts they put in this year.

Set the tone for a bright new year

Year-end goals should include planning for kickoff meetings with your team to start the New Year. For managers and staff alike, these offer a great opportunity to set the tone for the first quarter. What do you plan to accomplish? How do you plan to accomplish it?

Whether you’re running the meeting or attending, get the most out of these kickoffs by coming away with a roadmap to guide you in the first days and weeks of 2024. Next, take some time to reflect on what you and your team have accomplished together this past year.

Finally — and this is the most important item to check off your list — let go. Intentionally step away from work for the holidays to recharge.  

No matter your role in the organization, recharging is a task none of us can take for granted. Coming back to work refreshed, with renewed focus, helps the entire team start the year off strong.

I wish you all a very happy and healthy holiday season with hope for a joyful return, refreshed and ready for the challenges next year will bring.