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The guide for new HR managers, Part 2: The annual HR cycle

Just like organisations, annual HR cycles are all different. If you are the very first HR manager in your organisation, it’s likely that you’ll need to design and implement the processes. But where should you start?


“The salary review and the appraisal are processes that every organisation usually already has in place, in one way or another. “Start with these,” recommends CatalystOne’s VP People & Culture Camilla Hydén Karlsson.

When the essentials are in place, you can introduce other processes that support the organisation’s ambitions and needs. If appraisal has been the only regular follow-up of individual employees, it is recommended to consider a shift towards continuous performance follow-up. “Status reviews“, or “one-on-ones, or “check-ins”, it has many names, are important touchpoints between managers and employees, and the main purpose of these dialogues is to evaluate development goals and objectives that are currently active. “Since we live in a fast changing environment, the need to update both objectives and personal development activities are often needed to ensure high engagement and impact throughout the year. Other levels of follow-up are more informal coffee talks, and feedback from colleagues.

The work balance survey is another process that most organisations have as part of their annual HR cycle. It’s a great way to gain valuable insights about possible challenges in your organisation and management strategies and routines. When considering where to place the employee survey in your annual cycle, consider that the results of the survey require work, and the conclusions should be translated into actionable development goals. Therefore it makes sense to run the employee survey at a reasonable time before appraisals, for example 2-3 months before. However, a yearly employee survey is usually never enough to understand employee engagement on a daily basis. “Therefore it is recommended to consider more frequent pulse surveys throughout the year.”

To ensure your organisation has the skills you need tomorrow, you will also need a process for competence development. What development processes and offerings can the organisation provide and what should the employee take responsibility to initiate?

Developing an annual HR cycle is the first stage of your annual plan: don’t forget you will also need to implement these processes and provide the organisation with the necessary tools. It’s key you prioritise, but Camilla also has a piece of advice if you feel like your ‘to do’ list keeps getting longer: “Set your ambitions at a reasonable level. You don’t need to have everything in place at once.”

Are you considering going digital with the help of an HR-system? “You need to have your annual HR cycle in place first. Only then can you digitalise it,” says Camilla.

Examples of activities for an HR annual cycle


  • Employee reviews: Conduct quarterly or semi-annual employee reviews to ensure continuous feedback and development.
  • Pulse surveys: Conduct quick and short pulse surveys throughout the year to measure employee engagement and well-being.


  • Continuous performance management: Review and update employees' individual development goals and plans.
  • Skill development: Evaluate the organisation's skill needs and plan for skill development activities.

Annual Activities:

  • Annual employee survey: Conduct an in-depth annual employee survey and analyse the results to identify challenges and strategic areas to focus on.
  • Training planning: Plan and schedule training programs to support employee development and organisational goals.
  • Recruitment and onboarding: Review the recruitment process and plan onboarding activities for new employees.
  • Salary Revisions: Plan and conduct quarterly or semi-annual salary revisions and compensation reviews.

Ad Hoc Activities:

  • Conflict resolution: Address conflicts and issues within the organisation as needed.
  • Offboarding: Plan for and manage the termination of employment, including exit interviews and offboarding processes.
  • Policy updates: Review and update employee handbooks and policies as needed.
  • Monthly reporting: Collect and analyse HR-related data to monitor trends and results.

Implementing an HR annual cycle

Once you have identified the key HR processes to include in your annual cycle, the next step is to ensure their effective implementation. This means taking initiatives to ensure that all relevant employees and departments are aware of the established routines and have the opportunity to follow them. This may include training managers and employees on new procedures and providing the necessary resources and tools to support the processes.

Evaluate and adjust the annual cycle

It's important to remember that the HR annual cycle is not a static document. It's important to evaluate and adjust it regularly to ensure that it still meets the organisation's needs and goals. You can include regular evaluation points throughout the year to analyse how the various HR processes are working and whether they need to be adjusted. Use feedback from employees, managers, and the executive team to inform any improvements or changes that need to be made. Flexibility is the key to a successful annual HR plan that can adapt to changing needs and circumstances.

Did you miss out on the first chapter in this blog series? It covers “The Must Haves”, so go check it out – you will find it here.
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Hope Mears Østgaard

Hope Mears Østgaard, 14 December 2017

Hope Mears Østgaard is Senior Vice President Marketing at CatalystOne. She loves tech marketing and has over the course of her career built the marketing teams for successful growth of several SaaS companies. She is a passionate leader, tech advocate and communicator.

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