It’s that time of year again. A time to look back, to reflect and to think about what comes next. For some people, this is also a time of worry, panic and nervousness as they begin to prepare for their annual performance review or appraisal.
Why do we get nervous though? Is it because the appraisal is the only time you ever get feedback, or is it because the review is linked to your salary? Is it because you have no idea of how you are actually performing?
To get past this nervousness and actually have a meaningful and useful appraisal, plan your meeting ahead of schedule. Ensure both you and your manager are ready for the process, that you have plenty of time. Go in with an open mind, and be ready to say what you need to in a positive way. I’ve listed 7 key steps that I use in the preparation of my own appraisal. Hopefully they will be of use to you.
Information is key!
Before starting, gather up as much documentation as possible. Remember, if your manager has more than one appraisal to prepare, he or she may not have as much time to prepare for your appraisal or even have access to the same level of information as you, so do some of the preparation for them.
- Gather together any reports you have made over the last year, (weekly, monthly)
- Obtain a copy of your job description
- Look at your yearly objectives
- Review any significant events from the previous year, ensure you know exactly what happened
- Look at any training courses completed
- What is the company vision and strategy and how is your role and actions aligned with achieving this
List your accomplishments
- What exactly have you done?
- What were your successes?
- What training have you completed?
- What milestones have you passed?
- What has happened over the last year?
- Were there any important meetings, events?
Of course your manager is going to evaluate you, but by evaluating yourself first, you come armed with knowledge and ready to ask questions and get to the root of any problems or conflicts so that you can move forward in a positive manner.
- Why were you successful in some areas?
- How could you improve on your successes?
- What went wrong?
- What could have been done differently?
- What have you learned from the experience?
- How has your performance changed and improved over the last year?
- How could your manager support you in the difficult areas?
Training needs / Areas for development
I firmly believe that no-one is a finished product. We all have areas that could be improved. Instead of seeing this as a negative, simply see it as an area of growth. The next year you will grow in another area and so on. Looking at the difficulties you encountered over the last year, what do you need to strengthen you to tackle these difficulties differently and get a better outcome? Do you need leadership training? Do you need a language course? Also look at where you want to be in a few years time. Where you think your current role is leading you to? Remember this is an opportunity to influence your manager! Be prepared to ask for what you want!
- What training courses does the company offer that you are interested in?
- Are there any other training courses you might benefit from attending?
- What areas do you need support in?
- Are there any “soft skills”, that need to be adopted in your role?
- Is there any room for growth in your current position?
- Do you need a new challenge? Are you bored?
Based on the information you now have, how will you move forward? What steps do you need to take to get you from here (Point A) to there (Point B)? Use SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Realistic, Achievable, Timed). Make sure that the objectives are neither too hard nor too easy. You want to be stretched, but not exhausted. The objectives have to be something you can monitor regularly and also define exactly, otherwise you will never succeed.
- What will success look like at the end of the year?
- Where does your company need to be?
- Where do you want to be?
- How can you measure that success?
- When will the objective be reached?
Share your work beforehand
Your manager needs to be ready for your point of view, so let them see your preparation work. This way they know the direction the appraisal is going to take and they can therefore be prepared for it. Give them your view on your achievements, the training you want to do in the next year. This way they can evaluate what is possible and what isn’t and give you real feedback.
Prepare your questions and for your manager’s feedback
Your manager is bound to have questions for you and have an opinion of his / her own on your performance. Be ready with open questions to really understand their point of view. Remember, the appraisal process is not a one way street, but a conversation.
- If you have performed negatively, be ready to ask for examples so that you can better understand the situation properly.
- If you have new objectives that you weren’t aware of and therefore haven’t prepared for, ask for more detail
- If you want a new position, prepare your question in advance. Instead of saying “I’m bored and want to do something different” or “I want…”, mention that you noticed that someone in the office was moving on, and that you feel you could be useful, taking on some of their former responsibilities. Alternatively, identify an area of development for the company, mention your interest in the topic and your previous successes in a similar area. Suggest that this might be beneficial for the company if you took this on as a project.
- Your manager will probably find it just as difficult to give you negative feedback as you will to hear it. Listen to what they are trying to say, focus on the action they want to change, summarise it in positive terms. Do not take it as a criticism of you, but as a criticism of your actions / behaviour. Try not to be defensive.
Regardless of how badly you feel you have performed compared to your colleagues, remember that it isn’t a competition. You are not in a race. Your appraisal is about you, your behaviour and your results. Even if you disagree with your manager’s viewpoint, you should still be able to get something out of the process – a way forward that you can both agree on.
By being prepared, you are opening the way to meaningful dialogue and a better year looking forward!