Five tips for the perfect performance review

11 April 2018 -

Performance review

From career growth to pay increases, how can you make your performance review work to your advantage? Insights asks career development expert Simon North about the steps you should follow for a successful appraisal

Love them or hate them, appraisals provide an opportunity to reflect on your workplace performance, and outline your future development. But many underestimate the value of performance reviews, and turn up underprepared. In order for an appraisal to be useful, it’s important to recognise what you want to gain from the discussion, and how you can implement these objectives into the workplace.

Whether you’re a seasoned appraisee, or about to have your first appraisal, follow these tips to ensure the perfect performance review.

Five tips for the perfect performance review

See the big picture

An appraisal can seem overwhelming, but this shouldn’t be the case. This is largely because appraisers and appraisees try to cover too many points in one meeting, North explains.

On the one hand, an appraisal should provide a retrospective look at your performance and outline what you want to achieve next, but so often, discussions surrounding promotions, pay rises and learning and development become thrown into the mix.

“The best advice you can give somebody when going into an appraisal is to take a deep breath, step back, and try very hard to see the bigger view,” North says.

If you have recently joined your company, look back at your job description and consider how closely your role and day-to-day responsibilities align with this. If you have been in your company a while, reflect on the changes that have happened during the year, and whether this has affected your role.

“As the organisation changes, whether it changes its name, downsizes, goes through a merger or an acquisition, you go with that tidal flow,” North explains. “Quite often, you don’t realise what has happened since you last sat down and had a chat.”

Think ahead

In an age where career paths are more fluid, it’s crucial to plan your future goals, and spot opportunities for growth. These can range from making a case for a promotion, or asking to work on new projects.

Compile a list of successful projects and feedback, and consider how you can build on these achievements to further your professional development. Think about whether your organisation can provide additional training to help with this.

“Be clear about what it is you want to gain from the conversation,” North says. “Yes, an appraisal is about the past, it’s definitely about the present, but it’s significantly about the future.”

Make it count

It’s rare that you’re part of a conversation that centres on your ambitions, so make the most of it! Think of your performance review as a chance to ask questions and request feedback. If this is your first appraisal, try not to feel anxious, and look forward to it. “Your performance review is a really important part of your professional journey,” North explains, “take it seriously and enjoy it.”

While appraisals can be pressurised situations, remember that your manager is on your side, North says. “You both have a common purpose, and in the future you will carry on working with and for them.”

Keep open-minded

Ahead of the appraisal, it’s natural to feel anxious about receiving negative feedback, but North explains that the purpose of the review should never be to criticise. Rather, it should encourage open conversation between the appraiser and appraisee. However, he adds, if there is an issue that should be brought up, it should be brought up in the moment, and quietly.

If you do receive criticism during your appraisal, avoid being emotional about it, listen, and try to get to the cause of it. "If there's something to be reflected on, hear it and then take it out of that meeting, and come back and have a separate conversation," North says.

However, he explains, criticism is only reasonable if it is specific. "On reflection, if you feel that the feedback is valid, come back and say to your manager 'I accept your comments, and this is what I ought to do about it, do you agree with me?'" he says. "This way, you're dealing with it in a professional manner."

Book follow-up meetings

According to a survey by American management consulting company, Gallup, just 14% of employees strongly agree that performance reviews encourage them to improve. The appraisal process is often criticised for being too time-consuming and ineffective, but this reinforces the wider confusion surrounding the process: appraisers and appraisees try to pack too many conversations into one meeting. To improve staff performance, companies such as Deloitte, Accenture and Adobe have moved away from the annual review process and offer a regular review system.

Once you have had your appraisal, schedule a follow-up meeting with your appraiser, and outline the key points you have taken from the review. It might be useful to  book a series of meetings to discuss topics such as bonuses or promotions.

Often, North says, people can overlook the importance of these appraisal conversations, and the impact they have on our career development: "after all, how often are you involved in a conversation which is all about you?"

Simon North is the founder of career consulting company Position Ignition

Image: Shutterstock

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