Go on be honest how much preparation do you put in for that end of year performance review meeting? Maybe it’s on the way into work that morning, or in the shower – it’s amazing what you can solve while rinsing out the shampoo! Maybe you feel that the process is all a sham and not worth your time because your manager and you don’t see eye to eye and/or won’t give you the performance rating you feel you deserve. 

But imagine for a moment that you could influence the performance rating your manager gives you which in turn impacts your annual review, potential bonus, and career opportunities. Wouldn’t it be worth an hour of your time to prepare, don’t you owe yourself that?

And this year it is even more important that you take time to think about what you want and need to get out of this meeting.  2020 has brought many challenges including homeworking for a large chunk of it.  When we aren’t located in the same building it can be harder for our manager to understand all that we do.  This is your chance to make sure they get it, that they understand.  Secondly, we know that many companies are struggling financially and as a result, we are seeing increased numbers of redundancies.  It is highly likely that your organisation will use the performance review process in its redundancy selection process. This is your chance to make your voice heard.

Has anybody ever told you or given you advice on how to prepare for a performance review?  All too often it’s assumed we know.  As an HR professional for over 20 years here is my perspective on how to get the most from your session.

Unfortunately, not all managers are skilled at holding these meetings; they may not have had a good role model themselves and no idea of what a good review looks like. If this is the case with your manager you need to help them out. You need to make sure they have the information that will give you the best chance possible. And while you may be feeling you are doing your managers job, it is ultimately you who will be the benefit.

Why should I have to sell myself? You may not be comfortable telling your manager how great you are and many of us aren’t (check out my previous blog Don’t be that boastful brat’) If this is you I want you to think differently about this process. Managers don’t remember everything and won’t know everything that you have done. You need to help them by reminding and sharing information with them. Managers don’t know what you think, how you feel and what you want. Like many of us, they struggle to remember past yesterday!

If you work in an organisation where you have been set objectives use this as your starting point. Now you need to think about all the actions you have taken to meet these objectives and if they include a measurement then document how are you performing against it. Now think about any mitigating factors that need to be considered, what other factors have impacted you in achieving this objective.

To help remind you of all the things you have done and if you haven’t got a specific set of objectives try this exercise:

Open your calendar, start at the beginning of the performance year remind yourself of some of the challenges/ tasks you had. Draw a table with three columns and use the following headings.

  • Task/challenge/objective – summarise it.
  • The outcome you achieved – what was the outcome, include details of actions you took and any measurements that are relevant.
  • What you learned from this task/challenge/objective – what you have learned, are now able to do, what went well for you and what challenges you faced.

Prepare a copy for you to use in your meeting and to leave with your manager so that they can refer back to it at a later date.

If you work in an organisation which involves your manager attending a meeting with their peers to talk about proposed ratings, this document is going to be invaluable to your manager. I have sat in many meetings when the manager has been asked to explain their rating and when they don’t have sufficient evidence or information they have struggled to justify their proposal.

Your manager does not have a crystal ball. The performance review is not all about looking backwards, it should have an element which is focused on your development helping you to be the best that you can be in your role or helping prepare you for the next move. Unfortunately, the development aspect is often the part that is glossed over as managers have concerns about raising expectations or struggle with fears around how to have these conversations or losing you. However, in reality, this is the element that will be most valuable in moving forward. Many times I have been talking to a manager after a person has resigned and they have uttered the words ‘If only they had come and talked to me about …..’ If your manager doesn’t know what you find interesting in your job, how you would like to develop your knowledge skills further, then how can they support you? Remember your manager doesn’t know what they don’t know. We all have to take responsibilities for our own career development, but your manager can support you. Remember career development may not be about moving into another role, upwards, sideways or downwards, it can also be about parts of your current role that you would like to become more experienced in or learn more about another part of your organisation.

Add to your preparation document the following:

  • What would help me grow in my job?
  • What aspect of the company/department would I like to know more about?
  • What can my manager help me with in terms of developing my skills and/or developing my career?

Be prepared to explain how this would help you be more effective.

Opportunity to get to know your manager better. Sometimes the performance review is one of the few times we get to sit down uninterrupted with our manager one on one. This can be a time where you get to understand more about them, what they like about what you do and what they need you to change. Have you ever asked your manager what they would like to see you do differently?

It also can be a chance for you to ask for something to be changed. If you have something that is not working for you, have you thought about sharing this? But remember this golden rule. You are the one that’s doing the job, so you probably have the best idea about how it can be changed. Therefore present a potential solution(s) as well as your challenge.

Now, what are you waiting for, block out that time on your calendar and give yourself the best chance possible and if nothing else it allows you to reflect on what you have accomplished in the last 12 months and give you evidence to use for that interview if you decide it’s time to move on!

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