Sean Conrad of Halogen software sent me this guest post full of great career success advice the other day. You need to put this career advice to work.
Prepare Now for Your Performance Review
No matter whether your annual performance review is around the corner or many months away, it’s time now to begin preparing for it. Here are three facts about performance reviews that might surprise you:
1. An effective performance review can be extremely useful in helping you as an employee achieve your career goals. In order to succeed in your career, you must succeed in your current job. In order to do that, you must know what you’re doing well and what you need to improve. Without knowing what’s expected of you and how your performance adds up, you may be working as hard as you can but not achieving the results that will help get you where you want to go.
2. You are equally responsible with your manager for implementing an effective performance review. This is not the time to sit back and hope that your manager does it right. Your proactive preparation and participation are necessary for you to get the direction and feedback you need to succeed.
3. How you prepare for your performance review is as important as how you participate in it. Your manager may not be able to observe or remember all your achievements throughout the year. By following the guidelines described below, you will help your manager objectively evaluate your performance and provide you with useful feedback.
Get Clarity on Performance Expectations
The first step in preparing for your performance review begins well before it – preferably at the start of the performance year. Make sure you clearly understand what you should be working on and what “good” performance looks like. If your organization sets goals and objectives for individual performers and includes performance measures to help you understand what constitutes good performance, all the better. Discuss these with your manager and make sure you know how they translate to your daily work. If your organization does not have a formal goal-setting or performance measurement program, refer to your job description and ask your manager to help you understand what is most important in your work. Once you and your manager agree, write down your work priorities and expectations and give a copy to your manager. Then, focus on those things and work to do your best.
Check Performance Throughout the Year
As the year progresses, refer to your written plan on a regular basis to make sure you’re working on the right things. If priorities have shifted, rewrite your plan and get agreement from your manager. Ask for feedback on how well you’re performing compared to the expectations that have been set. Don’t settle for a vague answer like “fine;” ask for details and specific examples of what you are doing well and what should change. Then take steps to implement the changes.
Many times there are others besides your manager who see and provide insights into your performance. Don’t be shy about asking for feedback from them and using it to adjust and improve your work.
As you complete projects, achieve objectives or receive feedback, keep a written record of what you’ve accomplished. Keep any complimentary emails, reports or other evidence of the good work that you’re doing. Review notes from your previous performance reviews, ongoing feedback and developmental plans and note progress you’ve made. If applicable, ask colleagues or project leaders to write a short review of your work with them, especially if your manager may not have had visibility of your work.
Evaluate Your Performance
After reviewing the data you’ve collected, conduct an objective self-appraisal of your performance. If applicable, use the company’s performance evaluation form (the same one your manager will use to evaluate you) to evaluate yourself. Don’t be shy about giving yourself credit for work well done, but look also for areas where there may be room for improvement. This will help you open your mind to learn from any negative feedback you may get in your performance review. Think about your career goals and development needs and research resources that will be helpful in achieving them. Don’t be afraid to ask for the assistance you need to improve your performance.
Write a Summary of Accomplishments
Write a concise summary of the progress you’ve made and your specific achievements from the performance period. Be prepared to back up your claims with the evidence you’ve gathered. Include the names of people your manager could contact to get further input on your work. Share your summary with your manager before he/she sits down to evaluate your performance. This information will help your manager and will most likely be warmly received. But remember that your manager may have a somewhat different take on your performance, especially in view of the larger picture to which he/she has access.
Remember that Feedback is a Gift
Every mechanism or system, whether mechanical or organic, needs feedback in order to calibrate to run smoothly. Without feedback, there is no way of knowing if you’re heading up the ladder or off the cliff. As you prepare to meet with your manager to discuss your performance, keep an open mind. Be prepared to show the evidence you’ve gathered about the good work you’ve done, but listen as well for information that will help you do even better. Your active preparation for and participation in your performance review will not only provide you with valuable feedback, but will demonstrate to your manager that you’re interested in doing your best and in proactively contributing to the department and company’s success.
Sean Conrad writes about employee performance, development and career success for the Halogen Software blog. He’s a Certified Human Capital Strategist and a specialist in appraisal software.