What Is a Performance Review?
A performance review, also sometimes known as an appraisal, is an individualized assessment where your current performance as an employee is evaluated from all angles.
Each review will be documented so that your manager can keep track of your performance.
Depending on your company’s structure, performance reviews could occur on a regular to semi-regular basis. In modern business, performance reviews can occur as often as once a month.
Your manager should not be there to catch you out, or punish you; it is within their best interests (as well as the company’s) to support you in the most beneficial way possible.
Employee success ultimately drives the overall productivity of the business.
Types of Performance Review
A 360-degree review is when information is collated not only from your manager, but from your work colleagues, other members of the business and clients.
This helps you as an employee to understand your strengths and weaknesses as viewed by a wide range of people, and is a great way of grasping what others’ perceptions of you might be.
Straight Ranking Appraisal
This is a method that compares all employees directly to each other, so that it is relatively simple for management to see at a glance which employees are excelling, and who needs to put more effort into their performance.
However, employees that end up at a middle grading are difficult for management to compare and review.
Grading is an efficient method that grades an employee on different workplace skills.
Employees could be scored on either a numerical or an alphabetical scale, and also on a report scale from 'outstanding' through to 'unacceptable'.
Although this is a clear way to see areas of strengths and weaknesses, this method is also subjective and could be unreliable if used without other appraisal methods.
Management by Objectives
This is a commonly used method. Simply put, the employee will be set gaugeable goals by their manager, to be achieved within a set time frame.
This means that there is less room for ambiguity and the employee can set a clear path to success.
A probationary review is used to assess a new employee.
Probationary periods traditionally last between three to six months, during which time the employee’s performance and company culture fit are monitored to inform a final conclusion.
This decision will ultimately result in the employee staying with the company or moving on.
If this review is the one you’re preparing for, remember that you are also there to assess whether the role and the company are the right fit for you.
Finally, a self-review does what it says; prior to a meeting with the manager, the employee fills in a self-assessment form.
This form will typically include questions on different skills that you as an employee will be expected to use within your job.
During your meeting with your manager, you will go through the assessment together.
Why Are Performance Reviews Important?
Performance reviews have an impact on the success of both the business and the individual.
If employees feel valued and supported, and they have reachable and achievable goals to work towards, their productivity will show on the inside and outside of the business.
An initiation of open dialog in any context is a move towards positive outcomes.
This kind of dialog also strengthens relationships and encourages a culture of honesty and openness.
A well-executed performance review that is prepared for can help to align relationships across your organization and ultimately be a spark to light the fire of your potential.
If performance reviews are considered by both parties as an ongoing process to be built upon, conversations will be constructive and relevant.
As Bill Gates has noted, “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve”.
What to Expect in a Performance Review
Performance reviews can be a source of stress and anxiety at any time, whether you are a seasoned performance reviewee or not. Remember, when you experience nerves over something, it is first and foremost a sign that you care about the source of your anxiety.
As long as you spend some time preparing and go into your review with an attitude of positivity, you should be able to calm much of the tension you might be feeling.
The review should cover all of your work during the previous period since your last performance review, or since you joined the company. Be prepared to look at your performance overall as well as during more recent times.
You may also be asked to fill out a self-assessment form prior to your performance review, depending on your company’s setup.
If during your last review, or during the start of your work at the company, you were set goals to achieve, this will also be discussed and assessed based on how much of the goal was accomplished.
You will also be set new goals to reach, as well as personal objectives that run in parallel to the company and your own abilities.
Career development may also be reviewed. Therefore, be ready to perhaps discuss subjects such as pay increases and your next steps within your role, perhaps to a more senior position.
How to Prepare for a Performance Review
To prepare in advance, review your performance, accomplishments and achievements (and bring any information or documentation with you to support your points).
It will be beneficial to you if you are able to obtain prior to your performance review the details that your manager wishes to cover.
If you are well prepared for your manager’s agenda, there will be no room for surprise and you can prepare accordingly.
If this isn’t possible, make sure that you set time aside to consider your performance. This means considering it from all angles, including the good and the bad.
Be Prepared to Discuss Any Mistakes With Integrity
Remember that how you respond to criticism will be noted by your manager. If you made a mistake, you are likely to earn more respect from your manager by reviewing it honestly and admitting your mistake, than trying to gloss over it.
To further build bridges, you can discuss with your manager how you will respond to situations in the future to avoid making the same mistakes.
Set New Goals
When setting new goals, remember that they will be noted down by your manager and will come up in your next performance review; therefore, make them realistic. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Equally, make sure your goals are something for you to strive towards. They are an exciting chance to prove yourself – not only to your company but to you as well.
Be Prepared for Negative Feedback
If things have been bumpy for you at work lately, your boss may well have some adverse feedback for you.
Remember that giving a proactive response to this is key.
If you are unsure how to move on from the negative feedback, ask your manager for support; they should want to support and help you.
The negative feedback may relate to something fixable; perhaps a project took too long because of a breakdown in communication, or your teamwork skills need to be improved.
Questions are a great way to give more leeway to open and honest conversation with your manager.
This means that you have less chance of misinterpreting what your manager is saying, and also more opportunities for making yourself and your goals clear.
Your questions should focus predominantly on expectations and goals. For example, you may need to ask for more specifics on how your manager would prefer tasks to be carried out so that you know what is expected of you.
Request a Copy of Your Evaluation Ahead of the Review
If possible, request a copy of your evaluation ahead of your review. This will remove any element of surprise (your review isn’t meant to be a visit from the Spanish Inquisition) and will help you to prepare.
Be Prepared to Ask for Things You Want From Your Employer
It could also be a great opportunity to ask for and consider where you could benefit from more training.
For example, if your company offers a chance to gain certification within an area of your job, you may have reached the stage where you can consider discussing it with your manager.
Remember, this is an opportunity where you have your manager’s full attention, and the spotlight will be on you.
Key Questions to Ask During Your Performance Review
To ensure the discussion between you and your manager is as beneficial as possible, you should make sure that you are asking the right questions.
Asking precise questions that you have given prior thought to shows that you are going that extra mile.
When listening to your manager’s response, make sure that you pay attention and ask for more explanation if needed.
How you frame your questions is also important. In the examples given in this article, the questions are specifically framed in a positive and open way, so that your manager will feel more at ease.
This means that your manager is much more likely to respond in a constructive way.
Here are some example questions to get you started:
- How can I contribute to the success of our team?
- What requirements are needed for a candidate in my position seeking a promotion?
- How is my progress measured?
- What skills do you think I could build on?
- Are there any opportunities for professional development, or courses I could attend?
- How can I support my team better?
- What things can I do to make your job more straightforward?
- Are there any changes that the company will be making in the future?
What to Do After Your Performance Review
Focus on Improvement and Your Strengths (Rather Than Any Negative Points or Weaknesses)
Improvement is of course a positive spin on past mistakes.
If you begin to set your work mindset to one of improvement rather than failure, you are already making a positive shift within your life.
Create a Career Development Plan
Developing a career plan can sound like a very intimidating, time-consuming thing to do. However, without a plan, you are feeling around in the dark.
Putting this plan in place should also help to maintain a feeling of motivation at work.
Even if you haven’t reached your dream job just yet, you know what steps you will have to take to get there.
Schedule Goal Milestones
To reach your intended long-term set of goals, it is necessary to reach short-term goals along the way.
This helps to give you a sense of quantifiable achievement.
Your long-term goals could take years or even decades to fully realize, but setting yourself short-term goals will maintain your feeling of focus.
It’s also exciting when you realize you have achieved a specific milestone on your journey and furthered your personal development.
Try to obtain your manager’s feedback on a regular basis. That way, you will easily fall into the positive habit of not only maintaining a healthy relationship with your manager, but also of preparing for your next performance review.