Do you view your annual review as a meaningless bureaucratic exercise? If so, it’s time to start taking it seriously. Supervisors typically invest a lot in the process and expect that their employees will too. In fact, in a Robert Half survey, 94 percent of managers polled said they believe performance reviews are effective in helping workers improve their performance.
If you have a performance review approaching, here are tips on preparing for this important pow-wow:
Don’t procrastinate. What you get out of your performance review has everything to do with what you put into it. It’s not something to passively “endure.” If you’re given pre-review work, such as a self-assessment, devote time and care to it.
All too often, employees scramble to fill out forms at the last minute. But if you race through these documents without much reflection, you send the wrong message to your manager and sell yourself short. When you’re rushed, you’re more apt to forget key information that could help your cause. Plus, you want to give your boss adequate time to incorporate your input into his or her evaluation.
Quantify your contributions. As you think back on the year and cite your top successes, be sure to connect those achievements to the bottom line. For instance, did you identify an inefficiency and propose a fix that saved your employer time or money? Did you receive accolades from an industry group that generated positive public relations for the company? Did you get letters of praise from clients or colleagues? Underscore your value to the firm by documenting your accomplishments in detail.
Take responsibility for your professional growth. The performance review gives you an opportunity to pinpoint potential career paths. Do your homework by researching relevant professional development opportunities. Go into the meeting with a list of conferences, courses or training events you’d like to explore in the coming year to grow your skills and enhance your effectiveness.
Discuss the options with your manager, and solicit his or her advice and assistance on what projects, responsibilities or trainings he or she believes will best help you reach the next level. Doing so shows drive, focus and commitment — qualities that virtually every manager seeks in an employee.
Anticipate some tough feedback. Few individuals walk out of their review having received only this advice: “You’re performing perfectly — don’t change a thing!” Almost everyone has areas he or she could work on, so expect some constructive criticism. It’s all part of the process.
Go into the meeting with an open mind. If your supervisor offers pointed feedback in a specific area, respond by mentioning potential remedies. He or she will likely offer additional action steps. Be receptive to the suggestions rather than acting defensive or making excuses. While you may not agree with everything your manager says, it’s important to display a positive attitude.
State your needs. The best bosses consider the annual review to be a venue for two-way learning. They not only deliver constructive criticism, they solicit it as well. Of all the comments or questions you encounter during a review, the most difficult to respond to might be, “What can I do better as your manager?”
Don’t let this request for candor catch you off-guard. Reflexively saying “nothing” is a missed opportunity, while a harsh off-the-cuff critique won’t score you any points. Carefully consider (or even rehearse with a friend) how you’ll tactfully ask for what you want, whether it’s greater autonomy or clearer communication about departmental priorities.
Finally, if you plan on requesting a raise during your performance review, arrive armed with data. To make a compelling case, you should know your market value and have a particular salary range in mind. Consult reputable resources such as Robert Half’s 2013 Salary Guides. Again, preparation makes all the difference.