The end of the year marks the beginning of an exciting festive season. At work though, it commonly marks the yearly dreaded performance review.
This year in particular I have been inundated with friends asking me for advice about how to manage (and survive!) their upcoming performance reviews. The event is all too often associated with negative feelings and a sense of dread.
In its pure sense, I am such a huge advocate of performance reviews. In fact I really see the value in them – when they are done right!
I am saddened by the tick box status of performance reviews. Both managers and employees rush the process ‘just to get it done’ because it’s a company requirement. Very little preparation or reflection is involved.
With a couple of tweaks and just a bit of investment (from both the manager and employee side), the benefits of a good performance review are well and truly worth it as they can help paint a holistic picture of employees, beyond the hard quantifiable performance related data.
So here are my favourite tips for both sides sitting at the performance review table!
Tips for the Boss
- Give Your staff the Gift of Time and an Opportunity to Prepare
Inform your staff about the approximate date of their annual (or biannual -whatever applies) review, and ensure staff are sent all required forms and questions to help them prepare well in advance. Don’t wait 1 day before the scheduled review meeting to inform staff of the review meeting or to send review questions to your staff. This will leave them flustered, overwhelmed and underprepared.
Give your staff the room and opportunity to speak. Let them be your guide in the meeting. Yes, complete all the required questions but also go with the flow of the conversation. Find out what is important to your staff and work with that.
- Be Genuine
No one wants to be the bearer of bad news and bosses suffer with this when having to talk about someone’s under performance. There are lots of ways to deliver news about underperformance but no matter which way you go about it, I think what is most important is that you are genuine in your delivery.
Avoid emotive language and remain factual and behaviourally focused. Work with the employee to better understand the reason for their underperformance and workshop solutions and possible supports. Have an open conversation asking the employee to reflect on what they think could help them improve. Be genuine in wanting to help the employee.
Tips for Employees
- Collect Basic Information and Evidence
Claims are not enough in a performance reviews. You need to be able to support your claims with evidence.
So, at least 1 week before your performance review meeting, look at:
- Your job description – what is the standard list of competencies required in the job?
- Your last performance review – What performance goals and development plans were in the last review? What could carry forward? What feedback and ratings did you receive last time? Has there been an improvement/growth/development based on previous ratings?
- Your informal performance log (if you have kept one) – See point 2 below
- Any regular reports you have created (e.g., weekly reports, monthly highlights, project status reports) as these may help you recall performance highlights and milestones, as well as challenges
- Your Performance Log – Keep One! Start Today!
Let’s face it, most people don’t keep an informal performance log for themselves but they really should. So if you don’t, my advice is start now! It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, maybe just an excel spreadsheet or a simple word document.
I suggest logging any dates and details for accomplishments, successes and challenges as they happen. This will ensure that you capture details along the way while they are fresh in your mind. Having all this detail will help both you and your manager get a broader, more objective view of your performance over the entire period, and avoid being biased by recent events (fancy term =recency effect). All this great information will make your next performance review a breeze (who doesn’t love that?!)
If you have kept a log (well done!), review your notes. Look for trends or themes in your notes which may reflect:
- Your strengths
- Problems or difficulties/challenges you have faced (and even how you overcame them)
- Knowledge or skills that you have demonstrated or even developed
- Projects you enjoyed working on or felt particularly engaged with
- Prepare Your Lists: Accomplishments and Areas for Development
Based on the background information you have spent time reviewing and thinking about in points 1 &2, identify your accomplishments. This is your chance to brag just a little. Don’t be shy! No one else will do it for you and it’s important your boss is aware of all the great (even if small) things you’ve done along the way.
They key here is linking accomplishments back to original goals set in your previous review, as well as higher level organisational goals. Make sure you capture the ‘how’ not just ‘what’ you accomplished, but keep it brief.
Give your manager any contextual details they need to understand your performance. Identify any challenges that limited your abilities to succeed, as well as any support you received from others. Things you may want to gather or collect for the review:
- Letters, emails, certificates of recognition, awards that reflect high performance since your last review
- Any written communications that reflects challenges or problems you’re your knowledge and performance base
- Any positive feedback from clients or vendors
- Make note of any training or development activities you completed
When thinking about accomplishments, it is sometimes helpful to simultaneously think about areas of development. Which leads me to…
Identifying your areas of development. Recognise that no one is perfect and we are all expected to seek development and improvement. There is no shame is identifying areas of development.
Be honest with yourself, and really think about any areas you struggled with. Whether it was working on a new project, or with a new team, or maybe even a new system, highlight any areas you feel you need some support around.
Some things to think about:
- What skills skills/experience/expertise would you like to broaden/develop or share with others as part of your career growth and progression?
- What are your career plans and what skills/knowledge/experience do you need to develop to help you achieve these goals?
When you meet with your manager, ask for coaching, mentoring, training, or whatever support you need to develop, improve or be more successful in your role.
Have a look into any courses, training programs or other learning activities you may be interested in. Bring a list of possibilities to your performance review meeting. When thinking about ways to develop, be creative. Look at more than just training course, such as special assignments, volunteer work, job shadowing, reading – anything that will help you learn and develop the skills you need.
- Think About Your Mind Set in the Meeting
The worst thing you can do is go into the meeting with a negative and defensive attitude. Such a mindset will prevent you from listening (and genuinely hearing anything)and from engaging in the meeting.
Prepare yourself for your performance review meeting with your manager by trying to relax and let go of any defensiveness you’re aware of. Your goal should be to listen to what your manager has to say and work collaboratively on setting new goals and areas of development to benefit both you and the organisation.
In Conclusion: Take Charge of Your Career!
It’s your career! If you don’t take charge over it, no one else will. You need to drive your own career and manage it to ensure ongoing development and success. Make the most of the opportunity your performance review offers to make your contributions known and to get meaningful feedback and direction that will help you grow.