Performance Appraisals - Make Yours Glow

Does the prospect of receiving formal feedback from your boss, peers and subordinates in the form of a professional performance appraisal have your petrified to the core? Here are some tips on how to make the most of your performance appraisal and turn it to your advantage.

  1. Make sure you are very clear about your job description and the goals and targets expected of you. Your performance appraisal will be directly based on these parameters, so if you have any lingering doubts about them or feel there is any ambiguity, seek a written description of your roles and responsibilities and clarify your targets immediately.
  2. Ask your boss and/or the HR department what format the appraisal will take and what particular areas you will be appraised on. If the term "Interpersonal Skills" on the performance review sends you running for the door in light of your recent well-publicized tantrums, or the field "Takes Initiative" leaves you gagging because you thought your job was to do exactly as you're told, it is better to be forewarned so you can modify your actions and expectations accordingly.
  3. Don't let the feedback at the annual performance appraisal take you by surprise. Make it a point to solicit feedback from your direct manager regularly throughout the course of the year. Invite him/her for a cup of coffee or a lunch at frequent intervals and tell him/her you would like to take this as an opportunity to enquire as to how you're doing at the firm, whether your boss is happy with your performance and how you can improve your performance even further.
  4. Come to the appraisal prepared with a list of all your accomplishments and achievements over the year - try to be as factual as possible expressing achievements in terms of money, time and resources you've saved, targets you've met or exceeded, deadlines you've met ahead of time, new skills you have acquired, products/processes/procedures you've introduced, innovations you have been responsible for, clients you have won for the firm, colleagues you have trained and mentored etc. That way if your employer has missed any or if his appraisal is not in sync with your actual contributions to the firm you can interject with factual evidence of your contributions.
  5. Remember, annual performance appraisals are often as cumbersome and uncomfortable for your boss as they are for you. This is especially true if your boss has a large number of direct reports and has to complete the paperwork and rigorous analysis and suffer the difficult confrontation for each and every one of them. Be prepared to take the lead and spare your boss the burden by offering to give your own objective appraisal of your performance for the period, making sure to support your every category appraisal with clear quantifiable evidence.
  6. Think ahead of your goals, objectives and targets for the next year. Remember in today's organisation you have to take personal responsibility for charting your career path. Now is the time to mention what you wish to achieve at the firm in terms of career progression as well as any resources you need to better meet your objectives.
  7. Plan for the training and development needs that will help you achieve your career goals. Be proactive in designing a training/ skills development program for the next 12 months complete with details on how/where you can best receive this training whether it be through a job rotation, in-house offered workshops, external conferences and seminars, enrollment in a part-time university program etc. When you present this, make sure to be very specific about where/how you intend to source the necessary training, the costs of these courses, how you will manage your workload during your training modules and how this training will positively impact the company's bottom line. Sell the importance of your personal development to the company and be prepared with solutions for any obstacles your supervisor may think of including how to manage your workload while away on training, and the wisdom, price-efficiency and time-efficiency of choosing certain courses/training programs over others.
  8. Remember, your performance appraisal is not intended to be a court date with a judge (your boss) but an open forum for honest communication where thoughts, ideas, feedback and plans can be shared with candor and professionalism. Seek to participate actively and keep in mind that the end goal is to develop you as a professional and to ensure that your strengths are being rewarded and optimally channeled, your goals and aspirations are understood and aligned with the organisation's, and your weaknesses addressed and solutions found for them.

A successful performance review conducted professionally and constructively should facilitate the following:

  1. Improve communication between managers and their subordinates.
  2. Provide direction for counseling/coaching/mentoring activities.
  3. Provide direction for the upcoming year's training and development modules/calendars.
  4. Provide a basis on which to link compensation for the upcoming year by signaling employees to receive financial rewards and incentives in the forms of bonuses, raises, perks etc. and providing a framework to prioritize the allocation of these rewards.
  5. Provide a basis for planning staffing needs for the upcoming year as different employees are promoted, laid off, made redundant, sent away on training programs, rotated internally etc.
  6. Improve employees' performance, motivation and morale by recognizing and rewarding their strengths and channeling them optimally.
  7. Create specific and measurable goals and establish and achieve consensus on performance standards for the upcoming year.
  8. Fine-tune job definitions, roles and responsibilities across the board.
  9. Establish clarity on how every individual's specific roles and responsibilities fit into the overall picture for the department and the company as a whole.
  10. Allow for the discussion and ironing out of any areas of difference difficulty or discontent.
  11. Establish commitment to adhere to the performance goals agreed on and review progress against these goals with supervisors on a frequent and ongoing basis.
  12. Give supervisors important feedback regarding their own management/mentoring/coaching/communication styles and expectations.

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