The performance review: sometimes dreaded, sometimes botched, it is generally neither a pleasure for the manager nor for the employee. On Forbes, you’ll read that they are "pointless and insulting." Does it really have to be this way?
On the contrary, this sometimes complicated exercise is supposed to be beneficial for everyone. If it’s well-prepared, it should provide constructive feedback to both the manager and employee, set the major objectives for the following months, and motivate you.
The key is to prepare it very well. Here is a step-by-step guide to be relaxed on the big day and make the most of this moment with your manager.
What the Performance Review Is Not
During the performance review, a manager evaluates the overall performance of an employee in their job, suggests areas for improvement, offers a raise if agreed, and sets objectives for the next couple of months. Performance reviews can also be called performance appraisals or performance evaluations.
It is not:
A meeting dedicated to training only
A preliminary dismissal meeting: if you are going to be fired, it should not done in this meeting
The only time in the year when you receive feedback
Of course, it is the most formal time to be evaluated. But the performance review should really be a summary of what you have heard during the year. Are you finding out about all your areas of improvement during this meeting? Clearly, there was something missing from your daily interactions with your supervisor.
Performance Review: What to Expect
The process depends on the company and the manager who leads it. However, you can expect to see the following points:
An overall work review
Your manager gives an overall review of your work over the last few months. They may start by asking you if you have reached your objectives and what stats prove it.
Some congratulations you on your good work
At this stage, good managers tell you what you have done well. They congratulate you on your successes and skills. Most of the time, your colleagues have evaluated you. In that case, your supervisor summarizes the positive comments about you. How motivating!
If your boss is planning to give you a raise or a bonus to congratulate you for your good results, they may bring up the subject at that time.
Prioritizing your areas for improvement
Your boss will also point out your areas for improvement. Everyone has some! If your manager knows how to do it in a tactful way, they will comment factually on your work, not on you as a person. They will tell you how to improve concretely: through training? By asking colleagues for help? By looking for solutions yourself? By being more rigorous? Together, you will set KPIs to know at what pace you are improving.
It's best if those targets are SMART:
S - Specific: it's clear what should be done and by whom.
M - Measurable: there are KPIs for success.
A - Achievable: what's an objective for if it's not reachable?
R - Relevant: it makes sense with the global mission.
T - Time bound: there is a set timeline for completion.
Setting your next objectives
The next step is exciting: you will learn all about your new goals for the coming months. Don't hesitate to discuss them and give your opinion so that they are motivating and realistic. Your boss may also ask you what you want to work on first, if it is useful to the company, of course. So, this is your moment to align your desires and your mission.
Perhaps you can even talk about your evolution in the company, if you have new ambitions.
If you want to talk about your salary and you haven't done so yet, this might be a good time to bring up the subject.
Giving constructive feedback to your manager
The best interviews end with honest feedback to your manager on their strengths and areas for improvement. If there are issues to be raised, you can bring them up using non-violent communication and ask how you can work better together. You may be surprised by the power of open-ended questions asked with an open mind.
How to Prepare for Your Next Performance Review
Here is what you can prepare for your next performance review:
Gather some feedback
Ask for reviews from several colleagues: those on your team and other teams, supervisors, peers, and maybe even someone you manage. It would be great to have 3 to 5.
Write 3 to 5 objective feedback points about your manager with examples to illustrate them.
Review your work from these last few months
Create a list of your top 3 to 5 recent successes.
Collect the numbers on how well you have achieved your goals.
If you have not achieved all of them, think about the reasons for that. Maybe it’s not just on you?
Find an example of a project where you went the extra mile.
Point out the most useful skill you’ve learned recently and how.
Be ready to share your favorite subjects and training organizations to learn something new.
Make sure you can pitch your desire for professional development within the company.
The Right Mindset
Now you have all the keys in hand to prepare for your performance review. Remember that your state of mind as well as your attitude will also make a difference; remain open to feedback and give yours in an objective and benevolent manner. Try to find solutions instead of shutting yourself up like a defensive oyster.
A performance review is a balancing act, it's true. This being said, it can be motivating and enjoyable if everyone comes in with an open discussion and building spirit. Good luck!