A client who I helped secure her first job after graduating from university, called me a couple of months after starting with a concern: she had been told by her manager to prepare for a Performance Review. “Is this a good thing?“, she asked, “what do I do to prepare?“, “Can I use the opportunity to ask about an increase?”
A performance review is defined as “The process by which a manager or consultant (1) examines and evaluates an employee’s work behavior by comparing it with preset standards, (2) documents the results of the comparison, and (3) uses the results to provide feedback to the employee to show where improvements are needed and why. Performance appraisals are employed to determine who needs what training, and who will be promoted, demoted, retained, or fired.” (Business Dictionary)
In other words, it is the opportunity for the employer to regularly evaluate the employee, according to a set of standards.
Employees, however, do have some influence on the process. The better prepared, self aware and able to respond to criticism the employees are, the better they will do in the process:
1. Gather information in anticipation of an evaluation
Try to ask about the evaluation (the date, frequency, method), before it even comes up. Ask your manager for the document that they use — most companies have a standardized form that is used for staff evaluation. Read through it thoroughly, and learn about the standards against which you will be measured. If the evaluation is not as formal and no form is available, seek out your detailed job description from the Human Resources office.
2. Evaluate yourself
Go through each item on the job description or the evaluation form, and measure yourself against it. Think of examples from your work where you can demonstrate how you met those goals. Prepare a list of your accomplishments and strengths, as well as your weaknesses or challenges. Make sure to be honest — the ability to criticize yourself with some confidence is valued by most employers.
3. Prepare goals for the next evaluation period
Working from your weaknesses, identify some goals you can set, to work on. Consider training possibilities, both formal (does the company have a professional development budget for each staff member? Do you know where courses might be found?) and self directed learning (could you spend time in another department, learning a new skill on the job? Could you volunteer in a corporate social responsibility initiative?).
4. Be prepared to review your manager
Some employers use a 360 degree employee feedback approach, which means that feedback goes both ways: you will be asked for feedback for your manager, too. If that’s the case, prepare ahead and consider what to tell your manager; think of some meaningful — yet tactful — feedback about their performance. Use this opportunity to thank them for those behaviours and policies that you appreciate. You’d be surprised how much managers appreciate — and rarely get — positive feedback.
Some final tips:
- Be prepared for the review — don’t get caught off guard.
- Remember the importance of being open and genuinely self critical. Be prepared to accept criticism from your manager, as well as be able to criticize yourself honestly. Keep in mind that this it isn’t intended as a personal attack. Think of ways you could improve on your weaknesses and share those with the employer.
- Don’t criticize your colleagues or blame others — take responsibility where you can.