Do you dread yearly work appraisals?  Is it an uncomfortable meeting?  It doesn’t have to feel like this.  Most large companies will have a tried and tested annual performance review in place.

This blog is to help you manage the process that’s already in place. It’s not about challenging the internal process. It’s to give you some guidance and additional information to help you take responsibility.

Most companies will set SMART objectives at the start of the year (see below). This is a traditional method of setting goals.  At the point of agreeing and setting these objectives make sure you absolutely understand what is expected.

SMART Objectives

The only sure way of having a positive performance review is to get some very clear objectives set. If you don’t know what or how you are being measured there’s no value in the appraisal. With no measures in place, it can become an uncomfortable process.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Results
  • Timed

Ask questions about the outcomes and results your manager expects and write these into the objectives. At appraisal time you are going to want to be clear about previous conversations and what was agreed. What seems obvious now will be forgotten in a year’s time. It’s really important to keep an accurate record.

Plan and scope out the tasks

When you first agree your SMART objectives take the time to plan out what’s involved. Start with the end in mind – the outcomes and desired results. Who will be involved and what tasks and actions will need to be taken in order to meet the goals. It may be difficult to predict the amount of time each stage/task will take initially so make some estimates.

Think also about the potential issues, barriers and challenges. Consider what could get in the way of meeting this objective? It sounds negative to think about what could go wrong. However, this is an extremely useful and insightful exercise.

Highly reliable organisations are comfortable looking for things that could go wrong. It’s helpful to think about ways these can be avoided, overcome or to put in place a contingency plan. There are departments dedicated to managing the plans for disaster recovery to ensure business continuity. This is being proactive, not reactive.

You can network around the business as long as it’s not breaking any confidentiality. Check that there isn’t a conflict of interest. Involve your boss if you need additional support as you progress through the tasks.

Keep track of tasks and evidence

Throughout the year prioritize and set aside time to work on your objective. Keep a track of actions, tasks and keep an issues log. As above, communicate regularly with your manager about any problems. Don’t leave it until appraisal to bring up any issues or problems. This may affect your performance rating if you’ve not flagged up any issues at the time.  Your manager will be able to help as well.  They are likely to have good relationships around the business and use their influencing skills to get issues resolved quickly.

There are often many external factors affecting objectives that are outside of your control – however, if you don’t manage these factors you become responsible for the lack of progress or ownership.

  • Changes in business priorities
  • Regulation and legislation changes
  • Budget restraint and changes

Avoid the common mistakes

There should be no surprises during this annual work appraisal.  In fact, the annual appraisal (if done well) should be a summary of the year’s activity and discussions on the final assessment of performance. Effective performance management is an ongoing process and two-way dialogue.  It should never be left until the end of the year.  This is one of the biggest reason for work appraisals to get a negative press.

So, not all managers are good at managing performance or handling that yearly appraisal. With this in mind make sure you take responsibility as much as possible. Keep your manager regularly informed of events.

Here’s an appraisal checklist:

  • Agree very clear SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results and Timed)
  • Be clear about your manager’s expectations and what the outcomes look like
  • Document and keep a track of tasks, actions and issues throughout the year
  • Allocated time in your diary to focus on the tasks related to each objective
  • Keep an open dialogue with your manager to ensure there are no surprises
  • Set regular one-to-one meetings with your manager

All feedback is good feedback

When you get any type of feedback – it’s free training. All feedback is good feedback.  Remember your manager is doing their best to support you in your job and often for your future career.  It’s totally in their interest that you do well in your career.

Be graceful when receiving the feedback, even when it’s not glowing.  It’s a great learning opportunity and if implemented will improve your performance.

Improving your performance will make you highly marketable and employable.  In today’s rapidly changing work environment that’s all good.

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