One of the most important things you can do to ensure the success of your employee performance appraisal is to actively prepare for it. Whether your company includes a self-evaluation step in their process or not, you don’t have to play a passive role where you are merely the recipient of feedback and direction from your manager. By properly preparing for your appraisal meeting with your manager, you can ensure your manager has a broader picture of your performance and career goals, foster dialogue, and take charge of your career progression. Here are some tips to help you prepare for your performance appraisal.
1. Gather foundational information
Get out and review your job description and the goals, competencies and development plans set out for you at your last appraisal. Use these as the foundation for preparing details on your accomplishments, strengths and areas for development.
Gather any regular reports you’ve created (e.g. weekly reports, monthly highlights, project status reports). They’ll help you recall performance highlights and milestones, as well as any challenges.
It can also be helpful to review your last appraisal and look at the feedback and ratings you were given then. It will help give you a sense of how you’ve grown and developed over the last period.
2. Review your performance journal notes
If you’ve kept a journal of your performance over the last performance cycle, get it out now and review your notes. Notice any trends or recurring themes that reveal things like: particular strengths, challenging people or situations, knowledge or skills you need to develop, projects or work you really enjoyed, etc.
If you didn’t keep a journal, start today. Keeping a record of your activities, accomplishments, successes and challenges as they happen helps you capture details while they’re fresh in your mind. Having all this detail at hand 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. It will also make your preparation for your next performance appraisal faster and easier.
3. Prepare a list of your accomplishments
With all this information as background, you’re ready to prepare a list of your accomplishments. As you do, it’s important to relate them to your goals and higher level organizational goals. Make sure you capture the “how” not just “what” you accomplished, but keep it brief; don’t use this as a diary or performance journal. 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.
Don’t get caught in the trap of focusing only on the last few months of performance. Look at performance over the whole review period.
Think about your audience. What does your manager need to know? What do they already know?
Gather any letters, emails, certificates of recognition, awards, etc. that document exemplary performance since your last appraisal. Also gather any written communications that identify challenges or problems with knowledge and performance.
Make note of any training or development activities you completed.
Think of this as an opportunity to let your light shine. It’s OK to brag a little. Your manager may not be aware of all the great things you’ve done, especially the many small things that can really add up and make a difference.
You can use this information as background for your discussion with your manager during your performance appraisal meeting, or even submit it to your manager before your review, to help them in their preparation.
4. Do a self-evaluation
Even if your company doesn’t formally do them, it’s good idea to complete a self-evaluation. Ideally, you should use the same performance appraisal form your manager will be using. Go through each competency and goal listed, and rate your performance. Be honest in your ratings. The goal of this exercise is not to campaign for good ratings, but rather to share your perception of your performance with your manager before your appraisal meeting.
You can use the details from your list of accomplishments and journal notes to provide summaries of your performance of goals. It can also be helpful to list or cite specific examples of your work to backup your ratings.
Ideally, you should share your ratings with your manager before your meeting. It will help them prepare for the meeting and flag any differences in perception to them in advance. But you can always just bring your self-evaluation to your meeting and use it as reference.
5. Prepare a list of areas for development
In reviewing your job description, competencies, goals, performance journal notes, list of accomplishments, etc, identify any areas where you felt you struggled, or where others may have noted your performance lacked, and make note of these.
You should also identify any areas where you would like to expand your skills/experience/expertise or share them with others as part of your career growth and progression.
Be honest about your struggles, and when you meet with your manager, ask for coaching, mentoring, training, or whatever support you need to develop, improve or be more successful. No one is perfect. Everyone should be continually learning and developing.
You should also think about your career plans if you have any and be prepared to talk to your manager about them. What skills/knowledge/experience do you need to develop to help you achieve these goals?
If you can, do a bit of advance work, looking at courses and training activities available through your company and the training vendors they use that might help you further develop the particular skills you need and improve your performance. Research possible learning activities and bring a list of possibilities to your performance review meeting. And remember to think outside the box. Look at more than just training courses; you can include things like special assignments, volunteer work, job shadowing, reading, etc. – anything that will help you learn and develop the skills you need.
6. Draft goals for the coming period
Don’t wait for your manager to hand down your goals to you. Take a proactive approach and draft some possible goals based on your job description, your department or the organization’s higher level goals, your skills/experience/abilities, etc. In drafting your goals, you might want to look for opportunities to expand your duties, broaden your knowledge, or take on more responsibility. You can review and refine these in your meeting with your manager.
7. Share your preparations with your manager
Ideally, you should share the materials you’ve prepared with your manager before your performance appraisal meeting. This will help them prepare for your meeting more effectively and encourage a more meaningful two-way dialogue between you. It can also help them prepare for any differences in perception that might exist between the two of you, avoiding surprises at review time.
8. Prepare an open mind
Often we come to our performance appraisal meeting with our manager feeling a bit defensive. We’re bracing ourselves to hear criticism, or we’re jockeying for ratings/positioning that impact our compensation and advancement in the company.
Unfortunately, when we’re defensive, we don’t listen very well. Prepare yourself for your performance appraisal meeting with your manager by trying to relax and let go of any defensiveness you’re aware of. Your goal should be to listen deeply to the feedback your manager provides you, as well as the goals and development plans they lay out for you.