Career Advice

5 Ways to Make the Most Out of Your Annual Performance Review

It’s that special time of year when you get the email from your boss that your annual performance review has been scheduled. You just cringed, didn’t you?

It’s OK, nobody really likes performance reviews. In fact, 50 percent of employees feel the feedback they receive in performance reviews is not productive at all, according to Taskworld’s 2015 Annual Review Survey.

So, what can you do to make the process more valuable? How can you make sure you’re taking advantage of this opportunity? Here are five strategies for making the most out of this year’s performance review:

1. Be prepared.

Every organization has a different review process, so it’s important to find out exactly what yours entails. Once your date is set, email your boss and ask what the process involves.

Is it a short, structured meeting where you’ll go over your scores? Or is it more of a free-form conversation between you and your manager? Do you need to prepare a self evaluation? What other materials will you cover in the review?

Once you know what to expect, it’s time to really get prepared. Block out time on your schedule (or during lunch) to gather information on your successes from the year and create a list of things you want to cover. Focus on things that show how you’ve made a positive impact on the organization and highlight your value as an employee.

By understanding the review format and preparing a list of key talking points, you’ll be more relaxed and able to focus on making the most out of your review.

2. Be an active listener.

During your performance review, don’t just hear what your manager is saying, listen to it. Take an active role in the discussion and challenge the information you receive. Remember, you’re there to talk about your career, so don’t let your manager rush through the conversation to get it over with.

If you followed the first tip, you should have a clear list of accomplishments and impact statements. Listen for opportunities to discuss those achievements, and do your best to probe and ask questions that lead to deeper understanding of your role and career trajectory.

3. Talk about your career path.

Speaking of career trajectory, your performance review is the best opportunity you’ll have to discuss your career path with your manager. Take advantage of it.

Many people sit back during their review and hope their manager discusses upward mobility. Don’t be like those employees. Think about where you want to go in your organization and find out what it takes to get there.

Once you know what it takes, think about your performance and determine what you’re missing to get there. Instead of waiting for your manager to (maybe) touch on the subject, present your ideal career path and the information you’ve prepared.

Don’t make any ultimatums, but tell your manager that you’re interested in XYZ position, and that you’ve already met certain criteria. Then, ask if your manager sees you in that role at some point and what else he/she thinks you need to do to get there. Discuss and set actionable goals that the two of you can monitor throughout the year so you know where you stand and what it takes to grow.

4. Schedule your next review.

Packing a year’s worth of performance into one meeting doesn’t benefit anyone. Your manager won’t remember everything you did this year, and you rarely have enough time to cover everything you think is important.

This year, discuss the possibility of setting up informal performance reviews every two to three months (or whenever your manager can fit you in) to stay on top of your performance. If possible, align these informal reviews with the goal deadlines you set in your career action plan.

Scheduling multiple informal reviews throughout the year gives you more opportunities to hear the kind of real-time feedback that can make a difference in your career.

5. Don’t leave without the feedback you need.

One of the biggest mistakes people make during their performance review is walking out of the room without understanding their role, their expectations for the coming year, and what they need to work on going forward.

Don’t make this mistake. Whether you have to email your boss further questions or schedule a follow-up meeting to give you more time to talk, make sure you get the feedback you need to grow professionally and succeed in the year to come.

How do you feel about performance reviews? Are they a waste of time, or do you have strategies for making the most of them?