Career Advice

Five Steps To Improve Your Performance Reviews

The key to a successful – even transformative – performance review is that it should be an ongoing interchange to measure employee satisfaction and make sure employee and manager are on the same page. Once a year leaves too much at risk, and sometimes – no matter how much you may want to – you won’t be able to correct course and get back on the path.

Below are five action steps to take for your next performance review that ideally will be part of an on-going, year-long dialogue with your manager.

1. Do you do meaningful work that contributes to the success of the company?

Every one wants to do meaningful work, or else we’d all pick up tin cans and go sit on street corners with hand-lettered signs. This is part employee responsibility, and part management’s. If you accept a job where the tasks and goals are not meaningful you have chosen poorly. You’ve broken the rule of seeking an employer where you can make a difference – one with a job that uses your skills, piques your curiosity, and displays culture fit. If your work has no meaning, if you can’t see a way clear to infusing your days with meaning, talk to your manager about changing it up. If he or she says no, clear out (unless you’re using the job as a way to keep food on the table while you write The Novel. If that’s the case, I have nothing for you.)

2. Do you understand the behaviors necessary to be successful at the company?

Back to culture fit. Every company has rules that govern your ability to be successful. Most are unwritten, and nearly all are about behavior. As I’ve written before, there’s a difference between personality and behavior. You might not be able to change your personality but it is within your ability to manage your behavior to achieve ‘fit’ with a company’s culture. For some companies, it’s all Alpha behavior.  To be successful you have to be quick, aggressive, a lone wolf and unsentimental. At others, it’s about the customer – you need to be empathetic, a problem-solver, a listener. Some are paternalistic and require getting along, even submissive behaviors – no questioning authority and a lot of raising your hand before speaking. Figure out these cultural ‘tells’ before you take the job, or you won’t be successful.

3. Do you receive the training necessary to ensure/maintain success?

This one’s for management. To grow, learn and be successful you need training. It’s more than knowing where the copier is; this is about knowing how to use all the tools the company has in place, from software to paid research to ‘local knowledge’ – the policy-and-process experiences of peers and superiors. If there’s no training, then ask for it, and make sure it ties directly to making you – and your manager – more successful.

4. Do you have a career plan, are you acting on it, and does your work at the company add to it?

This one’s for you, and ties back to culture fit and emotional intelligence. Where you work should be part of your larger career plan. Your manager should understand your career plan, at least as it relates to your current job and, say, the next job in the plan. You and your manager should be engaged in a continuous dialogue to ensure the work you do is additive to your career plan, and includes the challenges you need to move to the next level.

5. Do you receive regular/ongoing positive/constructive feedback that helps you improve your performance?

Performance monitoring and management is a commitment both you and your manager must undertake. This means a daily or weekly dialogue with your manager: you should always know where you stand. You should never be surprised by a negative review. Feedback should be constant and constructive, designed to help you reach your potential. If this is missing, time to confront it – or leave.

To ensure your review is transformative, not punitive, make sure your review covers these five points, which can ensure employee as well as management satisfaction.

Why do the five points explored above create an environment in which a review can be transformative? I think the combination is powerful –  constant dialogue, training, constructive feedback, behavior cues, awareness of and sympathy with your personal situation – with these as the broad guideposts for performance measurement, a good manager can help you do your job in a way that is transformative. If your job is transformative, so too will be your reviews. Success invites success most of the time.

What would you add about performance measurement?