Performance review time. It’s a phrase that might make you groan or even feel a slight sense of dread. But depending on how you approach them, performance reviews can be incredibly useful in improving your day-to-day work and helping you grow your career – and your salary.
If you’re coming up to a formal performance review, or just a conversation with your manager, you can get the most out of it by preparing.
Here a simple guide to preparing for your next performance conversation.
A performance review lets your boss or manager tell you how you’re performing in your role, and give their input on your work, strengths and weaknesses.
But a performance review should be a two-way conversation. It’s also your opportunity to reflect, create and discuss goals, and get recognition for your work. It’s a chance to get valuable feedback, and for many people it’s also a time to aim for a pay rise or promotion.
Every workplace will have a different performance review process. Many workplaces, especially larger organisations, will have a more structured process with a set timeframe – often annually. Other workplaces might not have formal performance reviews. But these same steps can help you for any conversations with your boss or manager about your role.
It’s natural that you might reflect on what was discussed in your review and have more questions. Or perhaps you want to keep the momentum going. You could ask for a check-in, perhaps a couple of weeks later, to follow up and make sure you and your manager are on the same page.
“You may want to confirm or clarify that your understanding of the take-outs from the performance review are aligned,” says Alexandra Taylor, Chief People Officer, Business, Private & Personal Banking at NAB. “The follow-up meeting is a good opportunity to create that alignment.” Taylor recommends that the catch-up is done face to face if possible.
If you don’t have clear goals with timelines, or if goals weren’t discussed during your review, you may need to get this going yourself.
“Having goals to meet is the best way to avoid surprises regarding your own performance,” Taylor says. “Good goal setting underpins good career growth and development.” Develop some goals for yourself and present them to your manager. Make sure they’re SMART goals, that is: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based.
Continuous feedback will help you grow in your career. Many employers and employees find that also having regular, informal check-ins is a better way to communicate on performance than an annual review alone. See if you can talk regularly with your manager about your goals and performance, for example, as a regular topic in one-on-one meetings.
If that’s not possible, you might instead prompt your boss for on-the-go feedback, Taylor says. “Ask: ‘are there any actions to be aware of to build into my performance next time’.” Making it about specific work can also be useful, for example, ‘did you have any feedback for me on that project I just completed?’
Performance reviews can sometimes feel like a bit of a chore. But it’s useful to think of them as a stepping stone to where you want to be. Aim to make the most from the conversation by using it to gain feedback and set goals that will help you grow. By preparing for your review – and following up with regular feedback – you’ll be on track to being more satisfied and successful in your work.