How to Make the Most of Your Annual Review

Give your performance review the planning and attention it deserves. Life and career coach Michelle Bayley, looks at an important part of the employee/employer relationship…

If your response to the idea of a meeting about your past year’s performance is “make it be over”, try remembering that your review shouldn’t be a one-way street where your boss is doing all the talking – it’s also your chance to make clear the value you’ve added. And it’s a chance to share your side of the story if it feels like you’re getting feedback that’s unfair.

So, make the most of your annual performance review by preparing in advance and staying focused when you’re in the meeting. It’s also important to put your performance review into practise afterwards.

Do you know the review process?

Even if you’ve had an annual review at a previous employer, or even your present company, there may have been some recent changes to the annual review process. So, at the very least, it’s worth having a quick look on your intranet (if you have one) or a chat with someone in HR. If you work in a place where there isn’t a formal system, talk to your manager in advance about what ground they’ll be covering in your review so you can prepare.

Do you already have set objectives?

These traditionally form the foundation of any performance appraisal, detailing what you have been asked to deliver on across the year. It is therefore worth digging out your objectives, making some notes on your progression. If you haven’t been able to get something done, it could be down to circumstances beyond your control, so be ready with an explanation.

Can you point to measurable deliverables?

Think about the times when you might have gone ‘beyond’ to help deliver work that wasn’t officially yours to do – if you don’t bring up what you’ve done, your helpfulness might be overlooked. Also, think about what your company expects and how you’ve gone about delivering on your objectives. If you don’t remember, ask others for the whole year appraisal picture.

What is in your diary beforehand?

Immediately before your performance review, keep some time free for a moment of personal reflection. It might seem indulgent but, you’ll feel much more focused than if you rush straight from another meeting. It’ll also help you to stay calm and not vent on the most recent bug bear of yours.

Five top tips for your annual review

  • Own it: A common opener from managers during an appraisal is to ask how you think your year has gone, so it’s your chance to give them a summary of what you’ve done well. This is when your preparation will pay off. Keep it clear and highlight specific examples of your best work and biggest wins – don’t bombard them with detail at this stage, or you’ll lose the impact of your message.
  • Be open to feedback: A performance appraisal isn’t just designed to be a one-way stream of praise. The goal is for the meeting to be constructive and benefit your career overall. For many of us, any kind of feedback can feel like criticism, even when it’s intended to help you improve. Rather than be overly defensive, be open to what you’re hearing.
  • Ask for examples: Being open in an annual review doesn’t however, mean accepting untruths. If you get negative feedback you know is unfair take a deep breath and ask for specific examples. So, if you hear “I don’t think you’ve been much of a team player this year” and you know there have been times when you’ve gone out of your way to contribute to the team, find out what specifically the comment is based on. Then calmly offer your examples of you at your team playing best. Sticking to facts and evidence helps keep your emotions in check.
  • Show you’re keen to improve: Your appraisal meeting is one of the few times you get to see your manager when the focus is on you instead of on work. So, it’s a good opportunity to say what you want to do more of and what kind of training and development you’d like. Let them know how it will benefit not just you, but the business.
  • Don’t ask, don’t get: Finally, if you feel you deserve a promotion or pay rise, if not before, but by the end of your review – ask. You don’t need to demand it, but asking these sorts of questions at your performance review is a good idea test to the waters in the organisation. It can demonstrate your ambition and confidence, without coming across as arrogant. Read more on securing a pay rise here.

Best job performance review phrases

“XXX makes me happy at work”

“I would like to contribute further to the company’s success by XXX”

“I would like to discuss the top priorities of this business”

“What could I be doing more of?”

“I want to make sure that I understand the point correctly”

“I would like to discuss my priorities for the next year”

Post-annual review follow up

It’s too easy to walk away from your performance review and not think about the feedback and discussion ever again. You put your objectives in your desk drawer and get on with the day job. Instead, use your performance review as an opportunity to hit the reset button on your working year and spark change in your usual 9-to-5. Agree on actions for the short, medium and long term and keep yourself and your manager on track with them. Also, how you measure your objectives should be agreed upfront, meaning no surprises the next time your appraisal comes around.

When you’re busy getting on with the day job, it can be tempting to just wing it when it comes to your appraisal meeting. But putting some effort into preparing for it should ensure you get a fair report that gives you the recognition you deserve.

Michelle Bayley is a certified professional life and career coach. You can find out more about her at Find Your Way Coaching.

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