Getting the most out of your performance appraisals

If you are like me, you probably have expectations for career progress in your organization. Those expectations might include career promotions, salary raises, bonuses, and other relevant job perks. So, I guess you must be looking forward to a positive and satisfying outcome from your upcoming performance review meeting with your manager this year. As beautiful and lofty as those goals are, many professionals remain ill-prepared and ignorant of strategies to get the most out of this important career-defining process. Like most soft skills not taught in post-secondary institutions, you are expected to figure this out yourself in the workplace. Those who have mastered this important skill do get ahead in the workplace even more than the technically competent folks who are ignorant of this important skill. To the undiscerning minds,  it is easy to conclude that the process is rigged against the technically competent professionals. So, how do you get the most out of your performance review, regardless of the outcome of that appraisal meeting, to enhance your career progress? 

First, you need to be intentional. To get the most out of the performance appraisal process, you need to be intentional with your goals and career aspirations. To land that promotion, bonuses, and other perks, you need a more strategic and deliberate plan to ace your appraisal. However, often times, many prepare for the appraisal meeting but not for the year.  Intentionality involves proactive preparation, forging the necessary relationships, engaging the stakeholders, doing the hard work, showcasing your work, and so on.

✅. Proactively study to understand the criteria by which your performance will be evaluated and align your work accordingly. Such criteria might be outlined in appointment letter that outlines your duties or requirements for promotion as detailed by the HR guidelines.  For example, are appraisals based on your supervisor’s perspective alone? Does it criteria include 360-degree evaluation from your peers, team members, and clients?

✅. Don’t just get your work done, consider adding value to your team and others in the process. This is especially true for professionals in technical areas who might not necessarily interact a lot with others. Your ability to effectively collaborate with your peers and work for the greater good of the organization is a critical factor when evaluating what an employee brings to the organization. If your organization or supervisor incorporate 360-degree feedback into your appraisal, then your contributions to others might equal be as important in decided success as your individual contribution to the job.

✅. Check in with your manager more frequently during the year before that annual performance appraisal. Use those frequent check-ins to discuss accomplishments and challenges. 

✅. Explore avenues to make your work visible to key stakeholders. For example, connect more frequently with manager more frequently to provide update on your progresses, struggles, and accomplishments. 

Secondly, be open to receive, process, and turn the feedback into an advantageIf you have been through a performance appraisal meeting, you probably wished that your supervisor skips all the formalities and preambles and go straight to the “main course” At that moment, all you cared about is the outcome, but not the feedback. While it is easier to bask in the euphoria of positive feedback, it’s harder to accept or negative criticisms. Being receptive to the feedback received gold mine that can power your career advancement for years to come. So, spend time reflecting on the feedback received. What strengths of yours were recognized? What areas of improvement were identified? Were recommendations for improvement provided? Would you consider the suggested recommendations to support your career development? Would you consider the criticism to be fair or biased? Careful reflections on these questions could help turn the negative feedback and the disappointment to an advantage that can power your progress forward. 

Like most academic or professional exams, performance appraisals can shape your career progress, your professional reputation, and, ultimately, your long-term career prospects. By leveraging the power of intentionality and your humility to receive and process feedback, you can get the most out of this process and propel your career to stratospheric levels. Good luck!