Blog Employee Experience

How to prepare for your next performance review with your manager

You’ve waited months for this - it’s time to sit down with the boss and show off all your hard work.

You know this performance review is for you. Your chance to highlight your successes, get support on challenges and plan your next steps. Maybe even discuss a salary increase or promotion opportunity?

So why then, are you filled with anxiety? Why, after your last review did you feel a little underwhelmed? What can you do differently this time around?

Well, quite honestly, a lot hinges on your own preparation. The likelihood is you won’t get over that anxiety, or feel satisfied post-review unless you put the effort in pre-review.

Preparing for performance review success

The employee performance review has received a lot of criticism in recent years.

Traditional employee appraisal processes have been causing headaches for both managers and employees. And most employees believe performance reviews are not effective at driving performance.

But, as part of a bigger picture, there’s definitely a place for performance reviews. And they can be really beneficial to employees when ran the right way.

An effective review follows a few basic rules:

  • They are a small part of a larger strategy around performance and feedback.
  • They should be run quarterly.
  • They should be supported by continuous performance feedback, from check-ins & 1:1s.
  • They should be primarily future-focussed.
  • They should be a conversation, not a one-way affair with your manager talking at you.
  • They should be highly collaborative.

On that last point, it’s vital that employees put in as much (if not more) work for a review as their manager does. This means before, during and after the review meeting.

The most effective performance reviews are about one thing and one thing only: your development.

And as you have a vested interest in yourself, hopefully, you’re able to see the benefits of taking some time and planning your next review.

How to plan for your next performance review

There are a few questions we’d always suggest you start with when thinking about your next performance review:

  • What do I want to get out of the review?
  • What have I enjoyed lately?
  • What support do I need?
  • Am I happy with my current role and responsibilities?
  • What do I want to be doing in 3, 6 and 12 months’ time?

From these 5 simple questions, you can start to formulate a clear plan of how you want your review to go.

Armed with this simple plan, you can start to prepare in earnest. And with that in mind, here’s what you need to do before your review to put you in a great position for a productive conversation:

1.     Collect your successes

A key part of growth is being able to show all the great work you’ve been doing.

Not only does a collection of successes show off your strengths and quality, but it acts as a guide of where you’re going in your role and how you’re advancing.

Successes help settle the nerves too, so there’s a clear practical benefit to focussing some prep time on them.

Obviously having a body of work, supported by some evidence, in a review situation does wonders for any conversation around pay increases or promotions too.

2.     Collect your challenges

When it comes to developing, we can learn a lot from the mistakes we’ve made or blockers we’ve hit along our way.

It can be human nature to try and hide our challenges but this is counter-productive. Remember, nobody is perfect.

A big part of your boss’s job is to support you in being successful. If they don’t have a clear understanding of where you’ve struggled or what’s hindering your success, - their job becomes much harder.

Focus on where things haven’t gone quite right, why that is and what solutions can be put in place next time. Then work out where those solutions need to come from and ask your manager to help you with them.

3.     Review your current goals

Goal-setting and performance reviews go hand-in-hand.

Research shows clearly that when we set goals for ourselves, we’re more likely to be successful. No surprise then that goals will almost always come up in your performance review.

- Taking some time to prepare - will save any potential blushes in the meeting and give you ample time to prepare responses.

Again, where goals have been met, add them to your ‘success’ column. Reflect on why you were successful, whether you enjoyed the work, and what you learnt from the work.

Conversely, if progress has stalled, add these to your ‘challenges’. Think about what caused the lack of success, how it made you feel, and what support you need moving forward.

4.     Think about some new goals

You’ll almost certainly spend a bit of the review setting new goals for the next few months.

Good to get a head start then and come prepared with a few suggestions.

Focus on personal goals that will help you grow and align with the company’s current strategic objectives. There’s nothing better than a mutually beneficial goal.

Ensure your goal suggestions are meaningful and not just a tick list.

5.     Prepare your key questions

Think about your recent performance, future goals, and career development and come up with any questions you’d like to ask.

You might not get an answer there and then. But by asking questions of your manager not only are you getting information that’s important to you, but you’re also showing commitment and interest in your own development and performance.

6.     Get ready to receive feedback

Research shows for many we typically don’t love receiving critical feedback in face-to-face scenarios.

If your performance has been a bit suppressed lately, obviously the conversation may be a little tougher and loaded with more of the constructive type of feedback.

Either way, think about how the conversation is likely to go and anticipate what your manager might focus on. Be honest with yourself. And remember that whether positive or not, feedback is there to help you grow and become even better.

7.     Take a breath. Relax. You got this!

Remember, your performance review is all about you and your development. It should be a conversation you look forward to.

Nerves are totally normal though, and many employees feel an amount of anxiety before stepping into that meeting room. Even if you know you’ve been knocking it out of the park.

Yes, if your performance has been a bit below par recently then there may well be some tough questions. But even in this situation, your manager is keen to help you, so be honest and ask for the support you need. No need to panic.