Performance review tips for employees: Making the next one count.

This article is a follow on from our recent piece looking at top performance review tips for managers.

As a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that at Weekly10, we aren’t big believers in the traditional approach to performance reviews. They need a facelift, a full makeover that makes them more fit for purpose in the 21st century. 

However, if you’re new to the blog, you may want to check out some of our previous writing on how to improve performance reviews to make them more effective.

If you are an employee of a company, the likelihood is that in one guise or another you will have to go through performance reviews at some stage of your year. 

These might be what we term ‘tick box’ reviews, that essentially only exist so that HR can simply tick off a job on their list. Or they may be highly effective, evidence-based and frequent reviews which help you become better at what you do.

Let’s hope for the latter!

Either way, the truth is, you’ll likely be undergoing some form of review in the not so distant future.

How do you feel about performance reviews?

Imagine waking up one morning and realising it’s that time again; the day of the dreaded performance review. It might be tempting to hide under the duvet and pull a sickie. 

But the fact is that, at best, you’re only delaying the inevitable. 

At worst, you’re forgoing your chance to have your say about working life, and to get constructive, career development-oriented feedback. 

So throw off the covers and get in the shower, because today’s performance review tips for employees can help you turn the whole experience from something you dread into something you positively anticipate.

Being ready for your next performance review

The best way to cut through the dread and get the most out of your review is to take steps to prepare. So our first few performance review tips for employees are about the considerations that employees should make before their review dates come around.

Performance review tips for employees - take some time to prepare for your review!
Preparation is a key element to an effective performance review

1: Don’t wait until your next performance review to ask for feedback or raise an issue:

It’s understandable that employees might hesitate to do this, but a major element of what can make reviews so daunting is the sense of ambiguity. 

Ideally, your organisation should have a system in place for continuous performance management and frequent feedback between reviews, whether it’s merely accessible communication with your line manager or a full employee check-in system

Consistently communicating between reviews ensures that responding feedback is given while still relevant, and that problems are dealt with in a timely and effective manner.

But if your organisation doesn’t have a clear system, you should still be raising points of concern or requesting feedback from your manager when you feel you need to. 

2: Try to document feedback and events as they occur:

We’ve previously highlighted how important it is to document feedback in our advice for managers, and organisations should generally have feedback documentation procedures in place. But sometimes they just don’t. If they do, it might be unreliable or hard to access. So it can be really useful to actively document the feedback you receive (and the events the feedback relates to). 

As well as providing evidence for long-running workplace issues that you can take into your next review, it enables you to take a broad view of your own performance prior to your review date. 

Together, our first and second performance review tips for employees can be vital for developing a shared understanding of performance versus company objectives. We’ll get into more detail on that in a bit.

3: Consider your personal development goals:

Any reasonably in-depth performance review is probably going to address this topic, and the last thing you want to do is respond with an “uhhhh”.

So one of the best performance review tips for employees that we can offer would be to get a sense of what your personal work goals are. You might be totally career-minded, and want to seek out any opportunity for advancement, in which case it helps to be as pro-active as possible. 

But perhaps it’s not necessarily a promotion you’re after. If that’s the case, it’s worth thinking about the areas of your current role you want to improve in. It’s important to know what skills you want to develop, because performance reviews are your chance to have a detailed conversation about them.

4: Understand your own strengths and weaknesses:

Again, one of the elements that can trigger performance review anxiety is often the level of ambiguity involved, particularly in the build-up. 

Employees can spend their time between reviews thinking they’re on top of everything only to get raked over the coals by their manager. Or the dreaded imposter syndrome can have us thinking we are awful at our jobs, only to find out the opposite is true. 

It’s important to take time to objectively consider your strengths and weaknesses by looking over previous feedback documentation, so you can go in with some idea of what to expect from your one-to-one. 

It can help take some of the ambiguity out of the situation and puts you in a much better position to discuss these things with your manager in an open and effective way..

Taking part in performance reviews

Even with all the preparation in the world, actually sitting down for a performance review can still be pretty daunting. You should try to take a breath, keep a cool head, and bear in mind that the review is to help you improve your ongoing performance as ooppossed to just rake you over the coals – a good manager understands this fully. 

Performance review tips for employees - during the review follow these steps.
Active listening, honesty and not getting too defensive are key during the review.

5: Remember the importance of active listening:

This is another of our performance review tips for employees that also featured in our article for managers because it’s a major part of two-way feedback

It’s not enough just to let the other person talk. You have to actively engage with what they’re saying beyond the occasional ‘yeah’ or ‘uh huh’.

Especially when it comes to negative feedback, your manager is going to be looking for signs that you’re taking it on board. So active listening is the best way to show that you are, because you’ll be asking relevant questions and driving performance review discussion.

6: Don’t focus too much on one aspect of feedback:

One criticism of the commonly used ‘sandwich technique‘ of giving feedback is that employees tend to overly focus on one side of it. Of course, this can still be true even with clear separation between the positives and the negatives. So for employees, it’s important not to hone in on one thing. 

Just because your boss started off by telling you they’re satisfied with your overall performance doesn’t mean you don’t need to pay attention to areas of improvement. And similarly, just because they pointed out one or two things you could be doing better doesn’t mean all the praise they’ve given you is meaningless either.

7: Try not to get defensive:

One of the most vital performance review tips for employees we could possibly give also deals with negative feedback and the often instinctive reaction to it – lashing out. It’s easy to fall into defensiveness, especially when the criticism is completely unexpected.

Rather than immediately trying to make justifications, rely on active listening and ask questions to get further context. 

This conversation can naturally lead into advice on how to improve, as well as giving you a chance to highlight specific circumstances that might have impacted your work in a less reactionary way. 

This actually leads into our next point quite well.

8: Be honest about problems affecting performance:

Even if you’re working remotely, employee performance doesn’t exist in a vacuum. 

It doesn’t matter if it’s a workplace issue that can be resolved or something personal like a medical condition or poor mental health. If something is negatively impacting your work, it’s important to feel like you can honestly communicate that to your manager.

9: Work with your manager to create an aligned understanding:

In our article for managers, this was the tip we chose to end on. Given that an aligned understanding requires mutual effort and good communication, it’s also one of the things we’ve been building towards throughout this list of performance review tips for employees.

By the end of the review, both you and your boss should be on the same page regarding your performance and the organisation’s objectives as a whole. As an employee, this is your chance to get to grips with how your work directly impacts the company. This is why things like active listening and proper documentation matter.

10: Find practical ways to apply feedback:

Ideally, you should leave your one-to-one with a renewed understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. 

What’s important is to make sure you don’t forget it all as soon as you’re out the door. 

Law firm DLA Piper has implemented strengths-based feedback that helps employees identify their skill-set, and promotes heavily the application of new processes, techniques and ways of working to suit. The result was that the firm’s employees became up to six times more engaged. 

So there’s definitely something to the idea of working with your boss to find new applications for your skills. 

Creating a list of aims, targets and brainstorming some actions that can be taken close to immediately after a review (with follow-ups where possible to analyse impact) are simple steps to ensuring the impact of your performance review if more than just the thought of “phew, that’s that for another year”. Those are all the performance review tips for employees that we’ve got for you today. To learn more about performance management, workplace feedback and employee engagement, visit the Weekly10 blog!

Want to turn your ‘box-tick’ reviews into evidence-based, behaviour-impacting, performance-improving sessions?