8 Ways to Make Your Next Review the Best One Ever

Most companies have a rigorous annual performance review and a softer half-yearly check-in, just to see how things are going. You, as an employee, have a lot riding on the performance management process of your company. That number or letter you get at the end of the year decides your raise or your next promotion, and possibly the next career move you want to make. So how can you make the system work for you?

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Here are a few tips to help you stay ahead of the game.

1. Take the time to understand organizational goals: In most companies, goal-setting is a top-down approach. Organizational goals are set, then they percolate to form functional goals. Departmental goals are first, then team goals, and then individual goals. Get a sense of the direction the company is headed. Company-wide goals are generally published and made known to all employees. You could also reach out to your manager to understand this.

2. Develop your goals to align with your team goals: It’s not impossible to see a direct link between your goals and the organization’s, but it is easier to align your goals with your team’s goals, because they are narrower in scope and more achievable. You will be able to know your impact, and you can also see how your team aligns with the bigger picture.

3. Sign off on the goals with your manager: At this meeting, also have a discussion about where you want the current year to take you. Are you looking for a promotion, increased responsibilities? Let your manager know, and ask what it would take to get there, in terms of performance and behavior. You will obviously have to work with your manager in arriving at your goals, so work around goals which are a combination of easy wins and stretch assignments. Be prudent about the load you can take. If your manager insists on stretch assignments, clarify your limitations, and understand his/her expectations. Be flexible and arrive at a mutually agreed set of goals. Limit to three to five goals per six-month period.

4. Make your goals SMART: The intention of this widely used acronym in performance review processes is to make things easier on both the employee and the employer, by setting goals that can be measured for success, and are not vague, irrelevant, or never-ending. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant/Realistic, Time-bound. If you’re able to quantify your goals, then the chances of disputing the outcome are drastically reduced.

5. Have regular check-ins with your manager: Don’t depend on the official performance review cycle alone. Have regular one-on-ones with your manager to keep him/her updated on your progress and any bottlenecks. It is as much your manager’s responsibility to know about your project as is yours to keep him updated. Do your bit and schedule regular checkpoints to discuss your progress. Document your discussions and share with your manager so he/she can access it easily. This also helps when having discussions about your performance during calibration sessions. It’s often not possible to include everything in the standard annual performance review template.

6. Upskill yourself for your current and future role: Seek out training and development opportunities which could help you in your role. These could be certifications, job-shadowing, external courses, internal developmental programs, etc. Develop yourself in your current role and prepare yourself for a future role to motivate your managers to promote you. After a certain level, leadership behaviors are valued more than individual performance targets, so be aware of them, seek guidance. and work toward the essential skills required of the next level.

7. Identify and seek feedback from your stakeholders: Some organizations encourage a 360-degree feedback, so it helps to check in with your stakeholders as well, especially if you are working on high-impact projects. Even if you do not get the real picture, sharing their feedback with the manager, will help keep him/her informed about your understanding of their opinion. Your manager may solicit feedback from your stakeholders to decide on your performance, and if there is any disagreement at the time, your manager at least knows you weren’t informed on time. On the other hand, it’s always nice to have more people on your good side.

8. Don’t depend only on your manager: Sadly, not all managers are great people managers, so depending solely on one person to look out for you is not always wise. Besides, the more you network, the more people get to know about your work, your achievements, and at the very least, your existence. This also helps when you are planning on moving within the organization, because calibration discussions often involve managers in the same team coming together to compare the performance of team members in similar roles. You could have additional endorsement for your stellar performance from managers who aren’t your direct boss.

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