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10 ways to get the most out of your performance appraisal

Many professionals find performance reviews boring and unhelpful. But they can help you reflect on your past and future career. Here’s how to ensure they’re up to scratch
Performance appraisals are like a rite of passage in the world of work. As employees, we’re often involved in them whether we like it or not. But how often do you think about how to get the most out of them? Here are 10 tips for doing just that.

1. Acknowledge that it’s necessary
Feedback is the best way of ascertaining whether we’re getting better at what we do, but don’t feel obliged to put up with out-of-date performance appraisal processes. Today, we’re used to getting regular feedback and communications online.

2. Think about context
You need to think about how good your boss is at this type of process. How are performance appraisals conducted in your organisation? Is it a dull, routine activity that people shy away from or is it more vibrant? Even though the organisation may say that performance appraisals are important, how seriously does it really take them?

They are an opportunity for you to explore where you want to go, alongside understanding what the options may be. Gather evidence about your past performance and think about what you want in the future.

3. Assess your attitude towards your job
Don’t go through your appraisal just for the sake of it. Consider what the value of the process is to you. Is it something that you look forward to or is it the complete opposite? An appraisal gives you many opportunities to plan what you want to do next in your work, so grasp those opportunities with both hands. If you’re serious about this job, you need to go for it. If not, then it’s a good time to consider whether the role is right for you.

4. Make a wishlist
What do you want from your performance appraisal? A map of your future career? Maybe you’re looking to build your confidence or get a sense of your future in this organisation and any training you might want to do. You might want to ask what opportunities to learn and develop are there going to be in the future.

5. Make sure it happens
If you’re due your appraisal, but don’t get it, you may have to insist on having it. Speak face-to-face with your boss and explain why you feel it’s important and agree a time to have the discussion.

If you don’t get what you want, you can talk to your organization’s HR team as it is responsible for appraisals or if you have a mentor in the company, you could also ask their advice. As a last resort, you can also go above your boss’ head to their manager. But if you do this, you should follow good protocol by informing both your boss and HR beforehand.

6. Prepare
Preparing for the appraisal is vital. Whether your boss is prepared or not, you must be ready. Gather together relevant information – particularly anything that meets your objectives – and source evidence to prove you’re doing your job successfully. If you’re doing lots of different tasks or projects, make a record of them all, whether in a diary, or just on your phone.

Be really clear about what you want out of the discussion. If you want to cover particular things, let your boss know beforehand and ask how long the discussion will be. If you have a lot to cover, you could suggest two sessions rather than one long meeting. Type up your proposed agenda with suggestions for timings so that you spend the right proportion of time on what matters.

Be really specific about details so that when you’re in the appraisal meeting, you can say, “In June, I did X, Y and Z … ” At the meeting, take along examples of your work and you could also bring feedback from someone you’ve worked with about what you’ve contributed.

7. Follow up
Notes should be written on your appraisal both by you and your manager. These are not just a record; they should be actively used during the year to ensure your key targets are met.

Write to your boss afterwards to thank them and explain why the appraisal worked for you. You could talk about how you are feeling about the company – what’s going well for you and what you’re going to be doing in the future.

8. Consider your future
After your appraisal, set out a plan and get it signed off by your boss. Map out your future at the organisation – even if your manager isn’t actively involved in this.

Keep your manager in the loop, though. For example, you could tell your boss that following discussions in your appraisal, you plan on doing certain aspects of your work differently, or taking on new responsibilities, and will report back with the results.

9. Be persistent
If your boss doesn’t stick to promises made during the appraisal, you may well need to follow up with them again. Your manager is busy and you are but one of many going through this process so you need to take responsibility and make sure you get what you need. If you are worried that your boss is not giving you any support or is treating you unfairly, raise the issue again and let them know that you will go and speak to HR. Managers are often busy, but good managers always find time for their people and for their career development.

10. Get feedback regularly
Your work life never stays static, so it’s important to make sure your feedback is regular, outside the formal appraisal process.

If you need feedback more regularly, ask if you can arrange this or ask other people, such as your peer group, senior managers, customers or mentors.

Simon North is the founder of Position Ignition and the Career Ignition Club.

This content is brought to you by Guardian Careers. To get more content and advice like this direct to your inbox, sign up for our weekly Careers update and receive our free Careers Ebook.

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