Performance Appraisals

  | James Innes

The thought of a forthcoming annual performance appraisal is enough to send shivers down the spine of even the most hardened professional. Appraisals can be seen as an opportunity for the manager to voice their gripes and dissatisfaction and to generally criticise their employees. However, the true aim of an annual performance appraisal is to motivate and develop an employee and, if approached correctly by the manager and the employee, there is no reason why the whole experience cannot be both rewarding and positive.

You should be given plenty of time to prepare for your performance appraisal and you should use this time constructively rather than just anxiously waiting for the day to come. Remember also that your manager should try to make the experience as relaxed and positive as possible by choosing a suitable venue and arranging the layout of the room in a way that is informal and non-confrontational.

It is important to remember that, although formal performance appraisals are generally carried out on an annual basis, your performance and achievements throughout the entire year will be under assessment. Evidence of an individual’s overall contribution to the business will be reviewed as will their level of success in the achievement of their targets and objectives. To help yourself prepare for your annual performance appraisal, it is helpful for you to keep comprehensive records of exactly what you have achieved throughout the year and anything relating to your individual performance. Another useful preparation tip is to read through your formal job description, highlight how you have fulfilled your responsibilities and what work you have done that you feel exceeds your job role. Pay particular attention to any challenges that you were faced with detailing exactly how you were able to overcome them. Indeed, the performance appraisal is also a useful opportunity to discuss aspects of your role in which you have not been particularly successful so that you can discuss with your manager how you can improve for the future.

Throughout the year, it is important to take a proactive approach to your own career development. Go out of your way to take part in any available training, workshops or seminars that may help you to develop your skills and knowledge and seek to obtain support from your employer for any external training or professional qualifications. An employer is keen to see their staff taking an active interest in the development of their career as this can mean that they are able to make a more positive contribution to the overall improvement of the organisation. Again, make sure that you keep complete records of all the development opportunities you have undertaken and bring these with you to the annual performance appraisal.

By reading through the report from your previous performance appraisal, you will be able to assess whether or not you have achieved the specific targets and objectives set for you by your manager. Your level of performance will be used as a benchmark in your next appraisal to enable your manager to discuss with you what your future expectations and objectives should be. It is to the advantage of yourself and your manager that the targets you agree are realistic otherwise you can become de-motivated resulting in an overall decline in your performance. The specific targets and objectives that are set for you will be used to form the basis of your overall action plan. This should also take into account your long term career aspirations which you should discuss with your manager to help you decide the most appropriate course of action to enable you to effectively develop your career in the appropriate direction. Your manager may be able to provide you with company literature and information that will help you and should also be able to advise you on appropriate training. Your finalised action plan from your annual performance appraisal is a very important document and you should refer back to it on a regular basis in order to monitor your performance and ongoing development.

Because a performance appraisal should really be a positive activity, it is not the appropriate time to discuss serious grievances or disciplinary matters. However, it is a good opportunity for you to raise any questions or concerns that you have regarding your specific role, your department or the company in general. You can also work closely with your manager to identify any weaknesses you may have and to select an appropriate method for overcoming them. It is never pleasant to have to face criticism from your employer but, as long as this criticism is well-founded and constructive, you should try to handle this as positively and professionally as you can. Don’t be seen to be on the defensive but try instead to co-operate with your manager and pay close attention to any advice they may give you.

A performance appraisal is a valuable tool for your ongoing career development and can even by used to assess your suitability for promotion or a salary increase so, although it should be a positive experience, it should still be taken very seriously. If handled effectively, positive relationships should develop with your manager and improved channels of communication should be achieved. Don’t be too shy – if you think that you succeeded particularly well in a certain field, be comfortable discussing it. Feel free to ask any questions of your manager and take on board their positive and negative evaluations.

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