Performance reviews are a fact of corporate life. The dislike and dread of reviews is no secret, after all, most employees report finding their annual reviews both unhelpful and uninspiring. It’s easy to give into this notion and resign yourself to the process. That, however, is a waste of a good opportunity.
Formal reviews take place only once or twice a year; they represent a rare and valuable chance to speak with your manager about your work and your career plans. The right mindset and careful preparation can transform your annual review from a dreaded obligation into a growth opportunity.
In this article we’re going to focus on what you should do after the written review. For tips on the written review process, read our article “How to Prepare and Write Your Self-Review”.
Preparing for the review meeting
After the written review process ends, you’ll likely be meeting with your manager to discuss the review. Ask your manager for a copy of your evaluation before your meeting so that you can process the information in peace, on your own time. This will also allow you to get a handle on any strong feelings that might come up in response to your evaluation.
Most of the time, getting feedback activates a “trigger” for us, setting off powerful emotional responses and leading us down one of three possible paths. We might dispute the inherent truth of the feedback. We might feel that our basic sense of self is threatened by the feedback. Or, we might be so focused on the person reviewing us that we’re unable to take in their feedback objectively (see “Understanding the 3 Types of Feedback Triggers”). These responses are all perfectly valid – but you’ll want to avoid getting stuck in any of them. Allow yourself time to move through your feelings alone before you speak with your manager.
Put together a list of questions to ask your manager about your evaluation. Coming out of the meeting, you want to make sure that:
You understand exactly what your strengths are and the feedback/opportunity development areas.
You and your manager are aligned on what you need to achieve / demonstrate for you to “succeed” on your next review (whatever success means to you).
You and your manager have a plan and a process to manage that plan so you aren’t flying blindly until the next review.
Unfortunately, reviews often contain over generalized feedback with vague terms. Questions such as “can you give me an example of when I didn’t demonstrate x, and how it would’ve looked if I did?”, and “what would it look like if I were successful at y?” will help clarify those.
During the meeting
More than anything else, keep your goals for the meeting in mind. Gather information about your role, what’s expected of you, your strengths, and your areas of development. Make sure you are getting the level of clarity you need from your manager on what they think success looks like for you over the next review period. You have your list of questions - make sure to get them answered.
Stay calm and focused during the meeting. Avoid getting defensive, and instead try to understand exactly what your manager is telling you. If you disagree with the feedback, while it’s understandable that you want to defend yourself, remember that the feedback is true for your manager, and an important data point for how you are viewed by the company. Getting defensive isn’t going to help you make your case though - you need to understand what your manager means, and where the feedback is coming from. Once you understand the feedback, if it’s factually incorrect, then you should correct or amend the record through the proper HR channels.
Once you and your manager are aligned on what you need to achieve, you and your manager should make a plan to get there. You can do it in this meeting, or schedule a follow up meeting within a week to discuss the plan. But don’t let too much time go by.
Nodabl can help with this process. Set your goals and create action plans in Nodabl, and give access to your manager. That way you can review these together in the same place, make adjustments as needed, and then, by setting it up in Nodabl from the start, you can easily continue the conversation and track progress on an ongoing basis. If you have your own process and tools, that’s great too. Just make sure this is written down and tracked somewhere, otherwise you’re not setting yourself up for success.
Plan for more review
Employees benefit from more feedback, not less. As most companies hold just one or two formal reviews per year, the formal review process should not be your only source of feedback nor your only dedicated conversation for growth and development.
Ideally, you should be discussing development with your manager once a week during your regular 1:1s. Having regular progress meetings leads to feedback that’s more timely, more relevant, and feedback that’s delivered in smaller, more manageable doses. Holding frequent check-ins also means that you’ll always be talking about the most recent aspects of your work, instead of looking backwards to problems that took place months ago.
You should also set up dedicated time every four to six weeks to discuss growth and development. Some managers like to make every fourth weekly 1-1 dedicated to this topic, others like to set dedicated meetings in addition to their 1:1s. Work with your manager to find something that works for both of you, but don’t let them defer it or shrug it off.
Ultimately it’s on you to do the work that you need to do to achieve your goals. Your manager should be helping you by providing feedback, guidance, support, and creating opportunities for you. But you need to do the work.
Block time out on your calendar to focus on your growth and development. If you’re using Nodabl to track your growth and development, set due dates for your goals and actions. Due dates are a great commitment device and by setting due dates in Nodabl, you’ll get automated reminders.
Taking ownership of the review process is one of the best things that you can do for your career. After all, this process is all about your professional development. If you’re going to continue to grow in your career, then regular feedback is one of the best tools you can leverage.
In order to maximize the benefits of your performance review, you’ll need to do a few simple things. You need to develop a clear understanding of what success looks like in your company – even if you disagree with the feedback you receive. You also need to set yourself up to grow as a professional and as a member of your company. This is going to look like setting clear goals and creating action plans in Nodabl. It also means regular check-ins with your manager, ideally during each of your one-on-one meetings. You can use Nodabl to collect feedback so that nothing gets forgotten or slips through the cracks.
Once you’re on track with this approach, it’s a good idea to set more formal, routine reviews every four to six weeks. Those will serve as anchors to your more casual check-ins, and will pave the way for you to make significant progress ahead of your next annual review. Before long, your regular reviews will turn into a virtuous cycle, allowing you to advance further towards higher and higher goals.