Preparing for your appraisal
No one looks forward to their appraisal but for the time being they are a reality of working life – here are some survival tips:
An appraisal can be part of a wider performance management process. See our separate page about performance management.
Know what is expected
Do your prep, read the process and know what you are going to be assessed against. Think about your job description, job standards, objectives and make a note of your achievements against each. Do you get assessed against behaviours? The criteria for assessment and key measures should have been clear from the start of the year – changing these midway through or introducing new criteria after the event is moving the goal posts. It’s not productive for anyone – so getting standards and measures clear up front is critical.
Once a year?
Good performance management should not be a one off annual event, but an ongoing conversation. That may not always be the case. Don’t rely on your manager remembering everything you have done – make a note and jog their memory. Ideally, keep asking for feedback throughout the year and check that the standards remain in place.
Make sure you have all your 121 notes or reviews available. Take a note of your key achievements across the whole year. It can be tempting to just focus on more recent events, but the annual review should look across the whole period. Look at your diary – it can be easy to forget events that took place a while ago.
Evidence, concrete facts and figures and real outputs are critical – but keep it short and sweet. A mountain of evidence can work against you. A few bullet points should be all you need – if you produce a lengthy document, the chances are that it won’t get read at all.
Keep it positive
Try to focus on the positives, but if things have not gone to plan, then try to identify the lessons you have learnt. How could things be improved for the future? If you do get some negative feedback ask for specific examples and evidence.
Having opportunities to learn and develop are key to building motivation and engagement. promotion opportunities may be limited but that doesn’t mean you can’t develop and learn. So think laterally. Are there new areas of work you have yet to master at your current level? Could you deepen your knowledge in a particular aspect of your role? If you are a line manager, could you strengthen your coaching skills? Is there a course you could do?
Even if budgets are tight many employers provide free access to computer based courses. There is a huge range of free material available on the web where you can download recordings of lectures from major universities across the world. Whilst they may not be immediately relevant to your work, learning new things helps keep you sharp and interested.
Not happy with the outcome?
Appraisal is always at least in part a subjective process. Overlay this with organisational change, a new line manager or shifting objectives and it is inevitable that some people may not be happy with the outcome. If this is the case you should discuss it first with your line manager informally, and, if you are still unhappy, your second line manager. If that doesn’t produce a satisfactory resolution then think about taking out a grievance. Make sure you talk to your Prospect rep before you do. See Prospect's guide to appealing against performance appraisal.
As a fundamentally subjective process it is easy for discrimination to creep in. Our surveys over the years have found evidence of discrimination on grounds of race, disability, age and part time worker status. Often this is unconscious, very subtle and therefore very hard to spot, let alone eliminate. We are trying to address this working with employers. If you are concerned you may have been disadvantaged through discrimination, make sure that you contact the union.
Positive, regular, informal
Finally, remember that positive, regular informal feedback works best
Too often employers are obsessed with ensuring that the distribution of performance ratings looks right – but that’s all about measuring, not improving performance. The evidence* suggests that far from improving performance forced ranking and the like can actually lower performance. Instead, if employers are serious about improving performance, then they should focus on the things that have been shown to do just that – regular fair, constructive and positive feedback, encouragement of reasonable risk taking, clear standards set up front, opportunities to play to your strengths, supported by good comms and leadership.