You might have thought that working hard, getting results and doing a good job would be enough to get you a good review round score. Unfortunately, this only really works in small organisations where everyone knows you and they’re aware of how you’re performing. In larger organisations, the people making the final decisions around promotions and pay rises are unlikely to be personally familiar with your work. They will need to utilise a more formal appraisal process to ensure that everyone gets reviewed fairly.
Why am I talking about review round already?
You might be thinking “it’s August, why are you thinking about performance reviews already?” and this is quite a natural view. It is extremely common to leave working on your review round until shortly before it is due. Afterall, you have work that you need to be getting on with right now and that isn’t due until the end of the year.
I, like most other people, dislike preparing for the review round. I find writing about myself cringe-worthy and unnatural, regularly finding myself stuck for what to say. By putting a little preparation in throughout the year you can make your preparation quicker and easier. I, therefore, am writing about the review round now because it’s not too late to get ahead of the game. Below are a number of methods that I have used, or will be using this year, for making my life easier when it comes to appraisals.
Methods to maximise your review round score
Know your objectives
Chances are if you work for a consultancy company you’ll have multiple sets of objectives. These could include objectives from your project, your account, your organisational group, any company wide objectives, and that’s not even thinking about your personal objectives. The more different sets of objectives you have the more important it is for you to know what is expected of you. Gathering these together is likely to be time-consuming but it can one of the most important things you can do for your appraisal.
If you are going for promotion then this is doubly important as you will need to demonstrate that you are working at the next level already. There are a number of ways that you could do this. The clearest way is to list the objectives and expectations of the next grade up and details of how you are meeting them. There may be additional requirements for promotion (e.g. years served) but preparing this information will not hurt your review score.
Now that you know all the factors that you are being measured against, you can start thinking about the next step. Tracking your performance against them.
Track your achievements throughout the year
This may sound like an obvious suggestion but most people don’t track their achievements. Saying “I’ll remember this”, then when trying to prepare, struggling to recall what has happened during the year.
Ways to track your achievements
Keeping track of your achievements and your progress towards meeting your objectives does not need to be arduous. One simple method you can take is just creating a folder in your email client. When you receive an email that could be used as evidence for your review round, keep a copy of it in there. Be quite liberal with putting copies of emails in this folder. It is far easier to decide an email doesn’t make the cut but far harder to find emails later. I’ve gone as far as setting up a keyboard shortcut for the task, minimising the resistance to doing this.
In addition to the folder, I use a spread sheet for tracking my progress. In this spread sheet, I have a list of each of my objectives, next to that I have space to write down how I have evidenced it and a RAG status for how confident I feel about it. This can be done in Excel if you want but I personally use Google Sheets as I can access it on my phone as well as my computer. This makes it easy for me to quickly add notes to it when I think of them out and about.
You can download a copy of the spread sheet (both Excel and Google Sheets) that I use, below.
While I would strongly recommend making updates as you go, it can be helpful to have a weekly reflection. Five minutes a week should be adequate, have a think about what you’ve done and note it down. I have a 15-minute weekly meeting in my diary where I fill in my client time sheet, company time sheet, note anything good from the last week that you’ve missed and I still have time to go get a coffee. Hopefully, this is more a reflection of the regular updates than my lack of achievement!
Not all feedback you receive will be written in an email, you may receive it verbally. In this case, it may be worth asking if you can get this in writing for your records. Asking this can feel a little awkward but if it’s a sincere comment then there shouldn’t be a problem. Getting this in writing if far better than a “they said…” in your review. As an aside, if you feel someone has done something praiseworthy then in addition to saying it to them, drop them an email. The email doesn’t need to be long, a couple sentences should suffice; what they did and why it was praiseworthy.
Share and review your progress with your career manager
Tracking how you are progressing against your objectives is fine but it is worth validating that you are hitting the mark. There’s nothing worse than working hard collecting evidence only to find out it isn’t what your career manager is looking for or isn’t strong enough evidence. That is why is it worth at least once during the year validating your tracker with your career manager. Best case, your career manager agrees and you can be more confident on those objectives. Worst case, they aren’t strong enough but you know in advance so can work to gather more evidence before the performance review.
Chat with your career manager
I’ve been very fortunate to have very friendly career managers, who I have enjoyed talking to about work and common interests. This has therefore been quite easy for me, but it is worthwhile putting in the effort to build up your relationship with your career manager.
Discuss expectations early in the year
Do you want to go for promotion this year? If so you should be speaking to your career manager about this at the beginning of the year. They may have a view of whether you are ready for the promotion or not. Knowing this early can help you plan for the year. If there’s a lot of competencies to demonstrate before they will put you forward, you can discuss options for demonstrating them during the year.
Understand how your career manager works
Every career manager is different and will prefer to work in different ways. Understanding how your career manager works can benefit you greatly. It will allow you to tailor the presentation of your review round to suit them. Do they prefer to have bullet points of your achievements or more in depth written notes? If you know this in advance you can put the little extra effort in to make their lives easier.
Let them know if you’re having problems
While most of us think about our career managers only when it comes to review rounds, they are there to mentor us through all aspects of our career. There will be times when things aren’t going your way and talking it through can be helpful. Your career manager may be able to give you advice on how to resolve issues, how to deal with stressful situations or act as a sounding board. If you’re having problems with your role then speaking to your career manager can raise issues early, which left unchecked can impact your review round when it comes up later in the year.
General comments regarding career managers
This should be obvious but your career manager won’t be able to do all the work for you. They may be able to open doors or give guidance about what you should do but at the end of the day, you’re the one who has to put in the work.
Be aware of your career managers time. Your career manager may get a little bit of time allocated for helping you but it is unlikely to cover the effort required over the year. Keep this in mind when you ask for their time, they will likely have a few managees and their own work to do.
What can you do to help them? Your career manager is primarily helping you for your benefit so it can be good to look at opportunities to help them in thanks. We’re not talking “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” but genuine offers to help out. There may not be anything that you can help your career manager with but it is always nice to ask.
Start next year’s objectives when writing this years review
Did you fall short on a couple of your objectives from this year? If so then this is the perfect opportunity to start on next years. Look at these areas and think about how you can demonstrate them during the next year. You can then validate these with your career manager that what you’ve proposed would adequately demonstrate it.
Starting next year’s objectives during the review round process may not help you this year but it will make your life easier for the next. It will also help to demonstrate that you’re willing to take on feedback and proactive in implementing it. The feedback you receive is likely to be enough for you to create relevant SMART objectives quickly that you know will demonstrate personal progression.
Make your career manager’s life easy
If you think you dislike the effort that you have to put into your review round, take a second to consider your career manager. They are having to do their own self-assessment while also providing their feedback for you and probably many other managees. You only have to write your own, that doesn’t seem quite as bad now, does it?
As you’ve already spoken to your career manager about how they work, implement it. By providing your career manager with all the information they need, in the way they want it will bode well for you. By making sure the information they want is easily accessible it will be clearer for them that you have excelled this year. That being easily identifiable allows any discussions about the outcome of this year to get straight to the point. As mentioned above I use the spread sheet to make this as easy as possible.
In the run up to the deadline for review round submissions your career manager will be preparing their own submission, working on the response to their other managees and on top of all that, doing their day job. If you’re able to submit your part of the appraisal early it allows them to spread their work out a bit more. Something that they are likely to appreciate.
So what do you think, will you be implementing any of the above ideas this year? Do you have anything else that you do to make your review round go smoothly? Do you perform performance reviews and have any tips on things you would like to see?