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How to prepare for your annual appraisal

Although your annual appraisal may feel like a chore, it’s actually a very important part of your career plan.  The outcome of this process can influence the bonus you receive, your salary for the next year, and whether you get the chance for further development opportunities. It’s therefore vital that you prepare thoroughly, so that you get the best possible score. Make sure you’re ready for your annual review with the five following practical tips.

Review your development plan

Before you can help your manager grade your performance over the previous year, you need to make sure that you are very clear on what your goals were. What targets did you agree with your manager at the start of the year? What comments did you get during performance meetings with your boss? What score did you get for your mid-year review? It’s really important that you understand the answers to these questions, so that you can help influence the result from your appraisal.

Measure your performance

The best way to agree your annual rating with your manager is to show how well you have responded to feedback and to give detailed measurements of your performance. If you can show factual evidence of your achievements, it’s very difficult for your manager to disagree with the rating that you suggest. Don’t wait for your manager to do the work. It’s up to you to make sure that you have the correct results for all the measurements in your scorecard, so collect all the data before the review meeting.

Use feedback where you can’t use numbers

It’s very difficult to measure performance against target for soft skills like teamwork or leadership. Give examples of capabilities that you can’t measure by collecting feedback from your stakeholders. Ask as many people as possible, so that you have lots of opinions to draw on, but only ask people whose comments are valuable. Make sure that you are very specific in what you ask for. If you want people to comment on your teamwork or communication skills in particular, then mention these skills specifically in your request.

Ask yourself some hard questions

One of the most common outcomes from an annual appraisal is disappointment. When employees start to discuss their performance with their manager, they often have a false sense of expectation. Have you been really honest about your performance? Are you actually the best person in your team, and do you deserve the highest score? It’s vital that you are as realistic as possible about the process and about the grade that you think your manager should give you. If you really want a top score, the chances are that you will have to really prove that you are worth it.

Start thinking about next year

Your annual appraisal is not just for reviewing your past performance. It’s also an opportunity to think about what you are going to do next. Don’t spend all your time thinking about what happened over the last year. Spend an equal amount of time trying to consider what your development goals are for the following year. Take your current performance into account, and set targets that you are confident will address the areas where you need to improve. By focusing on what happens over the next twelve months, it won’t matter so much if you don’t get the score you want for the current appraisal.

You can’t prepare adequately for an annual appraisal ten minutes before you walk into the review meeting. Start preparing weeks before the review is due, so that you have time collect data and feedback. Take accountability for your development, and make sure that you have as much information and evidence as possible to support your final score.