My ONE Tip for your Performance Appraisal

AppraisalOne the best things about being a contractor is the sheer joy (I’ll admit, it’s a very naughty joy!) in watching everyone around me moan and groan about their imminent appraisals, and the myriad forms that have to be filled in, knowing I don’t need to worry about it!

It’s such a relief and luxury not to have to do them – especially after thirteen years at a company that took them very seriously (and to be fair, is the best I’ve ever seen at the process, methodical, as fair as you can be at measuring other human beings, and with the grading actually showing some relevance to our bonuses).  Having had what I see now as the luxury of a top-notch appraisal system (and having seen it both as an appraisee and an appraiser) before I give you my one and only tip for your appraisal, here are a couple of gripes I’ve heard today, that you might also be feeling, and that I think are worth addressing:-

  • “Doh!  Why does the company bother with appraisals at all?  It’s a waste of our time.  My manager knows me – can’t we just talk?” – Well, yes, you could just talk.  But what happens when your manager moves on?  How will your new manager know what your issues were, or what you agreed on?  If nothing is formally documented, how will you know that the conversation you actually had with your manager is what ends up in your permanent records?  How will you know the promises they made about new training courses or a change in your role will be implemented?  You need something that formalises and records what you and your manager have agreed on – how well you did last year, and what you’re going to be doing this year.
  • “Why do I have to bother filling out all these self-assessment forms?  It’s all about what my manager thinks of me anyway, why do I need to assess anything?” – It IS about what your manager thinks of your performance, but it’s not JUST about that.  It’s also about how you think you did, and about how your manager and the company supported you (or didn’t) in achieving what you did.  AND your manager is not a super-human with amazing powers of recall.  They can’t remember everything you did or achieved or struggled with.  By filling in the self-assessment you’re giving them a gentle reminder, you’re helping them see the full picture, not just the most recent issues, but also where you’ve come from and how you’ve improved in the role, or streamlined a process, or found a smarter way to do something – they might not necessarily remember all of that, especially if they have a large team.  But YOU will, because they’re your achievements and struggles, it’s your experiences you’re talking about.

There have been, and will continue to be many debates on whether annual appraisals are a good thing or a bad thing, but if they exist in your current company, you may as well use them to your best advantage, right?

So here’s my number one, absolute gem, top tip for getting the most out of your appraisal.


Yup – that’s it.  Sounds obvious, but in all my years as an appraising manager, I can literally count on one hand the number of employees who came prepared for their appraisals.

When I say prepare, I mean exactly that.  Review your year in detail.  Look over last year’s objectives and reflect on how closely you’ve achieved your goal.  Pull out any evidence that proves you’ve achieved what you had set out to – that might include emails from satisfied customers, or calculating some percentages to prove you’ve reduced the debtor balance you’re responsible for, a copy of slides of the presentation you did, or feedback forms you’ve received.  If you have the time and inclination you could request feedback, in advance, from people you have worked with – external or internal, and have this ready for your manager to look at too.  When you’re sitting there having your nice annual chat, it’s easy for your manager to forget exactly what you achieved, and even if you tell them, they may not necessarily agree with your viewpoint.  But they can’t argue with actual evidence.  So spend some time pulling it all together.  Yes, it’s time-consuming.  Yes, it’s a pain.  Yes, it’s worth it!

I once went into an appraisal with an employee expecting to give them a particular grading, based on what I’d seen of their performance.  They came in armed with emails, ratios to show how they’d improved each aspect of their job, as well as ideas for how they wanted to progress – I was genuinely surprised, and after reviewing their evidence (and checking it stacked up – I am an ex-auditor after all!), I felt that the grade I had originally assigned was not high enough, and upgraded them.  Because THEY CAME PREPARED.

There is so much more to appraisals, but seriously – my best tip for you, because it works – PREPARE.


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