How to Prepare for Your Annual Employee Review

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Your annual employee performance review is an important opportunity to review your goals and accomplishments and receive feedback on your past performance and suggestions for improvement. Performance reviews can be used to justify raises or promotions or to request additional responsibility, so it’s important that your performance is accurately documented. With a healthy amount of upfront planning, an annual performance review can be a positive experience that can further your career.

Prepare for Your Annual Performance Review

Properly preparing for your annual performance review throughout the year, not just a week or two before it occurs, can lessen any surprises and increase the likelihood of a productive, successful meeting. Maintain a detailed log of your goals and accomplishments that you can refer to throughout the year and use them in preparation for your annual review. This will ensure that the information you provide is detailed, complete and accurate, and lessen the likelihood of missing a key item in your review.

In addition, stay current on what's expected of you to meet company goals. Company strategies are always changing and your job description may change along with it. Therefore, meet regularly with your manager to make sure you continue to meet present expectations.

Five Ways to Prepare for a Performance Review

Key points to remember for a smooth performance review include:

  1. Know your manager's expectations and your goals before the review.
  2. Obtain manager feedback on a regular basis.
  3. Maintain a record of your accomplishments and changing goals throughout the year.
  4. Keep your manager informed.
  5. Provide input to your manager.

Manage Job Expectations

Understand management's expectations, as well as your goals well before your annual review. Take a look at the job posting that was used to advertise your position. When you are applying for a job, or are new at a job, it’s not uncommon to only have a superficial sense of your job duties. However, once you’re there for a few months, you should have a better understanding of the job requirements.

Many managers schedule weekly one-on-ones with their employees to stay informed about their employees' work, which can include reviewing job expectations, especially when duties change along with changing company goals. Above all, it's important to have your manager explain how your performance will be assessed throughout the year.

Even if your manager or company doesn’t have a formal goal-setting or development-planning process, you can still set informal goals with your manager. By doing so, you’re not only demonstrating to your manager that you are ambitious and results-oriented, you are minimizing the chances of being surprised during the annual review discussion.

Get Feedback

Ask your manager for feedback twice a month or monthly. This can be done during scheduled status meetings. The information will help you to keep track of your goals and accomplishments, and set expectations. Feedback will also help you to make any necessary improvements. You can, therefore, be assured that you are performing your job properly throughout the year.

Record Accomplishments

Record and maintain a log of your accomplishments thought the year. For example, keep a folder of good and bad performance, customer feedback, performance reports, progress on goals, and anything else that supports your performance expectations and goals.

Keeping a record of your major accomplishments and summarizing them on an annual basis is also the perfect time to update your resume. Each year, you should add at least a couple of accomplishments to your resume and LinkedIn profile.

Keep Manager Informed

Don’t assume your manager is aware of your performance status and accomplishments. Without overdoing it, let your manager know when you’ve done something great. It’s also important to own up to any mistakes, as managers dislike surprises and will appreciate that you are accountable for your actions. 

Give Input to Manager

Provide input to your manager, even if it is not requested during your annual review. Your input during this meeting is a rare opportunity to mention your accomplishments to increase your chances for advancement.

Electronic Review Process

Many companies have adopted an efficient process that records and tracks an employee's progress throughout their years of employment. For example, there are software programs that simplify the review process by asking management to fill in employee goals that must be met throughout the year. The employee then explains, in the required fields, how they met these goals along with providing specific examples. The manager then reviews the employee's comments and accomplishments and may rate the employee, from "didn't meet expectations" to "exceeded expectations" and adds their own comments. The employee then meets with their manager to review the findings, which is the basis of the annual review.