The key factor to help make the process less painful is to be fully prepared and is particularly important to remember that preparation should be ongoing throughout the year – not just a rushed job a few hours before you are due to meet your line manager!
Set Clear Objectives
At the start of each year, clear objectives and goals need to be set and these should be used as the basis for your appraisal. It is important that you continually review your own progress against these targets and adapt activities or behaviours, where necessary to help you achieve your goals. Remember that all objectives should be SMART:
Encourage ongoing and open communication with your line manager throughout the year. This will enable you to discuss any issues you may have and resolve them as they occur. It also allows you to discuss both successes and failings and provide constructive feedback to each other. A good line manager will provide consistent feedback throughout the year and the formal appraisal should make up only part of the process. This open form of communication also ensures that there are no surprises on the day.
Evidence of Effectiveness
It is important to collect evidence, throughout the year to support your appraisal. This provides documented back-up to support your key achievements and career highlights. Examples of things to collect might include: feedback from internal and external customers in the form of letters of commendation or emails from colleagues, copies of any presentations you may have given or evidence of continued learning e.g. certificates for any relevant training courses you have attended.
The Big Day
If you have been preparing for your appraisal throughout the year, the day itself should be relatively straightforward. It might be an idea to speak to your line manager in advance to determine if any specific preparation is required by you and what you should bring along. Go to your appraisal with an open mind and be positive. Hearing what your line manager feels about you and your performance can only help you. Even if the opinion is not what you had hoped for, it is better to be aware of it. After all, you can act then to put things right. The appraisal process is key to your personal development, so see it as an opportunity; be open to suggestions and advice – even to criticism – as long as it is constructive and fair. Finally make sure you sell yourself and your achievements. If you don’t argue your case for a pay rise or promotion, why should anyone else!
On average an appraisal should last about 90-120 minutes. Companies sometimes separate out the performance appraisal from setting objectives and goals for the following year. However, your continuing training and development are extremely important and you should ensure you set a date and time to discuss these with your manager. So even if you do not discuss future plans and objectives, be proactive and prepare some questions relating to your career and your future aspirations, such as wanting to take a certain course. This can be noted and followed up at your next meeting.
In conclusion, preparation is the key to a productive and painless appraisal. Set yourself SMART objectives early in the year and keep an ongoing record of your success and achievements, supported where possible with hard evidence. Try to encourage ongoing, open communication with your line manager to avoid nasty surprises and when the big day arrives be positive and open minded. Most importantly, remember that an appraisal is a continuous process and not a one off event. This is the first and most significant step towards transforming the dreaded appraisal into the best opportunity to sell yourself.