How to prepare for a performance review

Many of us look at a performance review meeting scheduled in the calendar and start to get nervous – and that’s often because of the misconceptions around what performance reviews are and what they’re supposed to achieve.

HR practices have evolved in recent years, so some of the negative perceptions may be the result of out-of-date beliefs. In this article, we’ll demystify what a modern performance review is, what to expect from it and how to prepare for one.

What is a performance review?

The goal of a performance review is to gather and give feedback to an individual to aid their professional development. It’s based on assessing the person’s performance against key performance indicators (KPIs) and other metrics, including qualitative feedback.

Performance reviews these days are often 360º assessments, in which the feedback comes from managers, peers, direct reports, self-assessments, clients and other stakeholders, creating a holistic view of the individual.

Will I be graded in my performance review?

In the past, ‘industrial’-style performance reviews were top-down, with managers ranking employees numerically. Managers would often fire lowest performing team members, leading to a competitive and stressful work environment. However, this is now considered an outdated management practice, with organisations instead prioritising the development of employees and helping them grow in their careers.

Is a performance review the same as a salary review?

People often believe that a performance review and a salary review are the same thing. While it may be possible for a performance review to inform a salary review or increase, performance reviews are focused on professional development and the individual’s contribution to the organisation.

What is the performance review process like?

Every organisation has a different performance review policy, so it’s important to get to know what to expect in yours. To prepare for a performance review, you should:

  • Look back on your deliverables and objectives since your last review or since your employment. What have been your achievements? Have you taken on tasks beyond the original scope of your job description? Spend some time reviewing where you have excelled and where you have added value to your organisation. Use this as evidence to support a request for a promotion or salary increase.
  • Identify some learnings or realisations you’ve had about yourself and some of the hurdles you face in working at your optimum level. Come with suggestions for how you can tackle these obstacles and what organisational support you may need to achieve your goals. This might be anything from a preferred communication style to flexible working hours or ergonomic office furniture – be prepared to back up any requests you make with evidence that it will enable you to be more productive.
  • Consider what you want from your career and how the organisation might be able to support your growth. For example, you might identify a training opportunity that will enable you to create more value for your employer, or request a secondment to another department in order to grow your knowledge of the organisation.

What are some performance review questions I might need to answer?

You will likely be asked questions such as:

  • What’s your greatest achievement at work?
  • What do you hope to accomplish in the coming year/half/quarter?
  • Where could you improve?

Don’t forget you can ask questions in your performance review as well, such as:

  • What do you think I could be doing better?
  • What are the organisation’s biggest goals for the coming year/half/quarter?
  • What career opportunities do you see for someone with my skills and experience?

What should I do after a performance review?

After your performance review, it’s important to spend some time reflecting on the feedback you received, and to be proactive in creating a plan for your growth for the period leading up to your next review. Schedule a follow-up meeting to run this by your manager. If you had a less-than-stellar review, this will be a good way to show that you’re motivated to improve.

By setting aside time to prepare and understand the purpose of a performance review, you can take charge of the performance review process. That way, you can ensure that it functions as it’s meant to: as a key tool in your professional development that will allow you to get more from your current role and stay on track with your broader career goals.