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It Pays to Understand Their Role in Your Career Management and Personal Development

A performance appraisal allows you to have an open discussion with your manager and receive feedback that helps you manage your career. If the company you work for conducts performance appraisals, seize the opportunities they offer for personal development.

The main elements of a performance appraisal

A performance appraisal is a formal process for reviewing and assessing how well you are doing in your job. While the details of the process and the terminology vary from one organisation to the next, some elements are always present.

  • Timing. Performance appraisals occur at regular intervals, for example quarterly or annually.
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These are the criteria for evaluating what you accomplish over a given period.
  • Performance rating. This compares your actual performance with your KPIs.
  • Discussion. This is when you and your manager cover topics such as:
-  issues that affect your performance
-  your feelings about your job
-  areas in which you need personal development
-  how you would like your career to progress
  • Feedback. Your manager gives you their view of your performance and offers suggestions for improvement.
  • Goal setting. You and your manager agree on what you need to achieve between now and your next performance appraisal. These goals are your new KPIs.
  • Documentation. A performance appraisal report provides a written record of all relevant information.
  • Sign-off. You and your manager both sign the appraisal report.

Why your performance appraisals matter

  • Remuneration. Your performance appraisal has a direct relationship with your annual salary review. Depending on your role and the structure of your salary package, it may also affect other components of remuneration such as bonuses and commissions.
  • Continuation of employment. If your appraisals consistently show you failing to meet KPIs, you may find yourself looking for another job. If you are in an initial probationary period, you might only have one chance to achieve a satisfactory appraisal.
  • Promotion. Performance appraisals have a direct bearing on your promotion prospects.
  • Identification of training needs. This is an outcome of any discussion and feedback. Both you and your employer benefit when you are properly trained for your current role. Training may also be a way of helping you prepare for a future role.
  • Fairness and consistency. One of the aims of a formal performance appraisal system is to ensure that assessment of all employees occurs under the same rules. This is an important safeguard against discrimination.
  • Resourcing and planning. Your employer collects and analyses information, such as KPIs and training requirements, from the performance appraisals of all staff. This data is critical for accurate budgeting and forecasting in finance, marketing and human resources.
  • Reduced staff turnover. At an individual level, performance appraisals help you and your employer align your respective goals. Across the organisation, there will be a higher level of job satisfaction and less turnover than without the appraisal process in place.
  • Increased productivity. This is a major benefit for your employer. The effects of consistent performance monitoring, appropriate training and reduced staff turnover all have a positive impact on the bottom line.

Preparing for the performance appraisal meeting

  • Do some self-analysis. Look at what you have done well and how you could improve. If any specific issues or challenges have affected your work, think about the best way to discuss them with your manager.
  • Consider your short, medium and long-term career goals.
  • Identify any training or additional experience that you would like to have. Make sure that you can explain how it will help you become a more valuable employee.

During the appraisal meeting

  • Show respect for the process, even if you disagree with your manager.
  • Stay calm.
  • Talk openly but politely.
  • Listen to feedback and constructive criticism without interrupting.

After the appraisal meeting

  • Follow-up and complete any actions that you and your manager agreed upon.
  • Take feedback and suggestions on board as pointers for your personal development.
  • Get to work on your KPIs so you will shine at your next review.

If you think your appraisal is unfair

  • Avoid the temptation to discuss it with colleagues. If you do, your grievance will become office gossip.
  • If your employer has a formal process for resolving concerns about unfair appraisals, follow it to the letter.
  • If there is no formal resolution process, you need to apply careful judgement about who to approach. Consider talking to your manager’s superior, or the human resources department if there is one.

An important point to remember about performance appraisals

Your manager is always assessing your performance. Rather than being a test that you pass or fail, the performance appraisal reflects what you do every day.

Further reading

Visit our Careers Advice section for related articles.

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