10 Proven Tips for a Successful Annual Review: How to Prepare, Engage, and Follow-Up

Annual performance reviews can be a nerve-wracking experience for both employees and managers. With the right preparation and mindset, they can be a valuable opportunity for growth and development. Here are ten tips for a successful annual review.

1. Prepare in Advance

Now is not the time to try to remember everything you’ve done over the past year. Instead, keep a file of your accomplishments all year long as well as any praise you’ve received from colleagues, other management staff, or department heads (your awesome file). Be prepared to show how your accomplishments align with the goals of the company. Your manager needs to know you understand the importance of your role and how you contribute to the bottom line.

2. Set Clear Goals and Expectations

Before or during the review, work with your manager to set clear, measurable goals for the next year. This will give you direction and make it easier to track your progress throughout the year. Studies show that only about 50% of employees really know what’s expected of them throughout the year, so make sure you leave the review with a clear outline of expectations, then begin working on a plan to achieve them.

3. Be Proactive

Don’t wait for your manager to bring up specific topics or concerns during the review. Take the initiative to prepare your agenda and be ready to be honest about any struggles you are having. Set goals for yourself as well, and be ready to discuss the support you might need.

4. Be Open To Feedback

Even if the feedback is difficult to hear, try to keep an open mind and consider it objectively. Remember that the goal of the review is to help you improve and grow in your role. Your manager is there to provide feedback and guidance, so make sure you are actively listening and engaging in the conversation.

5. Listen Actively

Now is not the time to get defensive. Listen actively to your manager regarding any improvements you need to make as well as any particular skills you are doing well. Be ready to articulate those back to your manager in a way that mirrors what they said. This shows not only that you were listening, but that you understand what you heard.

6. Take Notes

After the review, take the time to document the key points discussed, including your goals, feedback, and any action items. This will help you stay on track throughout the year and ensure you’re following through on any commitments made during the review. Communicate those key points and goals to your manager to be sure you are both aligned.

7. Follow Up

After your review, follow up with your manager to give them visibility to the progress of improvements you are making or goals you are working toward. Be sure to ask clearly for any further support you may need. This can be done in person of course, but email is acceptable if your manager agrees. Let them guide you with the type of visibility they need.

Pro tip: Forbes.com suggests that this communication needs to be continuous throughout the year to be effective. One performance conversation per year is not enough to be truly helpful, as a whopping 92% of surveyed employees say they want feedback more than once a year.

8. Get Support From Colleagues

It’s always helpful to get a different perspective, so reach out to your colleagues for feedback and support. As hard as it might be, ask a trusted colleague for feedback on you as a co-worker. Use what you learn to improve.

9. Practice Self-Reflection

Reflecting on your performance, progress and development is a key aspect of successful annual reviews. Reflect on your progress, your strengths and weaknesses, and identify opportunities for improvement. If you get any constructive criticism, it’s important to ask yourself first if there is any truth to the criticism before getting defensive. If there is truth to it, reflect on the changes you need to make, and communicate those changes to your manager.

10. Repeat

Begin immediately preparing for your next annual review by documenting this year’s feedback, progress, and personal achievements. Again, learn to speak the language of the company, which means understanding the goals and how you contribute. Be sure the language you use in your documentation speaks directly to those goals, using data whenever possible.

Annual reviews can be a valuable opportunity for growth and development, but they can also be a source of stress and anxiety. By being proactive, honest, and prepared, you can ensure that the review is a positive experience and that you are able to make the most of the feedback you receive. Remember, the goal of the review is to help you improve and grow in your role, so be open to feedback and take the time to reflect on your progress

If you need someone to help you prepare for your annual review I am available for one-on-one coaching! Learn more about coaching right here.

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