5 Ways to Prepare for a Performance Review

As the pandemic eases, managers are paying more attention to reviews. So should employees, with these steps.

Even before the pandemic, most employees were skeptical of performance reviews. In a 2019 survey, 55% of employees said that annual reviews don’t improve their performance. But in the COVID era, experts say these reviews can be game changers, giving high-performing employees a chance for more money or career opportunities than earlier evaluations.

Changes in the workforce are placing even more emphasis on managers having conversations with employees about their career aspirations. The country has averaged at least 3.6 million quits a month for the last four months, and companies are desperate to stem the tide. “The Great Resignation is really pushing managers to give great feedback and advance people’s careers, and that will be reflected in performance reviews this year,” says Nathan Blain, Korn Ferry’s global lead for optimizing people costs.

Experts say an employee can help the proceedings considerably by taking these steps to prepare for an upcoming review.

Assess what you’ve done … and still need to do.

Experts say it’s best to pull out your goals and objectives for 2021 and identify what you’ve accomplished and what still needs to be done. Don’t assume, however, that you must do everything that remains on the list. Priorities, after all, do change. Tell your manager that you plan to complete your remaining tasks in the next three months, Blain says. “This will give your manager a chance to recalibrate your priorities.”

Gather success stories.

Put together a paper trail that shows how you’ve delivered on your objectives. Start by collecting metrics and feedback from stakeholders, Blain says. Then pass these documents on to your manager with notes highlighting the metrics.

Remembering every success at the end of the year can be difficult, so consider gathering this evidence throughout the year. “Keep your annual objectives easily accessible and add notes next to each goal to show what you contributed or accomplished,” says Val Olson, a Korn Ferry Advance career coach.

Focus on your manager’s current priorities.

In the weeks leading up to your review, if your manager starts asking about a specific client or project that you haven’t prioritized, then it’s time to concentrate on it. That project is on the manager’s mind now and it will likely come up during your evaluation, Blain says. “It’s important to understand when you need to stay the course and when to pivot and adjust,” adds Olson.

Consider asking for a 360 review.

A 360-degree performance review allows a group of coworkers the opportunity to give input about each other’s performance. If your manager doesn’t typically offer this, experts suggest asking for one so you can get anonymous feedback from your manager, peers, direct reports, or other stakeholders. “Performance is not just based on your skills and implementation but also character and how you conduct yourself at work,” Olson says. A 360 review can help identify hidden strengths or blind spots, she says.

Prepare to listen during your review.

“The time to be collaborative and build your case is three months before your review,” Blain says. During your performance review, it’s less about selling yourself and building your case, and more about listening to what your manager has to say about advancing your career. “A lot of times people keep building their case during the performance review conversation, and that’s a mistake because it prevents you from hearing the feedback your manager came to deliver,” Blain says.