Taking control of your year-end performance appraisal

The start of the year is not only a time for me to set new goals and to clear out the old to make room for the new, it is also a time that I take stock of my professional accomplishments for the prior year and refresh my resume, bio and LinkedIn profile while these thoughts are still fresh in my mind from my year-end performance appraisal. One of the lessons that I have learned over the course of my career is the importance of self-promotion; not in a braggadocious way but in a positive and constructive way. I used to think that my hard work and accomplishments alone would get me the recognition and reward that I deserved but I learned a long time ago that I have to take responsibility for telling my success story. It is MY job to make sure that the decision makers know the impact and benefit that I have contributed to the organization.

I have mentored many people over the years and I am often asked for advice on this topic, especially this time of year so I decided to do a three part series post to share how I manage my own career and “PR”. In this post I will share how I prepare for my year-end performance appraisal which may still be in progress now for some people.  In the next post I will cover how I update my professional sales tools (resume, bio, LinkedIn/professional profile).  Finally I will share how I set my objectives for the new year to align with my personal development goals and my organization’s objectives. While I am not a career coach, I hope that my approach, gleaned from my mentors and managers and through my own experience and reading, will help someone who is looking for advice on these topics.

Starting as early as October, I begin to create two documents; the first is a summary of my performance/accomplishments versus my individual objectives and the second is an overall performance summary for the year. I start early to give myself ample time to draft and refine these two documents and if necessary seek advice/support from a mentor about how to best highlight my accomplishments before presenting them to my manager during my year-end performance appraisal. I have tried different approaches over the years and you may need to flex the presentation style to suit your manager’s style but I’ll share the approach that has helped me.

I start by creating two documents, a detailed document and a summary document. I find that each document is useful for different purposes and audiences. In the detailed document, as succinctly as possible, I describe how I performed against each of my objectives citing EXAMPLES where I have demonstrated achievement and articulating the BENEFIT. For example, if one of my objectives was to successfully implement a system change to improve efficiency in a process then I need to describe how I performed against key success criteria i.e. successfully implemented without business or system impact, outage or failure, on time (or early), within (or under) budget. I also need to explain the qualitative and quantitative business benefit of my accomplishment i.e. resulting in reduced risk, errors, fines or losses, quantify number man hours saved annually, equate time savings to annualized expense savings. Revenue growth is important but businesses love expense savings because it goes straight to the bottom line.

I can’t overestimate the importance of citing examples and explaining the benefits of your work.

By the time you are having your performance appraisal at the end of the year, your manager could have easily forgotten some of the important contributions that you’ve made in the beginning of the year. Citing examples and benefits reminds your boss why your work is important and why it should be valued as such. I have seen people simply list their accomplishments without examples or benefits and it doesn’t create the context that managers needs to support why you are an excellent performer versus a good performer.

In the summary document I basically distill the KEY accomplishments of the detailed document down to just the highlights in two paragraphs maximum. I don’t recap every accomplishment against every objective; I choose the most impactful accomplishments and of which I am most proud. This summary is useful to share with your manager to share with their manager. Your manager will appreciate that you have made their job easier and you can ensure that your highlights are fully communicated unfiltered by your manager.

Always include work that you have done to improve the people and/or culture of your organization.

Improving people and culture may not be an explicit objective but you should always highlight any work that you do outside of your core functional responsibilities. Whether you are a mentor or volunteer on a committee, be sure to include it. It not only demonstrates initiative and leadership but shows that you are committed to making the company a better place to work for everyone.

Take advantage of the lead time that you gave yourself by starting in October to refresh your manager on your accomplishments before December. In many companies, managers are deciding promotions and compensation at the end of Q’3 to early Q4 so waiting until December to share your highlights will likely be too late to have an impact on compensation decisions.

Ideally you should be having regular discussions with your manager about your performance so that you know what to expect from your manager’s assessment of your performance.

It’s a good idea to establish regular performance checkpoints with your manager if you don’t already have them. Receiving honest feedback from your manager throughout the year allows you to address any red flags in your performance and eliminate any surprises during your year-end performance appraisal.

Feel free to share my approach and let me know if you find this helpful. I will be sharing parts two and three on my approach objective setting and to crafting and/or refreshing your PR tools i.e. your resume, bio, LinkedIn/professional profile soon so follow me to get updates.


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