“Let’s get it over with!” That was what I told my boss as we entered the meetings room. Even though I felt like a did a pretty good job in the past year, the fact that we had to discuss my performance for an entire hour made me slightly nervous.
The way performance appraisal is organized in our company is that employees together with their managers set up business targets and development goals in the beginning of each year. These are the parameters based on which employee’s performance is evaluated and bonus is determined during the annual performance process. My manager clearly had an opinion on my performance in general, but he had very little knowledge of what my targets were. To be honest, even I couldn’t remember all of them. This year was so unpredictable, so half of the items that I was supposed to do went out of my list. I have changed 3 managers, 2 departments and had 1 promotion during 2016. Needless to say, this was not something I could have predicted 12 months ago. Even though my case is a little extreme, it is by no means unique and that creates a lot of questions to the current appraisal system.
No surprise, many well-known firms are abandoning annual performance evaluation in favor of more dynamic and timely feedback sessions throughout the year. And according to HBR, these firms have many good reasons to do so. (See “The Performance Management Revolution“) Having timely feedback throughout the year is a key to employee development. Especially when it comes to dynamic environments in which most companies operate. Continuous feedback is also what many young people are craving for. We are ambitious and often impatient. We want to take more and more responsibility and learn fast by working on diverse tasks. Having fixed performance indicators would not be something that motivates us to do our job well.
That said, I had a great experience both preparing for and actually going through performance appraisal. Even though I am a very eager supporter of continuous feedback and coaching, and I am extremely happy that my manager is 100% on top of that, there are several aspects in the traditional performance review that I found very valuable (to my big surprise):
It is good for self-esteem. I most likely won’t be wrong if I say that everybody likes praise and recognition. So if you have done a good job during the year, performance evaluation is your chance to “shine”. I personally, found it extremely inspiring to hear my manager’s positive opinion on my performance and, compared to usual “Good job!” or “Well done!”, it was a more thoughtful acknowledgement of my unique strengths and a reflection on how he sees my future in the company.
It is a good opportunity to tell your manager what you want (especially if you are a shy one). Even though performance appraisal is backwards-looking in nature, it creates an amazing opportunity for you to share your needs and ambitions. For example, you can discuss the tasks you like, projects you want to take and the positions you are aiming at. It is also a good opportunity to ask for a raise!
It is a good reflection exercise. Last but not least, performance evaluation is not only about your manager evaluating you. It is also about your own reflection on the past experiences. For me, it was eye-opening how much I have grown in the last year. Most targets seemed unambitious when I revisited them. I realized I could have done a lot of things different – much better. In that moment, I had to remind myself of the girl who actually made those targets 12 months back – inexperienced and slightly insecure. Back then, I couldn’t even imagine that 2016 will bring so many changes that will force me to step out of my comfort zone and discover the skills and the inner strength to overcome all the challenges I was faced with.
Working in a particular company means that you have to adapt to the corporate processes. And when it comes to performance evaluation, there is no “one fits all” model. At the end of the day, you are responsible for your own development. So if you think standard performance evaluation does not work for you, you have to address it with your manager. For sure, you will find a better way to discuss your performance and ensure you feel motivated to do your job.
Work and progress,