To get the most from the experience and present yourself in the best light, make sure you understand how your company handles reviews, beginning with the form (or two dozen) that has to be filled out. Some companies ask employees to complete a self-review form, sometimes online. Others leave the writing to the boss and let employees have their say in a face-to-face meeting.
If your company's process doesn't call for a face-to-face review you may leave a document on an employee's desk in place of a live meeting is disgraceful.
Most performance-review systems operate on a yearly calendar. Keep track of your work throughout, so that you can cite your accomplishments. Keep a log, or review your e-mail regularly to refresh your memory on the projects, initiatives, and challenges you've managed.
Focus on your out-of-the-ordinary contributions. Many employees believe that they'll get a good review and a raise if they simply list everything they did during the year. Guess what?
A salary increase is a reward for exceptional performance. So when you list your accomplishments, focus on the net value to the business. Did you increase the speed of the production? Did you reduce turnover in the logistics department as a result of your employee-feedback system?
When a company has a widely known annual pay increase schedule (say, 3% for average performance and 4.5% for excellent performance) and you keep your mouth shut in the days leading up to the review, your manager will assume that you're O.K. with that. Then if you react after receiving a good review from your manager and a 4.5% pay increase, you are the one in error. If you expect or want more than the standard, you have to make that clear — in advance.
If your company's review process doesn't give you a chance to provide input on your pay, at least use it to let your boss know that, based on your incredible results this year or your highly marketable skills, you're looking for 8%, 10%, or whatever it is. This doesn't mean that you'll automatically get it. But asking for more may start a discussion that will get you there.
Be prepared — and let your boss know that.
Sometimes, the company's performance-review system includes a template or guide that makes it easy to organize your performance-review case. Sometimes, however, you're on your own.
If that's the situation, organize your notes, files, and correspondence and create a short (one- or two-page) document that lays out your view of:
a) Your work over the past year, emphasizing your unusual contributions
b) Your goals for the new year
c) Your needs, that is, the tools, training, and access to people that will help you reach your goals
d) Your take on your own strengths and areas for improvement
e) Any feedback for your boss — on communication processes, scheduling, whatever. This works best, of course, with a boss who is receptive to suggestions.
Once you're prepared, let your boss know what you're bringing to the meeting, perhaps by sending it on ahead via e-mail. Whatever you do, don't just dump a pile of paper on him. Most supervisors like having the information in advance, if only so they can go through it one-on-one with you. Most important, be professional: Concentrate on the future, not the past.
There's an old saying that a good manager is one who, in an annual review of an employee, doesn't say anything for the first time.
The same holds true in reverse. The more you keep your manager in the loop with regard to your progress, needs, concerns, observations, and plans, the more you'll be at that big annual review. Wouldn't it be nice to see eye-to-eye there, and then retire to a relaxed lunch?