Once a year performance reviews are the standard protocol in corporate America. But standard doesn’t equal effective. In 2016, 82 percent of workers surveyed said their company used an annual review. Each year since, there’s been a notable decline in this practice. The number dropped to 65 percent in 2017, 58 percent in 2018, and 54 percent in 2019, according to a Workhuman Analytics & Research study.
Translation? More consistent communication is a good – no a great thing – and employees are seeking this type of more transparent dynamic.
A tighter feedback calendar cycle is one growing trend that’s providing companies with more real-time status updates and keeping dialogues between teams consistent and relevant.
Whether your company is still tied to annual performance reviews or you have more frequent check-ins, it’s important to make those conversations count and get clear about professional objectives. To learn more about the most effective ways to show up for ourselves during these career progress touchpoints, MBAchic caught up with two career coaches who have made it their professional mission to help other women and underrepresented groups take the reins of their careers.
Dr. Tamara Wilkerson Dias is a DEI Educator and leader with a background in leadership development across corporate, nonprofit, and K-12 educational spaces. She began her career in education, shifting into leadership development, professional coaching, and consulting.
Communications executive and career coach Britt Larsen has a long professional history of developing public affairs strategies and communications for political campaigns, startups, and established enterprise companies. In 2017 she founded Livlyhood – a community she built to help a diverse range of professional women of all backgrounds thrive in their careers.
While each employee-employer dynamic looks and operates differently, the advice these career coaches lend can help anyone refine their focus and bring their best selves to the table.
Whether a performance review is annual, biannual, or quarterly, those who take time to reflect on milestones and accomplishments have more success during review periods than those who wing it. Identifying what went right, what could have gone better, and where there’s room for growth ahead of a review is essential to get organized and honest about your future role within an organization.
“I think going into a performance review, the more reflecting you can do, the better, because then you can focus on just verbalizing and highlighting what you’ve reflected on,” explains Wilkerson Dias.
To make future reviews positive experiences, developing and submitting weekly snapshot reports directly to management can be a helpful and effective tool to underscore your value. Come review time, head to your inbox, and collect a compilation of work accomplishments to highlight.
“Sometimes I think [as] women, we expect our results to speak for themselves, we do something really big and it gets noticed, but it’s often those day to day things, those little problems and those fires that we put out, that can be the difference between a big promotion or being passed over,” says Larsen.
“You can’t expect your boss to remember what you did three months ago, so go through your emails, go through your calendar and if you’re not already tracking it, start so that going into your next annual review, you’re really prepared.”
Prepare your list of asks.
Going into a conversation without knowing what you want out of it is like going into a restaurant without a meal in mind. Chances are you’ll end up with something on your plate that you never wanted in the first place, wishing you could get a “do-over” to place your order again. It’s not a strategy for success. By getting thoughtful before the review you’ll increase the odds that you’re satisfied once it’s wrapping up. Making a mental (or physical) list of asks to discuss can help turn professional objectives into realities.
“I always tell people that when you get into a performance review, you never just want to go in and think, Oh, well, whatever you want to cover or talk about is fine with me,” explains Wilkerson Dias.
“You want to really prepare, do your homework beforehand, whether you’ve done your own self evaluation and you’re bringing that to the table, or your manager or supervisor has sent you some things to review.”
“Prepare your list of asks or what you truly want,” says Larsen.
“The biggest piece of advice that I give about getting a promotion or a raise period is don’t wait for the annual review. You shouldn’t be shocking your boss with what you’re moving towards.”
Own the meeting.
While it’s natural to head into reviews with a varying degree of anxiety or concerns about the feedback you might receive, remember that this is a very normal part of working in any kind of corporate environment and that ultimately, it’s your stage to shine.
Instead of showing up empty-handed, consider developing an agenda and submitting it to your boss in advance so that you come to the table ready to discuss several items and can help shape the course of the conversation.
“It’s your discussion, it’s your life, it’s your career, it’s your direction,” says Larsen.
“The more that you own it, the more you’ll get out of it. Part of that comes with deciding what you want, asking for what you want. But I think that shift in paradigm is really helpful. I just remind my clients constantly that it’s not your boss’s job to read your mind.”
The last thing anyone wants to do is end a performance review abruptly and walk away with more questions than answers. Be accountable for the objectives you establish with your management team and verbalize a plan of action moving forward.
“it’s important to have accountability at the end of the performance review, it is going to be essential,” explains Wilkerson Dias.
“You want to make sure that you’re thinking throughout the performance conversation and at the end you’ve clarified next steps on your part, what you’re leaving with what’s expected of you.”
“You need to make it all about your results and that will make the feedback that you receive easier to swallow,” explains Larsen.
“You have to go into a review expecting feedback that’s going to be hard to take, it’s going to be subjective, it’s going to be stuff that you may not agree with, take it with a grain of salt but really just own the results that you’ve produced over the past year.”
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Photo from Amy Hirschi