When it’s time for your annual performance review, you might be feeling a little anxious. Thinking over the past 12 months is a time-consuming task that’s fraught with more than a few looming questions. But even though “business as usual” hasn’t yet returned to, well, usual, this year’s annual review presents a unique opportunity. You have the chance to discuss the future of your role in light of all the changes.
As more companies adopt hybrid work models, people’s professional and personal lives are becoming even more intertwined. Reexamining how you work and what could help you accomplish even more at work only makes sense. The key is how you approach the impending discussion. What do you need to succeed, and what does your company need? Finding a balance between giving and taking will help you better navigate conversations with your manager.
Here are four tips for ensuring a productive performance review in 2022:
1. Ask for additional support systems.
It’s likely that your daily responsibilities have changed in the past year. Are you struggling to maintain the same output while shouldering more tasks? You may think that asking for assistance makes it seem like you’re trying to pass your responsibilities on to someone else. And it’s certainly true that many companies are on a perpetual quest to keep their departments as lean as possible. But support systems are in a different, especially if you pitch them as a way to increase morale (and therefore productivity) within existing staff.
Ryan Shapiro, senior vice president of sales at Sapper Consulting, recommends businesses incorporate support systems by offering regular training, venting sessions, and mentorship programs, among other things. “Checkpoints and meetings can serve as a way to uncover or stave off issues,” he writes. By asking your manager for similar systems, you demonstrate your proactive approach to problem-solving and make a compelling case for your professional development.
2. Showcase your accomplishments through examples.
When working remotely, it’s harder for your manager to “see” what you’re accomplishing on a regular basis. They can’t stop by your desk to view what you’re working on or hear about wins in the break room. This is where short, well-written stories about your accomplishments can drive home your value. Think of a narrative that has an intriguing beginning, a riveting middle, and a satisfying ending.
Esther Choy, author and CEO of Leadership Story Lab, recommends choosing an example with a theme that relates to current events. “Since performance evaluations are usually based on actual performance versus goals, this years’ evaluation may be based on adaptation,” she writes. “If this is the case, prepare a story that highlights your flexibility and resourcefulness. How have you been a team player during this tumultuous period?”
3. Take the initiative by seeing what you can do to help.
To ensure a solid relationship with your manager, it’s important to tune into their preferences, anticipate their needs, and earn their trust. Some may refer to this as “managing up,” but you’re really trying to put your best foot forward to improve the chances of securing a raise or promotion.
Jameeka Green Aaron, chief information officer at United Legwear and Apparel, shared a story in The New York Times about a time when her employee took the initiative. She needed to determine whether all employee laptops were up-to-date, so an asset manager created a spreadsheet documenting the service life of these computers and price quotes for potential replacements. “I would have asked him about it, but the fact that he beat me to it is great,” says Aaron. “All I had to do was review and sign off.”
4. Bring in new ideas for improvement.
“To prepare for annual performance reviews, think of a few new, innovative ideas you can share with your team to improve the company’s workflow or performance,” Stephanie Wells, co-founder and chief technology officer of Formidable Forms, writes in Forbes. “Leaders are always interested to hear how they can improve, and your insight can be what they need to take their business to the next level. You can also ask thought-provoking questions to better understand the company’s workflows and see how different departments can work together to boost conversions.”
Just make sure when pitching new ideas that you don’t disparage solutions that are already in use. They likely proved beneficial at the time, so position suggestions by highlighting what is fixable as opposed to broken, or better yet, how to take a successful program and make it soar even higher.
Performance reviews should always be seen as opportunities to shine, express your personal brand and be recognized for your hard work. At the same time, learning is a good thing, after all, and it’s essential to professional development. Ask for what you need, share examples of your contributions, take initiative, and try to bring new ideas to the table. Growing into your role is part of the process, and you must be an active participant as you reach for the stars.