Appraisals are an opportunity for an organisation to assess employee performance, training needs and define new areas for focus. However, don’t view your personal review as just another thing you need to get done, but rather as the perfect opportunity to think about your role and your future career aspirations. You may be a busy finance professional, but putting some effort in to it can pay off in the long term!
YOU HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR
Normally an appraisal will be conducted just between you and your line manager, however depending on your organisation's approach a third party may be present too. The idea can often fill even the most confident of people with a sense of dread at the thought you might hear some things you don’t necessarily want to hear. But remember, that when it boils down to it, you’re simply going to be having a conversation with another person.
To calm any nerves, try to think of the colleague conducting your review in a more relatable way – you’re going to have a conversation with a person who also brushes their teeth in the morning, who may even feel a bit nervous about conducting your review, and who most likely, really does want to support you.
GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO PREPARE
Don’t rush in to it. You should be given time to think about your performance over the year. Often an organisation will have forms to help guide your thinking, but if not, make some notes of your own.
If you feel like you have not been given enough notice, don’t be shy to request for the meeting to be rescheduled to a reasonable date. This is your chance to have your say too, so you need enough time to prepare.
WHAT TO PREPARE
Finance professionals can broadly divide the skills they need into three categories: technical, business and behavioural. Make notes about what you have achieved in each of those three areas. Think about projects or tasks you either handled alone or contributed to.
For example, you may have been involved in a new treasury management system installation project. You could talk about how you got the company or team on board with new system implementation (behavioural skills), the negotiating you did with suppliers (business skills) and the great things you’ve achieved using the system (technical skills). Finance can be predominantly technical skills-led by nature, but remember, demonstrating more than just technical skills, such as communication, shows you are a well-rounded employee who thinks about both the bigger picture and about other people.
To help demonstrate your interest in the company, makes notes about, not just achievements, but also if there were any projects or tasks that you didn’t get the opportunity to be involved in but would have liked to - now is the time to mention it. Your line manager may not have even been aware of your interest, so this is a good time to highlight things you’d really like to contribute to.
If there are things you think need to change, come prepared with alternative suggestions and solutions which will demonstrate your understanding of the situation and also your ability to problem solve.
If there are areas you would like to develop your skills in, now is the time to put your case forward. Research suitable training solutions in advance - including time and costs involved - so you can go prepared to answer those inevitable questions.
If you’re serious about your job and progression, now is the time to show it. If you’re feeling uncertain, maybe it’s time to consider looking for a new role. Either is ok, but getting your thoughts in order will help you bring clarity to your situation.
If you’re struggling to think of achievements try to view your work from a different perspective or ask your colleagues for feedback. Think broader than just technical output and consider things like how you may have delegated, taken an innovative approach, problem solved something tricky, used good time management, planned well, or maybe you advised a colleague which ultimately led to something; all these areas can be touched upon.
Making notes will help you not to forget anything important during your review and will help you structure points you want to get across.
YOU CAN CONTROL YOUR ATTITUDE
One of the hardest things in life is to be truly objective about yourself. Approach an appraisal with a positive attitude.
During your review, you may hear opinions that can bring to light how your performance comes across rather than how you perceive it does. Don’t view this as a bad thing. Yes, self-awareness can make you feel uncomfortable, but really isn’t it just a great opportunity to understand how others see you and your work? Never view negative feedback as criticism, but rather a chance to understand yourself better and identify areas you can develop.
IN THE PERFROMANCE REVIEW
Your line manager should get the conversation rolling and the most important thing to do here is listen. Your thoughts might be going a mile a minute, but really listen to what is being said and wait until whoever is doing your review to finish speaking before you respond. Yes, you’ve prepared lots of great things to say, but take a breath, consider your response and don’t be too hasty in replying.
An instant reaction can often come out wrong, be negative or defensive and the last thing you want in an appraisal is to be either of those or misunderstood. Take a pause to collect your thoughts before responding.
If unexpected feedback is delivered, the best thing to do is acknowledge your responsibility. If it’s an area that needs improving or something should have been handled in a different way, instead of taking this as criticism use it as learning experience. Ask questions about what could have been done differently or how to improve in an area. Demonstrate that you are open to feedback, because you understand that it’s simply a way to develop your skills and learn from any mistakes.
It’s important to remember that some things may come up that you might not consider to be in your job description. Keep an open mind, there could be opportunities there for you. Also, being prepared to do more than just your job description demonstrates capability. An employee that is only prepared to do the bare minimum is unlikely to be first in line for a promotion. If it’s career progression you’re after, that’s not the impression to give.
If you are aware of any areas you’d like to improve, now is also the time to bring them up. It might be that you would like to learn new skills or you need additional resource. Whatever it is, proactively bringing these areas to the table, shows your commitment to both self-development and that you’re thinking ahead.
If you’re after a pay raise, set out the value you think you might add and ask what steps you need to take to achieve this. This will help give you development goals to work towards and a solid case.
If your review is generally positive, remember to acknowledge other team member contributions. It’s rare that you will have achieved everything on your own and through this acknowledgement to demonstrate your understanding behind the value of fellow team members.
Most importantly though, speak up. Have something to say, because remaining silent will result in a missed opportunity on all fronts.
GET DIRECTION FOR THE UPCOMING YEAR
Covering what the organisation expects from you in the coming months is just as important as reviewing what has been achieved. Make sure you have a very clear understanding of what your performance expectations and objectives are over the next year and what they will be measured against. Be as open and honest as possible about what you realistically will be able to achieve rather than promising the world. Ask for as much clarification as possible.
You and your manager may both be busy, but don’t deprioritise the follow up. Take responsibility to proactively make sure you get what you need, whether that’s approval for further training or support or confirmation of new objectives.
Also, once you’ve had time to reflect on your review, you may have follow up questions or comments, so don’t be shy to ask to have a follow up to discuss.
Investing a little time before your appraisal can pay big dividends to your career moving forward. Don’t waste the opportunity!