The season of annual performance reviews is upon us—but while the idea of going over your progress at work line-by-line may seem daunting on its face, taking a positive approach to your yearly employee evaluation can make all the difference.
By using your annual review to reflect on the past year, you have the chance to set relevant goals for the months ahead while gaining valuable feedback from your supervisors, turning what was once a dreaded yearly ritual into a meaningful meeting that is beneficial for both parties.
What Employers Want from an Annual Review
Before you can make the most of an annual performance review, however, you first need to know what your employer is hoping to accomplish. Generally speaking, yearly evaluations give supervisors the chance to:
1. Provide feedback to employees on what they’ve done well.
2. Identify areas in which an employee can improve or could use further training.
3. Gather information that could be used in future discussions about compensation—yes, that means raises!—and promotions or lateral movements within the company.
In practice, annual reviews usually incorporate a self-assessment component as well as a performance evaluation by your manager or direct supervisor. And while you may have ample time to work through your self-assessment, meeting with your supervisor will likely require a little more preparation ahead of time.
If you’re gearing up for such a meeting but aren’t sure where to start, here’s how to set yourself up for success:
1. Review Your 2020 Goals
When preparing for an annual review, begin by taking a look at your self-assessment from last year, if you have one. Most evaluations of this sort include a section where you can list your goals for the future, including goals for specific projects and plans for further training in areas where you could use improvement. If you don’t have access to such a resource, try pulling up your original job description or a list of objectives that were set when you were first hired for the role for reference.
Well-defined expectations are essential for achieving success in any position, but this is especially true in remote workspaces where your boss can’t see how busy you are on a daily basis. If you find during your preparation process that you’ve been having trouble pinpointing objectives and setting goals for yourself, try using your yearly review as an opportunity for you and your supervisor to identify targets and key performance indicators (KPIs) together.
2. List Your Accomplishments
The next step in preparing for your annual evaluation is to identify the work you’ve done this year that got you closer to accomplishing the goals you identified in step one. If you kept a career journal or log throughout the year, this is the perfect time to look back on it and reflect on both your successes and your failures; your wins illustrate your skills, but understanding where you fell short—and making a plan to improve—shows your growth.
If you haven’t set up a career journal yet, try jogging your memory by reviewing your calendar and file folders—digital or print—and making a month-by-month outline. You can also look for data reports or other analytics your company or department has released that may be available to you.
3. Quantify and Identify Context
Once you have an outline of what you’ve accomplished over the past year, it’s time to use that information to your advantage. Take a second glance to see if any of your efforts can be meaningfully quantified. What data do you have that provides an accurate measurement of your success? What can you use to prove that you’ve made progress?
In addition to finding meaningful data that supports your contributions at work, it’s also important to provide context. Without context, your metrics are just numbers—and on its face, the data may not be all that convincing. For example, landing four new customers per week as a sales representative might not seem like a lot, but if you landed just two per week last year, you can make the case for a solid improvement.
4. Align Your Successes with Company or Department Goals
Once you’ve described and quantified your successes from the last year, take things a step further by showing your boss how your efforts are contributing to the team, department, and/or company goals. That means getting out the strategic plan and drawing dotted lines between your organization’s progress and your accomplishments from the last year. If your department had set a goal to increase sales by 10% this year, for example, you might point out that you saw a personal improvement of 15% over last year.
It’s also important to make clear to your supervisor during your talk that you’re meeting their own goals for you. As a remote employee, your manager will likely be on the lookout during your annual review for things like:
• Proof of productivity. While remote workers consistently show they are more productive than their in-office counterparts, there are still doubters. Whether it involves measuring outcomes or recording time spent on tasks, your manager will likely want you to demonstrate that you’ve been hard at work even while working from home.
• Evidence of communication and teamwork skills. Communication is always a challenge when working remotely, so illustrating your ability to be a positive influence and team player can go a long way.
• Displays of resourcefulness and problem-solving abilities. Remote workers are often on their own in times of trouble. It’s important to demonstrate that you can overcome obstacles and troubleshoot without on-site backup.
A Last Word
Preparing for your annual review can be an opportunity to take control of your job and career, if you take advantage of it. By identifying and quantifying your achievements and putting them in context, you’ll be putting yourself in the position to guide the discussion, meaning you’ll be best set up to show how your strengths have contributed to company successes and how your weaknesses can translate into goals for the year ahead.