When I did my performance reviews when I started out in my career, I would look at my review forms when the end of the year rolled around and then started to figure out what I should put down for the review.
Big mistake, especially in today’s environment.
There are a lot of reasons we all go to work – everything from loving what we do to going to work to pay the bills. But, if we work for someone or some company, we should at least start with what our job is and how we will be evaluated.
It is surprising how often people don’t ask those two basic items that effect your job: your job description and the forms or process used for performance evaluations.
If you ask for the job description, you will be given a great deal of information about the company you are working for (or going to work for if you are interviewing).
Does the job description exist? If it doesn’t, it should tell you volumes about the management discipline in the company.
If the job description exists, here will be your first categorized list of things that you are expected to accomplish – and the skills you will need to do the work. Here is the framework by which your goals should be built and how your work will be measured.
If you have a job description and you are given work not in the job description, one of the first questions to ask before accepting the work is to understand how it fits into your work. Not to reject the work outright, but you should understand how this work will help your value to your manager. If it doesn’t appear to help your value to your team, a lot of push back would be in order.
Not everything you do for your work is in the job description, of course; it never is. But the job description becomes the basis for ensuring you are doing the right work and measured in the right way.
Almost all companies have a performance review form. The key to these is to understand what will be expected to be on them when the time comes to do the review. If you don’t know what you will be asked to provide, you won’t keep the information necessary to provide the data. (In Getting Things Done terminology, this is called “Outcome based thinking”).
Does your review form contain goals to accomplish? How are they measured? When will the work need to be done? Can the goals change over the course of a year?
Hard stuff is clearly measurable: Achieve a 4.5 customer satisfaction rating. The 4.5 number has to come from somewhere and has to be measured on some report. You should know how to see the report and how you are doing in relation to the number. Know about it now, not two days before the review is due.
Does the review form contain “softer” stuff that needs to be addressed such as how well you work in a team?
Most companies will have what they think “good behavior” means to be a good team player. When they do, it is important that you know what these behaviors are and be able to tie what you do to the specific behaviors.
If a teamwork behavior is “willing to work long hours to complete a project,” then you should be able to document when you worked long hours to complete a project. And, by the way, to me working long hours means you haven’t figured out how to do your work during the day, so I’m not a fan of actually doing this example. It is for illustrative purposes!
Build Your Structure
Knowing your job description and how your performance review is built is only the first step. Now you need to have a place to store your stuff relating to your performance against the job description and review form. Putting your performance stuff into these categories on a regular basis greatly eases your scramble to provide information for the review when the time comes.
Whether you build a paper file, folder in My Documents, or keep things on a hand held matters less than having a place to store your accomplishments as they are being done.
So writing your review comes first from knowing your job description, understanding how you will be reviewed, and building a place to store your accomplishments.
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