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How do you maximize annual performance reviews to your advantage?

PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2015 3:42 am
by Parker
Performance reviews are despised by most people I know, bosses and employees alike. Unfortunately, performance reviews don’t always live up to their intended purpose for various reasons. Regardless, performance reviews still exist in many organizations because they they are a formal way to evaluate employee performance and set goals and objectives, on an individual-basis and company-wide.

So how do you maximize your performance evaluation to get the most constructive feedback and advance in your career? What do you talk about, other than your accomplishments? What subjects do you avoid? Do you see this as your opportunity to negotiate assignments and ask to be involved in more projects? Or do you just go through the motions and see this as a ticking a box for HR? If you are a boss, what do you want to see in your employee's self evaluation sheet? What don't you want to see?

Re: How do you maximize annual performance reviews to your advantage?

PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2015 5:00 am
by PG
Performance reviews takes a lot of time and effort and needs to be used in a way that is meaningful for the company and also for the employees.

I have seen it used for multiple different purposes some of which are formal. For example payment of bonuses or other incentives that are based on performance during the previous year. These are formal in nature and are only looking backwards. Of course the incentives if formulated well hopefully helps to drive development but when the evaluation is being done this is a formallity (although it may have financial importance for the person being evaluated).

Performance evaluations are also typically used as a basis for annual salary revisions and potentially promotions especially in companies that use a system in which it is possible to get a new title (for example moving form scientist I to scientist II) without actually having any major change in responsibility.

Most importantly performance reviews should contain a forward looking part in which you define future development for the individual being evaluated which should be aligned with group, department and company goals. This is the part in which you discuss whether the employee should start developing his/her skills towards filling a new role or to be able to take on new tasks. This should also include development of any weak areas that are a potential problem for the employee to perform his/her current work duties.
It is definitely a good possibility to bring up anything that you want to learn or develop further. Make sure that you to the largest extent try to connect that you want to do with how this helps the group/department/company.

As for things I want to see from the employee´s self evaluation I have mentioend msot of it ie I want to know what the person wants to do in the near future and what additional value the employee thinks that he/she can bring to my team or the company provided that we as a company provides support and the training necessary. What I dont want to see is mainly things that are clearly outside the scope of what we are doing.

For example if you are working as laboratory scientist in a chemical research department mentioning in your self evaluation that you would like to get training in intellectual property law to be able to work woth patents in the future is probably outside the scope of what realistically can be seen as a joint goal for you and the company.

If that is what you really want to do write that you would like to take a larger responsibility for reports and documentation is a reasonable first step that can later be developed into working with the IP department preparing/reviewing chemistry related documents which in later steps may result in a position within the IP group doing something similar and once you are in this position intellectual property law is a reasonable development step. It is important that the goals that you suggest for yourself can be realistically aligned with the needs of the company and often the group within the company that you (and your manager) are working for.

Re: How do you maximize annual performance reviews to your advantage?

PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2015 8:43 am
by John D. D,
I've used them in a formative context for students where I think it has been helpful to students to know their strengths and weaknesses - so letting a student know that their lab notebook is probably not up to standard, or that they demonstrate an exceptional level of motivation for the work they are doing is helpful to the students, or being able to tell a student that their interpersonal skills are so high that they would probably excel at medical vs. lab bench endeavors (the student went on to become a doctor).

I think that they are really important in situations where it is not working out (someone is being railroaded). You can catch it, and address it.

As a general rule, I would not make them a requirement in any organization that I am a part of, but rather make them a useful tool for those that want them (I include them with letters at early career stages, but make both the letters and the evaluations available to the students so that they can use me or not as a reference). The letters (and students) have generally been outstanding and happy (so they are balanced by the objective more specific assessments).

Re: How do you maximize annual performance reviews to your advantage?

PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2015 11:05 am
by PG
With the possible exception of students and probably postdocs I dont really see a way around doing this in some form. At least all companies I know have some form of annual salary revision and I know that for example in this country agreements with unions etc clearly states that salaries should be based on individual performance. This means that in some form you need to also have an annual performance review.

You can do this as a formal process using specific forms, web based applications or excel sheets or you can do this in a less formal way by only having the manager talk to the employees about their performance during the previous year but I dont see a way completely around it.

Re: How do you maximize annual performance reviews to your advantage?

PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2015 11:18 am
by BMK
PG wrote:With the possible exception of students and probably postdocs I dont really see a way around doing this in some form.

Actually, given the current NIH stance on the matter, it may no longer possible to avoid doing them with grad students or postdocs either.

Re: How do you maximize annual performance reviews to your advantage?

PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2015 1:55 pm
by Rich Lemert
The ideal annual performance review, to me, is a forward-looking activity. It's a chance for the employee and his/her manager to discuss the employee's goals and aspirations, the manager's expectations, and any potential routes for advancement that may be coming available within the organization. There should not be any need to discuss any past performance issues because those should be addressed throughout the year as they occur. If there have been any issues raised during the year then you might want to mention whether or not there's been any improvement noted, but that should not be the focus of the annual review.

In the real world this ideal model is seldom achieved, but it's certainly worth striving for.

Re: How do you maximize annual performance reviews to your advantage?

PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2015 3:52 pm
by Dave Walker
I've seen performance reviews that vary wildly between organizations. Some are indeed personal, filled out by a manager directly with feedback and an honest conversation about career goals. Others are a mere HR formality coinciding with a raise or job promotion (or both). I think it's important to figure out what your organization's approach is and then see how to use it to maximize your career goals.

(I have also heard them turn into vile political games -- employees forced to fill out their own performance review but told to give themselves average ratings because it won't draw attention from the higher up departments. In that case, it was a completely useless exercise that was just a time sink for everyone involved. Consequently, they got their feedback in separate, offline conversations.)

Re: How do you maximize annual performance reviews to your advantage?

PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2015 9:03 am
by Parker
Thank you all, especially PG, Rich and Dave Walker. You guys nailed it. It really depends on the organization. I also agree that poor performance should be addressed right away. Waiting until performance evaluations are due means the manager was not doing his/her job.

I cannot believe some companies ask employees to give themselves a mediocre evaluation as to not draw attention. That takes a lot of nerve on the part of the managers. Could it be a case of the managers having inside knowledge that the higher ups are not happy with the employee's performance and the manager is simply trying to align their self-evaluation with the perception of senior management to mitigate?

Re: How do you maximize annual performance reviews to your advantage?

PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2015 9:22 am
by D.X.
Hi just a few reflections on this.

Treat performance reviews as an opportunity to reflect on performance and set expectations appropriately that are linked to your job and development.

Performance reviews are one of the rare opportunities where there a formal sit down to get constructive feed-back and plan a path accordingly with you boss. Its the chance to get things down on paper.

A key part of performance reviews is defining up-front what you will be measured against, i.e. your objectives. This is the platform for maximizing the reviews. If you have a constructive discussion in the beginning about this and set the right objectives that are agreed upon by you and your boss then at least you have something to track against.
Some of these will be non-negotiable, such as company and team objectives, other will be your individual contribution. Most opportunities to maximize the discussions come with the latter classification, team and individual.

Beyond the check the box exercise of if you achieved or not, comes the element of "how" you achieved it. This is where the "maximization" comes in. As an example, say you delivered an objective. Beyond the tick box, maybe you delivered earlier than planned. Then you can talk about how you did that. Maybe you delivered at 70% the planned budget, you can talk to how you did that, i.e. efficient project planning, efficient team deployment, focusing, etc. Maybe you can point to your leadership ability, i.e. maybe you assembled a task-force and set an action plan etc. etc.

The "how" you work is becoming more and more important in many organizations so some measuring points are starting to incorporate the "work style" into performance reviews - a lot of focus here is with team engagement, securing positive work environment and fostering collaboration as having near equal or superior weighting to defined objectives.

So, irrespective, make "how" you work as part of your performance reviews, even if you don't deliver on one objective, it could be the how you're managing it that saves you in the end or maybe even gives you a pat on the back.

Ignore politics in these discussions - avoid complaints - be solutions focused, define a challenges with your proposal and action plan for re-review in these discussions, be upfront and transparent and you'll find you'll avoid a lot of political mumbo jumbo.

Cheers and ..I think I said..its about how you work beyond what you deliver that can work to your advantage if maximization of the performance review is your focus.

Good luck


Re: How do you maximize annual performance reviews to your advantage?

PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2015 1:45 pm
by John D. D,

I think the question of the immediacy of feedback can relate to style. If it isn't too immediate, it allows the student to bring their history into the situation, and figure out for themselves what they think are going to be important for their goals. The later evaluation then gives the student some feedback as to how their endeavors are viewed by: a) an individual who has accomplished something that the student wants to accomplish, b) the organization to the extent that this person reflects organizational goals, c) the broader scientific community to the extent that this person reflects the scientific community.

I obviously prefer a more independent style of relating, but other paradigms might work better for different people.