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by Jessica Yang | March 10, 2009


Part 1: Your Performance Standards

A performance review is a regularly scheduled meeting between employee and boss to discuss both the results of your work and the process you went through to achieve them. Traditionally, employers conduct performance reviews once or possibly twice a year to help with decisions on hiring and job placement.

But the purpose of a performance review is not limited to employee evaluation anymore. Many companies now tie compensation, promotion, or other rewards to performance reviews.

A performance review is also becoming an opportunity for an individual to demonstrate value to the company. The discussion includes an evaluation of the qualitative aspects of your performance. Organizations further encourage employees to provide input about their career aspirations and goals for the future.

Because performance reviews play such a critical role in career development, it is in your best interest to understand how performance reviews work, how to prepare for a review, what to do and say during the review, and how to follow up at the salary negotiation and beyond.

Performance is measured in different ways
There are various ways to measure performance; the method often depends on your company and the nature of your job. The two most common approaches are the rating method and the goals or objectives method. The methods use different criteria to judge performance.

Rating method. This approach emphasizes qualities, traits, or behaviors. An employee's performance is rated on these characteristics and on specific items such as quality of work; quantity of work; communications skills; interpersonal skills; and decision making.

Goals or objectives method. This approach measures performance by comparing the objectives set by the employer and the employees with the results, or what was accomplished. Goals are set and prioritized by both parties at the beginning of the period. The review is used to evaluate and record the results - whether the employee has met, exceeded, or failed to meet expectations. ~

Most companies use a combination of these methods to evaluate an employee's performance. This combination involves performance planning (mapping accomplishments with goals) and rating behavior and traits for coaching and improvement.

Preparation is key to an effective performance review
If you prepare thoroughly, you can transform your review from an occasion many employees and their bosses dread into an opportunity to engage in a dialog about continuous improvement - and commensurate rewards.

Typically, managers give at least a week or two of notice before a performance review. You may be asked to fill out a self-appraisal, which can be used as a guideline during the review and later put on file with the human resources department. It is worth taking the time to complete this exercise thoughtfully, because it will enable you to compare your impression of how well you did with your company's impression.

The self-appraisal process helps you gather your thoughts and organize an approach to the performance review. Even if your organization does not require a formal self-appraisal, it is to your advantage to complete a self-test, since the performance review process is so closely related to your career advancement.

Performance appraisals should be linked to corporate objectives
Performance reviews are intended to benefit both you and your employer. Your company may have a number of reasons for assessing your performance.

  • To go over your work during the period in question.
  • To find out what kind of training you need.
  • To help you develop as a professional.
  • To set goals for your future performance.
  • To determine whether and when to promote you.
  • To compensate you based on how well you perform.
  • To find out how your skills fit into the corporate picture.

This last point is where it all starts. By measuring how effectively you and your coworkers carry out your responsibilities, your employer is also assessing how well it is meeting its overall goals.~

Corporate objectives are designed according to the mission, core values, and strategic plans of the company, and are intended to govern employees' actions and behavior. Employers expect their employees to fulfill the company's values.

When preparing for your performance review, think about ways in which you have exhibited the qualities your employer expects of you, and look at how your accomplishments relate to the corporate objectives.

Your performance relates to your job description
Job descriptions play a vital role in your compensation, because employers decide what to pay people based on the value of specific skills. Add up the list of responsibilities in your job description, and you should get the totality of your expected contribution in both qualitative and quantitative terms.

A job description should state the overall purpose for the position and include a list of the main tasks. A job description usually contains no more than eight tasks, although senior positions can include more. These definitions describe in general terms why the job exists and how it will ultimately contribute to the objectives of the company or organization.

Performance standards tie your job description to company goals
The job description identifies measurable tasks, and the performance standards establish the acceptable levels for each of those tasks. Your manager will translate corporate objectives into acceptable performance standards for your position given the tasks in the job description. Performance standards should be clear to both you and your employer so that you know what's expected of you and your manager has a basis for judgment.

When preparing for your performance review, review how well your accomplishments relate to the performance standards that have been set for you. For example, if your company emphasizes teamwork, cite instances in which you have worked effectively with colleagues or mobilized coworkers to come together to complete a project.

If you do not have formal performance standards, ask your manager to meet with you to discuss the relationship between your job description and the company's objectives. If you do have performance standards, revisit them with your manager every two to four months to adjust your mutual expectations as business conditions evolve.


Filed Under: Job Search