The Annual Review


by - Sally Longson

What is an annual review?

A secretary's new career launch @ her annual reviewMany companies offer some sort of annual review system to review your past year's performance, which is why the annual review is also often called a performance review. It's a chance to meet with your boss in a private setting where you won't be disturbed for an hour. It's an opportunity to look back over the past year or six months, depending on how often reviews take place, to look at your performance, what you've done well, areas you need to develop; what's hindered you in any goals; and where you want to go from now. If it all goes well, you should leave the meeting feeling as though you could fly to Mars, you feel so good - assuming your appraisal goes well.

If you don't get an annual review, why not ask your boss for a sit down meeting every six months to have one? Produce an agenda yourself of things you want to discuss and give it to him a few days beforehand so that he has no excuse for not thinking about it or preparing anything.

Secretary must make most of her review timeMost companies offer a system from the Big Cheese downwards; but many people lower down the scale often lose out, partly because the system may not extend to them; but also because individuals themselves may think, 'well, what's the point? It won't change anything, anyway'. This is both to the loss of the management and those lower down the scale. Any review should tap into your potential and ensure you're being stretched and challenged as you wish

Look back to your last review.

  • What did you honestly do to prepare for it?
  • How much time did you spend getting ready for your annual hour with the     boss? Note, I put the emphasis on your last review.
  • How long did it last?
  • How seriously did you take it at the time?
  • What did you think your boss thought of the process? Was he keen to sit down with you? Or did he ask     what an appraisal was?
  • How diligently did you (and your boss) follow up the points from the appraisal?
  • Did you work to achieve any goals you set yourself, or was it merely a way to fill up the paper and get     out of the appraisal?

What happens in an Annual Review?

Essential to the success of a review is the setting. You should not be interrupted by the phone or other people sticking their heads around the door. For example, wanting 'just a quick question'. We all know there is no such thing as a 'quick question'. The review shouldn't' be given with one of you on one side of a desk, the other on the other. It's best if you're sitting around a table, but not across from each other. In fact, it's best not to be in the boss's office at all. And you should both be given sufficient time to prepare for the review.

Most reviews start with some general comments made by your manager to put you at ease. It will help things considerably if you can show that you've thought about the review. A manager who has been well versed in the review system (and some companies run training sessions prior to its taking place across the company each year) will sit down with you and outline the way he sees the hour going. If you've got things you want to discuss with him, let him know about those before by handing him an agenda of them.

So what are you likely to cover and what will you need to think about?

  • Progress you have made
  • A mention of any particular skills and qualities you've demonstrated
  • Your approach to work
  • What you do well
  • Where you need to improve
  • Where you see your career going with the company
  • Anything you need help with
  • What might hinder that
  • What support you'll need to meet your career goals
  • How your boss and the management can help
  • Any comments you made on your self-assessment form if you have to complete one.

Criticism @ work should be taken positivelyIf your boss has criticisms, don't sulk or burst into tears, however you feel. Your boss should provide specific examples of when your performance has not met the required standards. The emphasis should be on what you're doing well.

Your review also provides an invaluable opportunity to sit down with your boss and tell him tactfully how he is or isn't helping you to do your job most effectively. So if your boss keeps wandering off without telling you where he is going, for example, the annual review is the time to tell him off, politely and professionally. You should be clear about the impact of his wanders both for you, his clients and the organisation.

Some people will ask if a review is the same as a career plan, and the answer is that no, it isn't. A careers plan is an idea of where you want your career to go; a review looks back at your past progress as it directly relates to your job and the organisation.

A secretary's key to a successful careerPreparing for your annual review

This is a very good time to show your boss what your role really does take into account, because the chances are, he won't be aware of all you do.

So looking back, what have you done to:

  • Achieve any goals you set yourself?
  • Tackle any weaknesses
  • Introduce initiatives
  • Expand your role and responsibilities.
  • Is anything making it difficult for you to achieve the goals you want?

After discussing the past year, the two of you should look forward to the future, so when you're preparing for the meeting, things to consider are:

  • What do you want to achieve next year in your current position or company?
  • What new skills do you need to learn to do a more effective job?
  • What do you need your boss to do to help you achieve your goals?
  • Any training you'll need. Do your research before the review and get all the information you need. Show that you've checked out several providers and chosen one above all others. Explain why.
  • New challenges you want and how you see the role going.

Annual review should be used to highlight achievementsMaking the most of the process

A review is only worth anything if you treat the process seriously and take up all the follow up action points, so that you build on it. If you ask for training or the company to support you financially in doing a course, which you think, will help you, be absolutely clear in your own mind:

  • how it would benefit the organisation;
  • how much of the company's time it would take up;
  • how you would make up any lost time;
  • and how you would cover if you were absent from your desk as a result of the course.

Be very clear about the benefits that the training or coaching will bring to you, with specific outcomes. If I take this course, I will be able to....

Finally, be alert to the areas you need to improve and watch for them in your day to day job; and focus achieving the goals you set yourself on your annual review. Look back frequently at the things you do well, to give yourself a boost; and then reflect on the things which you needed to keep a check on to make sure you're tackling them.

Don't just do an annual review in the office!

The annual review at work will give you an indication of how far the company can help you with your career goals. Read between the lines. If your company is one that doesn't want to move you on further, or the structure is such that you really feel there's nowhere else for you to move to, then it could be time to move out.

So do an appraisal at home. There will almost certainly be things you can't tell your boss, however much you work well together and trust him. Take an opportunity to reflect on what you've learnt this past year, how your network has extended and how your CV has changed, and where you intend to go from there.

  • What goals do you need to accomplish in the next year?
  • What can you do to achieve those through work?
  • What else will you need to do to move your career on in your own spare time?

Think and plan ahead.
Set yourself goals and commit yourself to achieving them.

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