Your Annual Performance Review shouldn't be scary! Think of it as a development opportunity - use these tips to prepare so that it is a positive experience!

Preparing for your Annual Performance Review

Annual performance reviews can be intimidating and not many people look forward to them. I think this is a shame. An annual performance review should be a development opportunity.


It is a chance for you to reflect on your performance over the past 12 months. It is an opportunity for you to think about what you want to achieve in the future and garner the support of your employer. Your annual performance review should be a positive process, but just like anything, you will only reap the rewards if you put in the effort. Here are my tips for making the most of your annual performance review.


Often your employer will give you some paperwork to complete prior to your annual performance review meeting. This documentation could contain questions that may be quite confronting and in particular you might be asked to identify and talk about your own strengths and development areas.

When completing this documentation, you should be as honest with yourself as possible. You also need to make sure that you take the process seriously. If the pre-review documentation raises anything that is even slightly uncomfortable for you, your reaction could be to "take the piss", make jokes or resist providing information. But by shutting down, you miss out on the opportunity for self-reflection and can also close yourself off to feedback further in the process.

If you don't participate in your performance review, you miss the opportunity for self-reflection.

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No doubt your manager will be reflecting on your past 12 months' performance, so it would be a wasted opportunity if you didn't do the same. Start thinking about the specific tasks and projects that you have worked on over the past year. Think about your relationships with your team members, manager, customers and other stakeholders. Here are some questions to get you thinking.

  • What specific tasks and projects have you worked on?
  • What have you achieved? Be specific about your outcomes.
  • What tasks or projects did you enjoy? What did you enjoy about them?
  • Was there anything you disliked doing? Why did you dislike these specific tasks?
  • What do you think you could you have done better? What resources would you have needed to do a better job?
  • Did you have key performance indicators or targets? How did you perform in relation to these targets?
  • What did you learn? Did you enjoy the learning process?
  • Which relationships did you find most fruitful?
  • Were there any relationships that caused you hardship?
  • Did you encounter any difficult situations? Could they have been prevented? How could you have handled them differently?
  • What was your favourite thing about the last year?

You can probably dig a lot deeper with your reflection; these questions are just a starting point. By having the answers to these questions prepared, you can create valuable talking points to use during your annual performance review meeting. This also means that you won't have to think on your feet - knowing this might settle any nerves you have before your review.


What do you want to achieve in the next 12 months? If you have thought about this question before and have strong goal setting practices, this question will be easy. But for everyone else - it is quite daunting! I find that it is best to consider your personal and professional goals at this time. Although your annual performance review will most likely be focused on your professional goals, the goal setting process is holistic and your personal and career goals will possibly intertwine. Here are some questions to get you thinking:

  • Where do you see yourself in 12 months?
  • Will you be in the same role? With the same company?
  • What are your financial goals for the next year?
  • What are your family goals?
  • Do you have any fitness or health goals?
  • What do you need to change or "up-level" to achieve these things?
  • What would you like to learn in the next 12 months?
  • What do you want to achieve?

Now once again, these questions are not limiting. The idea is that you start thinking about your end-game, so that you can put a plan in place to get there. If you want to get a promotion in the next 12 months, perhaps you need to obtain some specific experience or gain a new qualification. If you are planning to buy a new house, car or go on an overseas holiday, maybe you need to start earning more commission or find a way to justify an increase in your base salary.


Now that you know what you are working towards, you should ask yourself "What can my employer do to support me in achieving these goals?" This is no time to be greedy, but there may be certain support mechanisms that your employer could put in place to assist you in your pursuit for success, especially when that success benefits their greater objectives. Keep in mind that not all of your requests will be granted - remember that you are meeting with your manager, not a genie in a bottle! If your requests are reasonable, well thought out and evidence-based, you will have a much better chance of them being considered seriously.

Here are some ideas of the types of support you might request:

  • Study leave - leave to study or attend exams
  • Study assistance - financial support to pay for your course
  • Coaching - a professional coach can improve your overall work performance or specific skills
  • Employee Assistance Program - most employers offer external counselling where needed
  • Car allowance - this could be useful if you are travelling a lot for work
  • Other allowances - this could include mobile, internet, uniform or working from home allowances
  • Training and development - formal courses and workshops or informal on-the-job training
  • Mentorship - a mentorship program could help you take the next step in your career
  • Flexible working conditions - part time hours, flexible hours or working from home

Just to reiterate. When thinking about the type of support you need, you should make sure that your requests are sensible and based on performance improvements rather than desires - your employer is probably not going to agree to study assistance for a course that is unrelated to your role and is unlikely to agree to flexible working conditions because you want to start spending more time at the gym. Be prepared to communicate the reasons for your requests and provide supporting documentation if needed.

Time to start embracing your annual performance review as an opportunity for development!

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Your annual performance review is an excellent time to ask for an increase in remuneration - but only if you deserve one. Many companies do not automatically provide pay increases every twelve months and in fact, small businesses may tend to not offer pay increases until someone asks the question.

If you do decide to discuss remuneration in your annual performance review, you should make sure that you are prepared to justify the reason for your request. Just remember - your level of remuneration has nothing to do with your family situation, your financial situation or your expensive taste in shoes. It has everything to do with the tasks that you are performing, the level of responsibility you hold and the level of competency you demonstrate in your day to day role. If you are doing an amazing job and have taken on extra projects in the past 12 months, this is a great starting point for asking for more money. If you are just scraping through or are struggling to meet your key performance indicators, I would rethink this decision. You should always prove yourself BEFORE asking for an increase instead of making promises about your future behaviour.

For more information about asking for a pay rise, head to my post, How to ask for a Pay Rise.

When your next performance review rocks around, I hope these tips come in handy! Tell me in the comments - does your employer embrace the annual performance review process as a positive opportunity?

Becca xo


About the Author


Bec McFarland is an experienced HR practitioner, manager, career coach and the creator of Pop Your Career. She delights in sharing practical, straight to the point career advice, spending time with her family and eating Mexican food.

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