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Get the Most out of Your Appraisal Review

Get advice and tools that can help you reflect on what you can do to reap the most benefit from the dialogue with your manager.

It is starting to be widely recognised that traditional job appraisal review concepts are becoming old fashioned. Accelerated development requirements, new business models and organisational forms mean that the annually-recurring employee development interviews (also called job appraisal reviews) are no longer perceived as relevant. Therefore, many companies are changing their approach as to how the manager and employee should engage in the systematised development dialogue.

Several places in the financial sector operate with more frequent “touch points” or “Grow. Perform. Succeed. (GPS)”, which are forms of dialogue adapted to agile processes, project and organisational forms. Other places, more traditional job appraisal review concepts are used, which follow the HR year wheel, and finally there are companies that combine the models.

The 6 most important points to be aware of for a productive development interview

1. Take the interview seriously

If you do not take your employee development interview seriously, it can easily degenerate into superficial chitchat. In our career sparring, we often hear stories of irrelevant and superficial job appraisal reviews that mostly resemble a pointless, ritualised tribal dance. Neither the manager nor employee experience a benefit, and therefore, the expectations for the job appraisal reviews quickly drop, resulting in neither party taking them too seriously.

If that is the case, the best and most important step towards positive change is to start with yourself. Regardless of your experience with job appraisal reviews in your organisation, you should regard the personal development interview as an important opportunity to put the things you want your superior to know into words.

This means that you should take it seriously; that way you are doing your part to ensure that the next job appraisal review is not just a cosy chat over coffee with your manager. The interview can take place in a nice atmosphere, but that is not the purpose in itself.

Although this is a rarity, if you find yourself in a company where job appraisal reviews are not held or where the benefits of the interviews continue to be minimal, approaching your union representative and addressing the issue and the need for development may be an important step to take.

2. It is critical that you prepare

Regardless of whether your manager is well prepared or not, your own preparation is the key to a good job appraisal review. As an employee, you cannot know if your superior notices all the good things you do in your day-to-day work or knows about your career ambitions. Therefore, it is extremely important that you accept shared responsibility for ensuring that your interview focuses on your most important results, strengths and ambitions.

A key element in your preparation is data collection. Data that shows how you meet your goals, fulfil your job functions and contribute towards the company’s and/or section’s business results.

If you have been involved in many different tasks and projects, it is a good idea to prepare a form with a complete overview, whether as a diary, on your phone or using Outlook’s task function.

Use your calendar and your inbox as the basis for your preparation. Perhaps you forgot some of your key projects and tasks! Go back to your calendar and review the selected email correspondence to remind yourself of where, when and how you performed over the course of the year. Select the most important ones and be specific in your descriptions. At your job appraisal review, you might say: “In April, I did X, Y and Z...” At your job appraisal review, it is a good idea to bring a handful of good, specific stories, plus examples of positive feedback from someone you worked with.

Finally, you should consider the impression and information that your manager should be left with after your personal development interview. If there are special themes that you want to discuss with your manager, make sure that time is set aside for this purpose beforehand. If you have so much on your agenda that it may be difficult to go through it all within the allocated time, you could propose two meetings instead of a long one. Write your proposed agenda, specifying time estimates, to make sure that time is spent on the things that matter.

3. Put your well-being, motivation and job satisfaction into words.

It is critical that you are motivated by your work, since a high level of motivation increases the chance of good job satisfaction. Apart from focusing on the tasks you resolved successfully, it is also important that you evaluate your work with a focus on motivation.

Even though many people are generally motivated by being good at performing a certain type of task, it does not always have to be that way. You might be bored with something with which you have lots of experience and are very good at. On the other hand, you may find yourself thrown into projects and challenges that you have no experience with and which you never imagined would be so motivating. You may only have learnt this when you were in the middle of the process.

We also have different preferences with respect to the type of tasks we enjoy doing. It is important that you give your manager a clear picture of the type of work you find motivating and engaging. On the other hand, your manager should know if there are tasks that drain your energy and motivation. Particularly if you have a lot of them.

Finansforbundet (Financial Services Union Denmark) has positive experience with developing company-specific job appraisal review concepts that allow closer dialogue between manager and employee concerning the relationship between tasks, motivation and job satisfaction. Engaging in this dialogue could be perceived as a sensitive issue, so it is critical that there is trust between the two parties. When trust has been established, the overall benefit of the job appraisal review increases massively. If you have any doubts at all about how to handle that part of the interview, we recommend that you contact your career consultant at Finansforbundet.
Book a career interview

Book a career interview

4. Identify your competence requirements and your future in the organisation

A good job appraisal review is focused on the past and the future, and it is a key tool that ensures that employees develop in the right direction and strengthen the company. This is important to keep in mind, both as a manager and employee. Therefore, it is a good idea that you take a bird’s eye view when you explain to your manager the direction that you would like to go in.

This involves a negotiation-technique approach, where you put yourself in your manager’s shoes to make sure that you also realise that the development direction you envision and the one that the company wants need to match. From here, the interview can start to tackle the tasks that support the development you want and the courses or further training that may be relevant for you.

Perhaps you have been involved in new projects that made you curious about a different career path in your organisation. It may be that you have noticed that your competences could allow you to move to a different or related position or perhaps take on a new role. Perhaps the tasks you have been performing have been digitised or outsourced, which has opened the door for you to try new things.

All of these are scenarios that to a greater or lesser degree mean that you would need to learn something new and acquire new competences. Your dream might be to attend a specific further training programme, but instead, zoom out and start the conversation by formulating the general direction that you would like to have for your work.

5. What if something is or goes wrong?

It may be difficult to attend your job appraisal review if you do not trust your manager and if the relationship is tense. If the relationship is very poor and you doubt that you can speak openly and honestly with your manager, it is a good idea that you contact your union representative or Finansforbundet beforehand, in order to discuss your concerns (under full confidentiality) and to get ideas and strategies for specific actions. Trust is critical for the development value of your job appraisal review. If you do not feel comfortable about having to talk to your manager, you should work on this before the interview, and this is not solely your responsibility.

It may be that you discovered that you have not been performing your tasks particularly well. You might not be happy with your current tasks and may need to change direction. Alternatively, there might be many conflicts at your workplace, which negatively affect your engagement and job satisfaction. It may be that your manager has done or said something that affected you negatively. Regardless, it is important that you prepare yourself for how to communicate the things that you consider difficult or unpleasant. In connection with this, it is a good idea that you rely somewhat on the principles of non-violent communication:

  • Describe the situation that triggers your emotions in a neutral way, without assessing or judging.
  • Express your feelings without criticising others/your manager.
  • Explain the needs that are not being met and which are responsible for your feelings.
  • Present a request intended to help you going forward.

The above is easier said than done, and it may require practice. Under any circumstance, it is key that you remain solution-oriented in your thoughts and that you prepare yourself for saying things in a good and constructive way, so that you continue to be perceived as an asset for your organisation.

If you do not receive the feedback that you want from your manager, you should ask for it. If you have a suspicion or are convinced that your manager is unhappy with something you did, this should be addressed. You demonstrate professionalism when you show responsibility and, most importantly, when you indicate that you are learning from your mistakes and moving on. These are absolutely critical competences to have in a modern knowledge company.

For example, you might say something like: “Just so you know. I am aware of it! I missed our deadline and have since done such and such and taken care of this and that... I want to make sure that I am not responsible for things going off track in the future. What is your opinion on this?”

6. Follow-up and documentation

Little value comes from an undocumented job appraisal review with no follow-up. Unfortunately, we see all too often that the follow-ups to the agreements made during the job appraisal interview are lacking.

Both you and your manager should note what you have talked about, what was specifically agreed and what each of you will do. The notes should be used actively over the course of the year to ensure that the things you agreed actually happen. However, it is also to ensure that you have a common point of reference, so that you can talk about what needs to be adjusted on an ongoing basis. Therefore, you should agree on when to revisit your agreements and perhaps follow up on the things that were not quite settled during the job appraisal review. The follow-up interview should not be too long after your job appraisal interview. If this happens, or if a year passes before you evaluate the situation again, much could have changed and the agreement might no longer be relevant due to changing priorities.

Over the years, Finansforbundet has entered into several partnerships with companies in the sector and supported them in developing more beneficial job appraisal review concepts.
However, regardless of which model your company practices, it is a good idea to reflect on what you can do to get the most out of the dialogue with your manager. The dialogue and feedback in connection with the personal development interview can give you an important indication of whether you are moving in the right direction in your job and career.