Looking to win a job promotion or get a raise this year? Your most powerful tool may well be your performance review. But we’re not talking about the dead-letter document that usually concludes your review process with a thud. Because if you really want to go for the gold, you’ve got to run an all-out campaign that commences before the performance-review process begins -- and never ends.
Although getting a big pay increase or moving up in your organization hasn’t been easy in recent years, that dynamic is beginning to change. “In 2009, it was hard to make something happen for yourself” given the bad economy, says Scott Stevenson, a director in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ advisory practice in organizational development and talent management. “Any performance management system became less relevant [in 2009]. But now a lot of companies are really, really nervous about how the uptick of the economy could affect employee retention.”
How to Make Your Performance Review Pay Off
To make the performance review process work for you, build a case for yourself around concrete achievements.
“The biggest problem with performance reviews is that they’re too subjective,” says Larry Myler, author of Indispensible by Monday. “So it’s incumbent upon employees to make their accomplishments objective.” Document and talk up numbers that demonstrate what you’ve helped achieve and how you've contribute to your company’s bottom line, whether in costs reduced or revenue increased.
And remember that what seemed like medal-winning achievements to you when they happened may no longer register in the memory of your boss, who’s thinking more about the week ahead than yesterday. “Supervisors want some help and need some reminders,” says Stevenson.
Get a Raise by Proving Your Worth
When you get in the starting blocks for your review -- whether it’s next week or in 11 months -- think about the big picture, not just the day-to-day duties inherent in your job. “Fulfill your job description, but not with blinders on,” says Myler. “Expand your view to include the company’s profitability.” And if the definition of your position should be expanded to incorporate your broader accomplishments, talk to your manager or the HR department about rewriting your job description.
Put your positive contributions in context for your boss, so that you amass credit for your work week after week, month after month. “Create a de facto performance review as many times a year as you can come up with a good idea with a positive financial impact,” says Myler. But remember to manage up; find a way to make your boss and department look good. "Work with your supervisor to improve on your proposal to streamline a business process or bring in additional revenue."
And insist on frequent, substantial performance feedback that reinforces your eventual case to get a raise or job promotion while heading off potential roadblocks. “The process fails when the manager doesn’t give regular feedback,” says Roberta Matuson, president of Human Resources Solutions and a former Monster contributor. “The performance review can feel more like a confrontation than a confirmation of ongoing conversations.”
You’ll get more and better feedback if you request it informally and on the spot. “When you do a presentation, ask your boss, ‘What did I do well? What can I work on?’” says Jan Brockway of Workscape, a human resources consultancy.
Interim Reviews Keep Your Campaign on Track
If your company doesn’t have a formal program of more frequent performance reviews, do a self-assessment preemptively,” says Stevenson. “Document your objectives at the beginning of the review period, and show how they changed, and changed again, and changed again,” and how you met those evolving goals.
Getting substantive feedback from your supervisor -- in any forum -- is one of the best ways to accelerate your career. While managers should know you need lots of feedback, many don’t. But almost every manager will lend his perspective on specific aspects of your performance if you ask. And good managers will take your request for feedback as a sign of strength and dedication to both your career and the enterprise.
If your boss doesn’t think to speak with you about your performance more than once a year, take it on yourself. “It’s your responsibility every three months to pull out goals and ask for clarification in writing,” says Matuson.
Go for a Job Promotion by Asking What It Takes
If you want to use the performance review to leverage your next job promotion, launch your campaign well before the review process begins. Advises Brockway: “Be right up front and say, ‘I think I’m ready for the next level. What would you need to see to give me that job promotion?’”
And remember, your performance review is your best opportunity to bring home the gold. “If you don’t toot your own horn, no one will hear you in the sea of cubicles,” says Matuson.