Annual review season is just around the corner, and if you’ve been following our series of posts about reviews, you should be feeling ready to go. There are a few things that are important to keep in mind as you get ready to complete those performance reviews.
We preach about it often, but an annual review should not be an interview. It should be a conversation between the employee and their manager that is productive, efficient, and geared toward helping the employee succeed in the next period.
For employees, that means coming prepared to ask questions that will help you not only gauge your performance, but better understand where your value is felt at work and where you can feel even more fulfilled in the new year.
We’ve put together a simple guide of 10 questions that will help employees get more out of their annual review.
Mold these questions to your relationship with your manager, the work you do, and where you are in your career.
From your perspective, what were some of the highlights across the company this year?
Often, a relationship between a manager and an employee becomes a very intimate thing. You talk about your work to your manager, and they respond to that. However, managers are often higher-up and have access to see more of what’s happening across the company. When you break them out of the one-on-one relationship that you have with them, you’re better able to understand what they deem as important.
It’s vital to understand what your manager sees as successful. What you believe may be important, your manager may not. Level-setting expectations during an annual review is extremely important to your future at the company. By understanding what they saw as the main achievements across the company in the past year, you are able to better understand what a job well done looks like at the organization moving forward.
How do you see our business changing in the next 12 months? How, ideally, would you like to see my role adapt to help that vision come to fruition?
While managers do not hold crystal balls they can peer into the future with, they do have Insight across multiple disciplines in your organization. They’re able to better predict changes and trends that are upcoming because they’re not as close to the work.
An annual review is a perfect opportunity to learn a little bit more about the company as a whole. If you don’t ask questions about the company during this time, you may feel a little bit left in the dark. Ideally, you want to ask questions about what’s going to happen in the future. This gives you good insight and shows you where your role needs to be in order to help the company move forward. If you can align your role with your manager’s vision, you’re more likely to receive challenging and fulfilling work, and also have a sense of control over your success.
Of course, managers should be working hard to provide you with vision each step of the way. But as we know humans are humans, and mistakes are often made. Especially if you are in a small company, it’s likely that conversations and communication can occasionally be siloed or have a delayed effect in getting back to you. It’s vitally important that you are proactive with the questions you asked so that you can get the information you need to succeed. In fact, studies show proactive employees often have better relationships with their managers.
The bottom line is expectation setting is the key to success. Not only asking how they’ll see the business change over the next 12 months, but how you can be part of that vision leaves no guesswork when it comes to where you fit in and how you can drive progress.
What’s the biggest challenge we currently face as an organization?
Challenges are everywhere no matter the size of your business. In your discipline within your organization, you could probably rattle off the challenges that your team faces quite easily. However, challenges across the organization can be harder to pinpoint when you are heads-down on very specific projects.
Take the time that you have with your manager to truly understand the big picture and the challenges it takes to get there. This will help you feel more fulfilled with the work you’re doing, as there should be a direct line between the tasks that you accomplish each day and how it’s moving the organization forward (and over those obstacles).
This also sends a clear message that you are concerned about the company as a whole. It’s important that we know our employees are committed to the success of the organization. It’s just as important that managers are committed to the employees’ success. When you level-set with questions like this you’re able to be on the same page.
How could I be more helpful to other people on the team?
No matter how great of a job you are doing, you will always have blind spots. It’s up to our managers to help us find those blind spots and turn them into opportunities where we can feel fulfilled and engaged in our work.
Asking simple questions like how you can be more helpful to others on the team shows that you not only care about your organization, but you care about the people that you’re working with. Managers often have more keen insight into where you can fit in on the team and how your valuable skills are needed. By asking direct questions, you will receive more direct answers. Your goal after this is to follow through with them. You want to make sure that when your next review comes around you can talk about how you took your manager’s advice, implemented it and got the results.
What is the next step in my career at this organization, and what are two to three things you’d like to see me do now to achieve it?
You cannot be what you cannot see. It’s up to the manager to help you create a path to the highest level of success that you can achieve as an organization. But, it’s not up to you to be passive about this. You should play an active role in your career growth at any organization. If you see a fire or a way to make things better, you should be able to go ahead and do so. This shows initiative of course, but it also shows that you are committed to the organization.
When you ask blunt questions like this it helps you understand where your next move is. This can be extremely helpful because there is no ambiguity left once you get the answer.
The key to success here will be the follow-up. Make sure once these two to three steps have been laid out that you begin to work on them. You may even want to send weekly or bi-weekly emails to your manager letting them know how you are achieving these goals. You can also spend time in Kin updating your objectives which will help you chronical your success.
What is one skill that you believe I need to develop?
If you’re looking for an opportunity to grow, this is the ideal question to ask. Work ethic and attitude are 90% of success in any organization, but the skills to achieve specific tasks and goals are a big part of how successful we can be.
Being a lifelong learner should be a major value to any organization. By understanding the skills that need to be nurtured in order to do well at your job and to feel engaged and fulfilled with your work, you’re setting yourself up for a smooth road ahead.
What are some things that are always on your to-do list that you never can get to?
Very rarely do we ask a boss about their own workload. We assume that it’s been distributed amongst their team. We couldn’t be more wrong. There may even be some things on your manager’s plate that should be on yours.
In fact if you took on that work a project might go more smoothly, or a deadline might be met sooner. At least keep tabs on what your manager is working on to have a better relationship, avoid bottleneck situations with your own workload, and find opportunities to merge certain tasks or items together to get better, more effective results.
If you had the chance to change anything in this organization, what would it be and why?
This could potentially prove to be a million-dollar question. Understanding your manager’s personal frustrations could be great because to them it may seem like a big deal, but for you it may seem like nothing.
We are all wired differently. Some tasks to certain individuals seem very heavy while to others, it’s a walk in the park. Understanding what your boss might change within the organization gives you insight into what they find frustrating. It may be a lack of resources, and too many great ideas but no ability to actually do them. It might be a slow-moving timeline for one reason or another.
Either way this question gives you a good understanding as to how the organization is ticking, and what might not be going according to plan.
If you had the chance to keep anything in this organization the same, what would it be and why?
On the flip side of the last question is the ability to see what is working well with this one.
Your manager is going to answer this with insight into what he or she believes is working great within your company. It may be your work ethic, or it may be the way that a certain team is producing results.
By asking questions like this, you’re seeing what’s going well and how you can help keep it running smoothly.
What are three takeaways that you want me to walk out of this meeting with?
When it comes to the end of the annual review, you likely have discussed a lot of things. You’re covering the ground of 12 months worth of work in progress, of course.
The worst part is it’s easy for us as humans to only remember the negative, even if a ton of positive comments were said throughout the meeting. A great way to combat this is to ask this question.
This gives your manager an opportunity to summarize everything that they want you to know from the annual review. It also gives you an opportunity to absorb what truly matters.
Once you have these three key takeaways from the meeting, make sure that you put them into your Kin account as your new objectives or goals in one way or another. This will help you understand where you’ve progressed so far, where you need to go, and how you’re going to get there.