How to Get the Most Out of Your Performance Review

Last summer, I was sitting at a women’s conference, where I met several bright Millennial women, and as we were talking, almost every single one of them said, “I want honest, transparent feedback. And I want it more than once a year.”

In other words, those ladies had a bone to pick with performance reviews.

And they’re not alone. A 2015 survey by TriNet and Wakefield Research showed that 69 percent of full-time workers between the ages of 18 and 34 view performance reviews as flawed. Of the 1,000 employees surveyed, 40 percent said the feedback they received was too vague, and 31 percent said the feedback was unfair.

But just because Millennials think the process has flaws doesn’t mean they want to do away with it entirely. Indeed, nearly 70 percent of Millennials in the same study indicated they felt performance reviews could help them learn and grow — if they underwent a few changes that provided employees with honest, transparent feedback more than once a year.

Fixing a Flawed System

As the president of a PR firm with more than 25 years of experience in the industry, I’ve managed many employees over the years. And I’ve found that when I provide honest, transparent feedback, I see results. I see employees meeting not only company goals, but also personal goals.

With that in mind, how can you get the most out of a performance review? It’s crucial to first understand your skills and your professional goals. Equipped with that knowledge, you’ll begin to glean more benefits from your meetings.

Before heading into a review, go back over any previous feedback and be ready to learn. Re-examining prior feedback ahead of time will help the conversation stay healthy and positive. If a manager has done a good job of providing evaluations in the past, nothing about the upcoming conversation should come as a shock. But most importantly, be willing to learn, no matter where you are in your career. Even after 25 years, I’m still learning new things every day.

When it’s time for a performance review, ask your manager these questions:

1. What are your goals for the department?

Knowing your manager’s goals will allow you to focus on the aspects of your work that create the most payoff and will help you understand how those goals fit into the bigger picture of your company. Don’t be afraid to share your own goals, either. An open communication loop will build a strong relationship between you and your manager.

2. Do you see any areas where I could improve?

As humans, we don’t always have the self-awareness to see our biggest faults — or our smallest productivity drains. Ask your manager to pinpoint certain places where you can cut out inefficiencies and boost overall output.

3. Am I meeting the company’s expectations?

The company hired you for a reason, and it’s useful to know what that is. Start by reviewing the expectations that were set when you were hired, and keep asking questions to determine whether you are still meeting those expectations and to visualize future expectations.

4. What would you like me to work on before the next time we meet?

Never assume you know what your manager expects of you. Instead, ask for a clear set of tasks and goals. Before you leave the meeting, make sure you fully understand how your performance on those tasks will be measured.

5. What can I do to advance my career?

If you’re feeling stagnant in your role, ask about what you can do to challenge yourself. Your manager might even spot a path that better suits your career goals. If you’re looking for upward mobility, use this time to ask your boss how she climbed the rungs of management and for any advice she may have for you.

6. Can you give me an example?

Specific examples should always be part of transparent feedback. Ask your manager to recall a time when she felt you stepped up in your role, as well as for an example of when you could have done more. If your boss mentions you’re underperforming, immediately follow that feedback up with a request for an example.

Just because performance reviews have flaws doesn’t mean they can’t be useful. To get honest, transparent, and constructive feedback, you must enter evaluations armed with the right attitude and right questions.