Do you feel that the performance appraisal process is just a tick the box process? You run through the questions on the form, have some surface-level discussion, and you and your manager sign off on the document. It’s not surprising then that the employee and the employer don’t invest much time or effort into the meeting. The annual performance appraisal in recent years has started to become a thing of the past with many organisations, as there has been a significant shift towards more regular meetings, in the moment feedback and timely conversations. However, I know lots of organisations still undertake the annual review process.

I am often asked by employees how they can navigate the performance appraisal to discuss what’s important to them and how to approach topics like asking for a pay rise, having professional development/training approved, and gaining opportunities for on-the-job training and upskilling. These can be nerve-racking conversations to have or to try and bring up at a performance review and I have heard many stories where the employee went into the meeting wanting to discuss these kinds of topics, but there wasn’t the right moment in the conversation to raise them.

If you want to get more from your performance appraisal and discuss some of these topics with your manager during the appraisal process, here are my top tips for navigating the conversation.

  1. Preparation & Clarity
    For any conversation that you are nervous about having or are unsure how to navigate, preparation is key. It’s critically important to know what your objective is and what outcome you are seeking. Having clarity on this will help you navigate the conversation. I find the best way to do this is to write it down and keep re-writing it until it is clear and concise without the waffle. You need to know specifically what it is you want in your own mind. For example, wanting to do some professional development is a vague statement. Wanting to complete a Diploma in Project Management by the end of 2021 is a very clear and concise objective. A statement like wanting to do some professional development leaves a lot of room for interpretation. When it comes to the conversation you might be thinking that professional development means the Diploma in Project Management, while your manager might be thinking more professional development is doing a one-hour free webinar on project management.
  1. Set the agenda
    If there are particular topics you would like to discuss at the review meeting, it can be a good idea to communicate with your manager prior to the meeting the items you would like to discuss. This will set the agenda for the conversation and then you won’t have to worry about chickening out of raising the topic because your manager will already be aware it’s an item you want to discuss. You can set the agenda by emailing your manager prior to the meeting and asking if you can discuss the particular topics. Or if your review process is to fill in a feedback form that you have to submit to your manager prior to the meeting, then you can flag the topics you would like to discuss on the form. The other benefit of flagging the topic prior is that it allows your manager to prepare for the conversation and not be blind-sided so that hopefully you can make the most of the conversation in the meeting.
  1. Prepare your business case
    To give you the best chance of negotiating the outcome that you want, having a business case to support your request is the best approach. Simply expecting a pay increase often doesn’t cut it, so depending on what you are trying to achieve, having supporting documentation and evidence is key. Depending on what you are asking for, this could look like:
      • Your key achievements for the last 12 months (or the period of time since your last appraisal) and the benefit of those achievements to the organisation. Where possible try and quantify the value/cost saving to the business.
      • Examples of where you believe you have gone above and beyond in your role and exceeded expectations (remember to have very specific examples and to not simply talk generally), reference your position description.
      • Examples of testimonials or feedback you have received from peers, customers, external stakeholders.
      • Salary benchmarking data – comparisons of what other jobs are paying that are the same or similar to yours.
      • Examples of how you will be able to add further value to the business if you do undertake particular professional development/training and how that will support the organisation in achieving its strategic goals.

The most common mistake I see people make in a review is not having supporting documentation or evidence. However, if that request is accompanied by examples of the above info, it becomes a much more compelling request.

When it comes to the performance appraisal, remember that it is a two-way conversation so while you might be requesting a salary increase or training or upskilling opportunities, be prepared to discuss what you need to work on in regards to skill development, how you can continue to increase your contribution or add additional value to the organisation. Being prepared to discuss these areas makes for a balanced conversation instead of running the risk of coming across as if it is all about what you want. It also demonstrates good self-awareness.

While these conversations can be nerve-racking; some would say if you don’t ask you don’t get it. If your request is knocked back, be prepared to follow up at that moment by asking your manager what you need to do or work on, or demonstrate to be able to achieve that pay increase or be granted that professional development. With that info, you’ll then have something to work towards rather than leaving the meeting feeling disheartened and having no commitment to revisit the request.



Disclaimer: The material contained in this publication is of a general nature only. It is not, nor is intended to be, legal advice. If you wish to act based on the content of this publication, we recommend that you seek professional advice.

About The Author
Ange Connor

Ange is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource (HR) and careers agencies. Ange is an ‘ideas’ person and a ‘big picture’ thinker. She loves to challenge the status quo – in fact, that’s how Inspire HQ began.

Ange has supported hundreds of businesses across Ballarat and regional Victoria to attract, engage, motivate, develop and retain their greatest assets; their people. Ange’s unyielding passion and invaluable knowledge of the recruitment and HR industry ensures she delivers the best solutions for her clients.

Ange has held various board positions and regularly volunteers her time to share her industry and market knowledge. She was recently a Councillor for the Victoria and Tasmania region of the Recruitment Consulting and Staffing Association (RCSA) of Australia and New Zealand, and she is a current Board Director of the Committee for Ballarat.

For more useful information, follow Ange on LinkedIn.

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