Just as companies prepare for the publication of their annual results, so do individuals in the workforce need to get ready for their yearly performance appraisal. Petra Cook explains why

Over the past few weeks, many organisations have been bringing their financial year to a close and evaluating performance against targets set 12 months ago. Their goals most likely included everything from financial growth to improving market share. In other words, they focus on the macro-economic issues that matter to overall business performance.
To see how much this big picture matters, you need look no further than recent announcements from some of the major high-street brands. Staff at John Lewis, for example, will shortly be sharing in an annual bonus equal to more than seven weeks’ pay, on the back of a 24% rise in annual profits. And Sainsbury has reported that, for the first three months of 2005, like-for-like sales increased 3.7% against a year earlier.
So it is clear that performance matters. In the end, all competition is about the performance of, and competition between, the workforce. Most organisations recognise this and it is one of the key reasons they conduct annual performance appraisals of their staff. But, in the same way that organisations prepare for the publication of their results, how can you prepare for your performance appraisal?
The first thing to do is take time to consider the purpose of an appraisal. After all, the focus of performance appraisals has shifted from evaluation towards performance improvement by means of a well-prepared, honest and open discussion. The appraisal process now focuses on behaviours and outcomes, issues and problems, and is designed to reward success and set stretching but realistic targets.
And of course, before starting the
appraisal itself, it is vital that you prepare thoroughly. Can you imagine going to a job interview without researching the company in question? You wouldn’t do it, so make sure you are armed with information to demonstrate how well you feel you have performed during the year. This is not so you can be confrontational, but rather so you can present evidence to help answer questions. That way, you will demonstrate that your own actions matter to you and that you have reviewed the past year’s objectives to assess whether they have all been met.
Even though you may be concerned about bringing some issues to the forefront of a discussion, you should not be reticent about problems. Use the appraisal process to raise any issue that you feel is affecting your performance. For example, faulty equipment may be slowing you down or you may feel that your workload is too great - as is the case for 39% of managers in the retail sector, according to research conducted by the Chartered Management Institute and Adecco.
If you do raise concerns, though, make sure you propose your own solutions. Even if they are not implemented, it shows a thoughtful approach to the job. According to our research, many managers in the retail sector feel that there is a negative management style in their organisation, with most crying out for open and receptive management but not getting it.
The point is that communication works best as a two-way tool, so if you voice ideas, you are more likely to generate a positive discussion with your boss.
You should also use the appraisal as a chance to establish priorities. Both you and your manager may have differing views on what your key priorities are. There may well be good reasons for this - such as knowledge of broad departmental goals as opposed to individual targets - but a discussion should help clarify the issues and help you to arrive at a set of agreed priorities.
You should also go into the meeting with objectives for the year ahead. Never assume that just because your manager is your boss, he or she will have future goals and targets already defined. Remember, you have one advantage - you know exactly what job you are doing and what you should be achieving.
Ultimately, if you prepare successfully for your appraisal, you are likely to get more out of it. In the long term, both your individual and your employer’s business performance will benefit.
n Petra Cook is head of public affairs, Chartered Management Institute.