Preparing for a positive personal review

Earlier this week, I chaired a discussion on ‘preparing for a positive personal review’ at an event run by the Women’s Network in in my organisation. Recently, our review process has been high on the agenda with a new system launched that aims to ensure a high quality conversation during this important annual one to one.

It was particularly timely to be holding the event this week as Recruiting Times published an article on Monday which suggested that “ditching the annual review” is one of four key HR trends for 2017. It seems that a number of major private sector companies such as Deloitte, GE and Adobe are taking this step and so part of our event explained why we are bucking this trend and choosing to continue with a traditional  approach.

Our panel consisted of two senior members of staff who have been leading on the development of a new personal review process, which is currently finding its feet within the organisation. The policy now asks managers to facilitate a conversation which is centred on the individual, asking people to think about what they want to achieve in the coming year, what support they need what training and development they think would benefit them going forward.

During the event, our panel shared their own experiences of personal reviews, complete with success stories, and they demonstrated how this process has helped them to achieve the positions they are in today. They were both very clear that the annual review has been extremely valuable in their own career development and encouraged participants to take time before the meeting to consider aspirations and development needs to make sure they are in a position to have a worthwhile discussion.

They set out number of questions to consider when preparing for you annual review:

  • What’s gone well over the last 12 months?
  • How well have I met my current objectives?
  • What am I enjoying about my role?
  • What do I find challenging?
  • Is there anything I am struggling with?
  • What do I want to achieve this year?
  • What hasn’t happened and why?
  • What are my career goals and aspirations? And what skills or experience to I need to help me achieve them?

Our panellists were also stressed that the review is something that is relevant throughout the year, rather than once every 12 months. The meeting is an opportunity to set your goals for the period but needs to be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure you are making progress. The advice was to make sure you keep a copy of your goals somewhere you can find it easily and keep reminding yourself of your aims to ensure you remain on track.

Finally, when asked to provide one ‘takeaway’ or key piece of advice for participants at the event, this is what they had to say:

  • Own it – this is your personal review so it’s up to you to make sure it goes well and achieves for both yourself and the organisation.
  • Be honest – your line Manager can only help you if you are honest about what you want to get from the role and what you can contribute. Don’t just tell them what you think they want to hear but be honest so that you can have a truly constructive conversation.


How does this compare with your own experiences of annual reviews? Are you in favour of this approach or do you prefer something different? Do you have any further tips to share to make sure these discussions are worthwhile? Please share your thoughts below.


7 steps that will help you reach the next level in your career

According to research published by the University of Scranton, 92% of people set goals for the New Year but never actually achieve them.   

The first study of goal setting was carried out by British philosopher and industrial psychologist, Alec Mace, in 1935 and his work has informed many of the basic principles that we use today. Later on, researchers Edwin Locke and Gary Latham developed a theory of goal setting after finding that when people set specific and challenging goals, they achieved higher performance 90% of the time.

It seems clear that if you want success in your career, then goal setting is of critical importance. However, difference between the 92% of people that fail to achieve their goals and the 8% that do is a commitment to achieving them and doing everything possible until they get there. So, not only is it important to define your goals but also to take the action required to ensure you make progress towards them and continue doing so until the target has been reached.

Here are seven actions you can take to help you reach the next level in your career:

1. Be clear about where you are going – if you have a career goal, then you probably have thought through your aspirations and ambitions. However, I have come across a number of people in my work who know they want something but not sure exactly what. They might be frustrated about their situation and feel they have yet to reach their potential but have no idea what would make them feel more fulfilled. My point here is that if you do not know where you are going then how can you possibly get there? For help setting objectives which are specific and achievable, try – Personal Goal Setting.

2. Look at job descriptions and identify any gaps – once you are clear about where you want to go, you need to make a plan to get there. The best first step is to look at some job descriptions for the kind of roles you are interested in and identify any gaps in your knowledge, skills and experience.

3. Make a development plan – after you have identified the areas you need to work on to secure the kind of role you are interested in, then you can make a plan to gain more experience or develop skills in these areas. Practical ways to fill the gaps include courses or qualifications, voluntary work or job shadowing.

4. Become a charity Trustee – a great way to gain experience at a strategic level is taking on a Trustee role with a charitable organisation. Many charities require volunteers at this level who can contribute views on the direction of the organisation and make decisions about strategic direction. Trustee roles require knowledge across a range of areas such as finance, risk and governance so a great way to demonstrate the ability to think strategically. Recruit 3 is a good place to look for Trustee vacancies in Wales or Third Sector Jobs for UK-wide opportunities. 

5. Get some coaching or mentoring – all the best leaders have had a coach or mentor at some point during their career journey. Both are processes that can help you think about your skills, find a way to develop further and ultimately, help you to reach your potential. My recommendations include Empower’s Step Up programme which offers support for third sector professionals looking to secure a leadership role or Compass for professional coaching. 

6. Ask for feedback – this is absolutely key for me in making sure you are developing in the right way to achieve your career goals. Whether you have submitted and application and not been shortlisted, had a job interview and not been successful or looking to progress internally and facing barriers. Ask for feedback and act on what you find out.

7. Don’t give up – most of all, if you really want to take the next step, then whatever barriers or knock backs you face, do not give up because if you remain committed to following the previous steps, you will succeed in the end.

Rejuvenate 2017 with a personal MOT and some new goals for development and well-being

Each year, once the festivities are over and I’ve settled back into everyday life, I like to take some time to reflect on the personal achievements of the last 12 months before setting some new objectives for the year ahead. Doing this helps me to make sure I maintain momentum and retain my focus on personal and career goals.

Defining some clear goals and keeping them somewhere I can see them every day means I have a constant reminder of what I need to do and can hold myself to account by checking my progress on a regular basis. Over the years, this has really helped me to push forward with my personal development by setting out commitments that I can work towards to ensure I continue making progress.

Maybe this is something you have tried or perhaps you are still wondering what your goals should be.  Either way, here are some ideas for carrying out a career MOT and making 2017 a year for development and progression:

1) Assess your skills – Want to take the next step but not sure how to get there? Consider carrying out a skills assessment to review the skills you require compared with those you need so that you can identify areas you need to work on. Reviewing the job descriptions of the type of role you would like to move into will help you assess what skills you need to work on. Try this skills assessment questionnaire from to help you get started.

2) Set objectives – Think about what you want to achieve for the year and set some SMART objectives. These should be specific in what you want to achieve, how you will know when you have succeeded and within what timescale. Set 3 objectives for the year and then put them where you can see them everyday so you won’t forget!

3) Book a course – Is there a clear area that you need to work on to progress your career? Or maybe you just want to have formal recognition of your skills. Continuing on a learning journey is really important so have a look what courses are on offer and book yourself a place. Your local college or university will offer a range of courses and lots now have distance learning options too. The Open University has a range of free online courses in a range of subject areas if you want a taster to get you started.

4) Get a mentor – Worried that you can’t approach someone more senior for advice? Don’t worry, there are lots of schemes out there which will match you with someone who has more experience either in your own industry or with someone who has complementary skills so you can learn and grow by talking things through and providing advice and support to tackle whatever challenge you are currently facing. Aspire Foundation currently offer free mentoring with the aim of empowering women around the world.

5) Don’t forget your SELF – One thing crucial for leadership and progression is your own well-being so make sure at least one objective is about how you will take care of your self. This could be to spend more time with friends and family, go for a walk, practice yoga (try yoga with Adrienne) or learn to meditate (Headspace). Whatever it is, don’t forget that nurturing your sense of self is crucial for resilience which is also at the heart of success.

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