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How to Maximize Your Performance Appraisal Score

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

Your Performance Appraisal is a point in time where a) you’re assessed on how well you have done against objectives you have been set, as well as b) it being an opportunity for you and your manager to provide feedback to each other about your behaviors, skills and achievements during the review period. To maximize your Performance Appraisal score, you must achieve the objective measures set by your manager exactly as they were set.

I deliberately laid out my opening sentence into two pieces, ‘a’ and ‘b’. Because ‘a’ (in almost all cases of Performance Reviews) is where your score comes from. The assessment of the apsects of your performance described in ‘b’ are the more subjective, woolly measures that are almost impossible to score, so they are generally aspects of your soft-skill development that you and your manager will work on over time and are not graded (however, they are still important and have a great effect on the relationship between you.)

So the rule of thumb is if you want to maximize your score, then you need to ensure that you’ve done everything as specified in your objectives. Easy, right?

OK, so it’s not that simple, isn’t it? Well it isn’t if the objectives you agreed with your manager are not SMART.

That is, they are not Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound.

  • Specific – Objectives should specify what they want to achieve, and why.
  • Measurable – You should be able to measure whether you are meeting the objectives or not.
  • Achievable – Are the objectives you set, achievable and attainable?
  • Realistic – Can you realistically achieve the objectives with the resources you have?
  • Timebound – When do you want to achieve the set objectives?

Only when your objectives conform to these criteria does achieving them possible, let alone easy.

Just a side note: objectives don’t really serve their purpose (that is, to increase your capability, develop skills, and add to experience, as well as add value to your company) if they’re easy, do they? When objectives are tough – when they stretch you – do they encourage you to build these things I described here.

Each of these factors are critical (without one of them, the objective is actually impossible to achieve), although I think that the most important factors (in terms of a starting point) of a SMART objective are measurable and specific, i.e. that a target has been specified that can be measured. Let me illustrate with some examples.

Q: Which of these objectives are measurable and specific?

  1. Obtain 3% market share of the mobile phone industry by 2004.
  2. Increase sales 10% from 2003 – 2004.
  3. Survive the hard times the business is currently in.
  4. Grow overall business by 15% year on year for the next five years.
  5. Increase brand awareness over 2 years.

A: Objectives 1, 2 and 4 are specific and measurable. Objective 5 is questionable – the measure of ‘brand awareness’ isn’t specific, and the amount of increase isn’t stated. Objective 3 is also not specific or has a measure (how is ‘survival’ measured, and over what period?)

Get the picture?

Once you have specific and measurable in your objective, it’s quite obvious what’s required. The other factors (achievable, realistic and timebound) are fleshed out from here. So if your objectives don’t specify exactly what is required, and how it is measured, then achieving them is quite frankly impossible!

Graded Results

Quite often, managers set a scale of graded results in order to allocate a score to your performance. What this does is to set targets for each grading. This will look something like this:

Say you have been set an objective to reduce the cost of errors when keying in data. Your manager wants to reward you on a scale.

0% – 2% error rate: 100% of performance score

2% – 5% error rate: 50% of performance score

5% – 10% error rate: 25% of performance score

10% or above error rate: 0% of performance score

When objectives are set using a scale of graded results, it is very clear what you are aiming for, and what the reward is. Providing you have the ability to control and influence the results, (and that it is clear how error rate is defined) then these are SMART objectives. Right?

Are your objectives SMART?

So to maximize your Performance Appraisal score, you have to know without any ambiguity what you need to do to achieve a maximum rating. So it comes down to the SMARTness of the objectives.

If they’re not, then will you know what to do to gain maximum results? The answer is certainly No.

So what will you do?

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This post is part 9 of 15 in the series Powerful Performance Review Tactics

About the author /


Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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