How to get an excellent appraisal? I wish we knew.
Despite the best efforts of organizations to make the process transparent (starting with documented objectives for employees at start of the year), our appraisal is still subjective.
A year is too long and what usually come to mind at year-end are highlights; you will remember your biggest achievements, your boss will find it hard to overlook your ‘developmental need’.
But away from this tug-of-war over a 3 (Good) or 4 (Very Good) rating, the real question remains unanswered – How to get a 5 (Excellent) in appraisal? The question is indeed difficult, and even a boss will find it hard to upfront explain what will move him to give an employee a 5 out of 5 (I say this as a former manager).
Yet, some employees (about 5-10% of total staff) will get a 5 out of 5 at year-end. They would seem to have the killer instinct. How can you develop this killer instinct?
Looking back, I practiced something that I now think could be an answer. It is: Send an Achievement Email to the boss, every month
There are two incredibly powerful benefits in starting these emails:
- At year-end, you normally won’t remember what you achieved in Jan, Feb, or March. In such a case these monthly emails will help recall your achievements of Jan, Feb, March, and so on. 12 achievement emails in the year, with 6 - 8 good achievements in each (72 for the year) and you would have made a case for yourself.
- An even bigger benefit of starting this achievement email will be execution focus that will come in your work. In office you would have initiated or would be a participant in a lot of items. Chances are most of it is stuck somewhere, far from closure.
Earlier you didn’t have an urgency; you could always say, The counterpart is not responding, We have given the details and are awaiting a revert, We await a system patch for the issue, etc.
Not now. Now you will pursue – you will send reminders, you will escalate, you will try to work out an interim solution, and where required, you will even nag your boss for a decision – all because you would want to close the item and show it as an achievement for the month.
And once you send the achievement email, you will feel a sense of satisfaction of a month well worked.
Some Do’s and Don’ts
- The first email might feel awkward: You can start with, “Sir, I thought going forward I will give an update of what I have achieved during the month. Accordingly, this month…”
- Send the achievement email by the 10th of the month (for the previous month). Crafting the email will take time, possibly two hours, but career-wise, it will be the best two hours you will put in each month.
- Avoid generics in your achievement email. Instead, be specific. A sample (of an officer working in a bank):
Generic: Handled spike in pay-order volumes.
Specific: Handled 525 pay-order requests in a five-day period (8-13 April). Usually we get 200 pay-order requests per week.
- In your email, mention your lapses too. Although the lapse might already be known to boss, include it again in the monthly email. The aim is for the email to be one-stop view of your month’s performance.
- As the days and weeks pass by, go on collating your achievements in a draft email. Don’t wait for month-end to remember. Instead note it, as it happens, in a draft email. And once the month gets over, use the data to craft a fine achievement email.
- If you are a manager overseeing teams, include a section to showcase your people development initiatives too.
What is the assurance the above practice will get a 5 out of 5 in Appraisal?
There is no assurance. I say this with all humility. There are times I have sent an achievement email and waited, but the appreciation never came. No, not even an acknowledgment.
But you have to have the faith. This is not something that you will do for one year, one promotion, or for one job. The drive that this generates in you - to pursue and close out things, every single day - is something that will help you for the rest of your career.