How to prep for your upcoming performance review

As the year heads to a close, companies across South Africa will be conducting performance reviews of employees. Heading into a performance review can be a nail-biting experience, but being prepared for it won’t only make a positive impact on your career trajectory, but could even help you land the raise or promotion you’ve been working towards, a career expert says.

“While the prospect of your performance review can make you feel like you’re back at school, heading to the headmaster’s office, you should see the process as an opportunity for growth rather than something to get anxious about,” says Zabo Mhleli, senior Student Advisor at Oxbridge Academy, which serves more than 20 000 South African distance learning students every year.

He says performance reviews aren’t meant to be a chance for managers just to critique or praise, but rather a discussion where ambitious and committed employees can gauge how they can improve their work and their skills. It also gives employees the opportunity to identify areas in which they can add more value and thus plan their future trajectory within a company.

“During your performance review, you have a terrific opportunity to ask the kind of questions that will get you excited about your career and future opportunities going into 2019. So, instead of being nervous, go in positive and well-prepared,” Mhleli advises.

He says employees should ask their managers and team leaders the following questions during their annual review:


“This question is a great opener for going into a more in-depth discussion about professional development and career growth, including whether your company would be willing to sponsor any training,” says Mhleli.

“In the fast-changing world of work, it is no longer enough to rely on a single qualification achieved after school. To remain competitive, you need to commit to an attitude of lifelong learning, and constantly develop your professional skills, even if it is just by doing a new short course once a year. Employers appreciate the value of employees who seek to improve and expand their competencies, and asking this question could highlight the fact that you are someone in whom they can invest,” he says.


By asking this question, you demonstrate that you are not just thinking about yourself, but also about the success of your company.

“As an employee, you need to have a clear idea of the company’s direction so that you can make a meaningful contribution towards realising the vision. By knowing what the potential challenges are, you might also be able to step up and help the company navigate difficult terrain, which will make you an even more valuable part of the team,” Mhleli says.


In the modern workplace, teamwork is a vital competitive asset. By asking this question, you show that you’re eager to be a team player and that you want to help other colleagues in order to achieve company goals.

“You’re also showing some initiative and leadership qualities, which won’t go unnoticed,” says Mhleli.

Finally, a performance review offers you the chance to broach the subject of getting a raise or a promotion, which isn’t always easy to do during the ordinary course of business.

“Raises often aren’t automatically offered anymore, and it will be up to you as the individual to start the conversation,” says Mhleli.

“To improve your chances of getting a raise or promotion in the near future, you really need to do your homework and build your evidence and argument,” he says.

Mhleli advises employees to take stock of their current situation and do some market research.

“You need to go back to your original contract and check that you have been delivering on all your key performance areas. Then, you need to note what you have been doing over and above that – essentially, you need to be able to demonstrate that your scope of work has broadened and your responsibilities increased. Finally, you should research what the market-related salary would be for someone in your position, with your responsibilities and experience.

“Once you’ve collated the evidence for why it is time for an increase or promotion, use this information to respectfully start the conversation. And be patient – it might not happen immediately, but you would have successfully opened the door to future growth.”