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All things Pharma

APPREHENSIVE About Appraisals?


Most people approach their annual appraisal with a certain degree of trepidation. Although it might not be possible to make it an altogether enjoyable experience, there are many things you can do to ensure your appraisal is a productive and successful one. One of the key factors to help make the process less painful is to be fully prepared. It is particularly important to remember that preparation should be ongoing throughout the year – not a rushed job the day before you are due to meet your line manager! Generally, industry appraisals are in two parts: firstly, the aim is to complete an appraisal document, which reviews sales and activity performance; secondly, the appraisal should review core professional competencies or behaviours, such as:

• planning and effectiveness
• business skills and client focus
• team working and communication
• performance enhancement
• leadership (where appropriate).

Smart Career Management

At the start of each year, clear objectives and goals need to be set, and these should be referred to throughout the year to ensure you are making effective progress. These targets should be used as the basis for your appraisal. It is important that you continuously review your own progress against these targets and adapt activities or behaviours, where necessary, to help you achieve your goals. Remember, all objectives should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based.

Appraisal documents should be regarded much like a well-used business plan – they need to be considered as a work-in-progress. The appraisal system needs to be flexible and should encourage a review of an individual’s needs and performance requirements. In addition to your appraisal document, your Personal Development Plan (PDP) should be considered a key part of the overall appraisal process and is often reviewed at the same time to ensure you are receiving the right training and development. This plan can help you and your line manager identify gaps in your knowledge and training and, importantly, log when these needs have been met. Your appraisal can also be a chance to talk about your career aspirations, so if you want to take on extra responsibility, move up the career ladder or become a field coach, now would be an ideal time to talk to your line manager about what you can do to achieve your goal. To become a field coach, for example, you could attend a coaching skills course or discuss what practical work you could do in your current job, such as coaching a less experienced representative, to improve your skills.

Clear Communication

Ongoing and open communication with your line manager enables you to discuss any specific issues you may have and resolve them as they occur. It also means you can:

• Discuss, record and celebrate successes
• Review current performance against competencies, activities and/or objectives
• Identify gaps between actual and target performance levels
• Identify suitable training interventions
• Highlight the possibility of any objectives not being met
• Maintain a written record of success and areas requiring development – to be included in your formal appraisal
• Provide constructive feedback to each other.

A good manager will provide consistent feedback throughout the year. The formal appraisal makes up only one part of the process and ongoing feedback is vital. Exactly how often feedback is given is determined by an individual’s needs and experience. This form of open communication also ensures there are no surprises on the day.

Evidence of Effectiveness

It is important to collate evidence throughout the year in a ‘brag file’ to support your appraisal. This provides documented back-up to support your key achievements and career highlights. Some examples of things to collect and include in a brag file are:

• Documentation demonstrating your success in getting a new product onto the hospital formulary
• Copies of any presentations you may have given
• Feedback from internal and external customers which communicates your key strengths, for example, letters of commendation or emails from colleagues
• Any evidence of continued learning, for example, certificates for any relevant training courses you have attended.

Shaun Parry, a Senior Sales Representative at In2Focus, attests to the value of his ‘brag file’: “Being fully prepared for my appraisal and ensuring I collected relevant information throughout the year meant that I was able to discuss my progress with my RBM without feeling like I was taking an exam! We had a very productive meeting and I was really pleased I had taken the time to go through the supporting evidence and the appraisal form in advance so I could easily highlight my successes and also areas where I might need to improve.”

The Big Day

If you have been preparing for your appraisal throughout the year, the day itself should be relatively straightforward. It might be an idea to speak to your line manager in advance to determine if any specific preparation is required by you and what you should bring along. If you have an appraisal document from last year you should always ensure you review this beforehand.

Top tips
• Keep all supporting evidence well organised and in a clear format

• Where possible, send information to your line manager in advance of your appraisal, for example, it may be possible to complete and send back your appraisal forms

• Ensure you have all relevant ‘brag file’ evidence and are clear as to how you can use this to support specific performance or professional competency objectives.

Future Focus

On average, an appraisal should last about 90 – 120 minutes. Companies sometimes separate out the performance appraisal from setting objectives and goals for the following year. Goal and objective setting is often combined with documenting training plans for the next year to help prevent the appraisal process becoming too lengthy. However, your continuing training and development are extremely important and you should ensure you set a date and time to discuss these with your manager. So even if you do not discuss future plans and objectives, be proactive and prepare some questions relating to your career and your future aspirations, such as wanting to take a certain course. This can then be noted and followed up at your next meeting.

Maximising the appraisal opportunity also means understanding the role of your line manager. They will usually have to conduct up to ten appraisals, which can be exhausting, so it is a good idea to be upbeat and positive to help them stay motivated! If you also demonstrate that you have come well prepared this will make life easier for both of you.

In conclusion, preparation is the key to a productive and painless appraisal. During the year, make sure you document your successes and achievements and support these where possible with hard evidence. Remember there should be no surprises and this is your best opportunity to ensure you sell yourself. GOOD LUCK!

Gillian Morgan is Talent Management Director at In2Focus SDS Ltd. She focuses on ensuring In2Focus teams deliver to high and consistent standards by implementing best practice across all the teams. Gillian also manages the Resourcing function, including the setting up of new projects. In2Focus is a leading UK based Contract Sales Organisation. We deliver sales solutions to our clients in the pharmaceutical industry by providing high calibre medical representatives and nurse advisors, and high quality support services. For more information, or to discuss career opportunities with the company, please contact In2Focus’ Resourcing Department on  01628 488606  01628 488606 .
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