How to action feedback after your performance review

Performance reviews are important opportunities to get feedback from your manager on how you’re doing at work. They celebrate your successes, highlight areas for improvement and promote a growth mindset.

But even though 61% of Kiwi workers have a formal review process, research for SEEK shows many people confess to not implementing the feedback shared. In fact, nearly one quarter don’t intend to action feedback from their review. 

“Many people don’t look forward to performance reviews as there can be a fear that you’re going to get negative feedback,” says Leah Lambart, career coach at Relaunch Me. “It can also be a tick-the-box exercise that you forget about quite quickly.”

But what if you could swap the anxiety or awkwardness for empowerment? Here’s how to action feedback from your next performance review.

Listen and take notes

Performance reviews can be confronting and it’s easy to jump straight into defensive mode. Instead, Lambart suggests listening to what your manager says in full before responding – and taking notes to reflect on at a later time.  
“Feedback can make many people feel vulnerable and elicit immediate feelings of defensiveness,” she says. “While these feelings are natural – especially if you're surprised by the feedback – it's important to remember that managers often offer feedback with good intentions. They want you to improve.”

For example, she says, your manager may provide constructive feedback to help you achieve goals you’ve discussed previously and grow in your role, which helps to advance your career.

“Just listen and take it all in because there's plenty of time later to justify why you did certain things or whether you think the feedback is fair,” Lambart says.

Ask for more detail

What if you’ve reflected on your conversation, read through your notes and you still feel confused about the feedback? Lambart recommends going back to your manager and asking for clarification.

“Requesting specific examples that highlight where you need to improve will demonstrate to your manager that you are serious about actioning the feedback and may also help you action the feedback,” she says.

“Perhaps you have questions about the specific instances where you exhibited the behaviour they're describing, or you might be curious about how your actions have affected your greater team, and in what way.”

Asking for examples of behaviour your manager has observed, rather than things they’ve been told by others, can help you home in on concrete changes you can make.

Getting more data on feedback can help you truly understand your manager’s perspective and figure out how you might grow,” Lambart says.

Create an action plan

Now that you understand exactly what feedback needs to be actioned, make a plan. Lambart suggests developing a series of ‘SMART’ goals – that is, changes you can make that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely.

“Set short, medium and long-term goals with really specific actions that you will complete by a specific date,” she says.

Your manager can help with advice or steps to take. This might involve formal learning like enrolling in a course, or informal, on-the-job learning – finding a mentor in an area you’re looking to improve in, job shadowing or even listening to podcasts.

“If you need to work on your time management or delegation skills, can your manager suggest tools or resources that you can use? Can they recommend someone else in the team who can provide some suggestions or tips?” Lambart says.

Set up regular check-ins

Instead of waiting until your next performance review in six or 12 months’ time to assess your progress, set up more frequent check-ins.

“Ten-minute fortnightly or monthly check-ins can be far more effective in keeping you accountable and more motivated when actioning feedback,” Lambart says. “It provides the opportunity to work on things in the interim and for more timely feedback, which means it’s not all saved up for the next review.”

This approach also avoids surprises when your next performance review rolls around, which helps to make the process gentler and more efficient, Lambart says.

“Performance reviews shouldn't come as any surprise to anyone,” she says. “If there's regular check-ins happening, you should already know what the feedback is going to be.”

Taking on feedback you receive during performance reviews can feel intimidating. But by taking some time to clarify, set goals and communicate regularly, you’ll be able to see what you’ve accomplished already – and how you can grow and develop in your role.

Source: Independent research conducted by Nature of behalf of SEEK, interviewing 4000 Kiwis annually. Published February 2024.