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Career Advice

From Marc Cenedella
Marc Cenedella

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On the Job

3 Steps to a Successful 90-Day Performance Review

The 90-day review should be respected but not feared. Human-resources specialists share secrets to a successful review.

By Carmine Gallo
On the Job

HR departments at most large corporations have a formal 90-day performance evaluation in place for new hires. But even those organizations without formal processes often use that three-month mark to review your performance to date.

The 90-day review should be respected but not feared, according to a trio of human-resources specialists I contacted on the subject. Here are their recommendations to prepare for a strong 90-day performance review.

1. Understand expectations

Step one begins as soon as you accept your new position. Make sure you and your supervisor are clear on what the organization expects from your performance in the first 90 days. You should be clear on the organization’s goals, objectives and expectations.

“Keep the HR perspective in mind,” said Dr. Jane Goldner, an HR consultant who has held positions at Coca-Cola and Georgia Pacific in her 25 years in the field. “Human resources managers are asking themselves, ‘Did we assess this person’s skills correctly? Does she fit into our culture? Can we count on this person to be a future leader?’ ”

Many organizations hire for skill only to realize that the candidate wasn’t the right fit, she said. For example, Goldner recalled a small company she worked with that hired a manager from a Fortune 100 company only to find that the manager was accustomed to a large budget and staff and struggled in the new role. “She became a turnover stat,” Goldner said.

Culture fit might be one of several areas that your superiors will want to evaluate. Learning expectations from Day One will set you up for progress by Day 90.

2. Break even

Marben Bland, a human-resources strategist in Pittsburgh, said that in his experience most managers “take more than they give” in the first 90 days.

“Despite your work experience, you are most likely inexperienced in the culture and the expectations of all the individuals you work with.”

The goal for your first 90 days should be to “break even.”

First, create goals of what you need to accomplish, whom you need to meet and what systems you need to master. As an example, Bland recalled working with a CFO who moved to a new company that used an accounting system he had never used before. “The CFO would not have been productive — taking more than giving — had he not become proficient on the system, which was old to the industry but new to him.”

Second, identify easy wins that give you and your boss a sense of accomplishment. Bland cited a marketing manager hired by a midsized company that was doing business with his prior contacts. Since the marketing manager had existing relationships with his new company’s vendors, he was able to renegotiate more favorable contracts for the company based on his relationships — an easy win.

Third, identify the problems you were hired to solve. Take steps to attack those problems in your first 90 days. You do not need to solve those problems completely in the period, but you must demonstrate action toward solving the issues, Bland said. It will accelerate the timeline where you can start “giving more than you’re taking.”

3. Deliver a strong presentation

Prepare for the 90-day meeting as you would a critical presentation, said Lisa Boesen, principle of Houston-based Talent Innovations Group.

“Be results oriented,” Boesen said. “During the presentation, whether it’s an informal conversation or a more formal PowerPoint, review your objectives and quantify the results. Your supervisor wants to know the impact you have had on the organization. The better you can place a number on your results, the better impression you’ll leave.”

Boesen cites her own experience as an HR trainer at a large company. It wasn’t enough to say, “I gave a training (session) for 50 people.” Instead her supervisor wanted to see accomplishments, so she quantified the results, including the feedback she received and how successfully the participants in her training class applied what they had learned.

After your 90-day performance review is complete, take the opportunity to build and enhance the relationships you have made by sending an e-mail or calling key stakeholders to summarize your first 90 days, thank them for their participation, and tell them about some of your future plans. First impressions count, and your first 90 days will leave an indelible impression on your new organization. Make your first review a winner.

Carmine Gallo is the communication skills coach for the world's most admired brands. He is a popular speaker and the author of several books including his current title, "The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience" (McGraw-Hill). Visit Carmine directly at http://www.carminegallo.com

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