Appraisals are really important because they can have a massive impact on the company's culture. If you want to have a productive employee appraisal - these five tips will help to prepare for it.

Plan your conversations.

Why are we so reluctant to talk to our employers?  This is your career, and appraisals are a fantastic opportunity to articulate your worth. They can bring about a pay rise, a promotion, and opportunities to gain new skills and experience. By planning what you are going to say and a touch of boldness, you can really get that career opportunity you are reaching for.

Of course, talking openly with your boss is often easier said than done, but preparation makes all the difference. Look back through previous appraisal notes, or consult the Acas guide to familiarise yourself with the format of the meeting, remind yourself of any previously set goals. Aim to agree the structure of the appraisal in advance too. That way, there shouldn’t be any surprises. Your appraisal document often holds a great insight to the structure of your meeting, by working with the document, you can really deliver the message you want to give to your employer.

Get inside your employer's mind.

Have you got a long-term career plan? YouGov says that 26 per cent of us do not. Appraisals are all about looking at what has and hasn't gone well for you recently, why and what can be learned for the future. By setting some time aside, you can quickly understand where you want to be and what you are great at.

An appraisal can help you build career aspirations, and help you to understand the steps you need to get there.

Align your goals with your employers', if possible.

Ruth Harper, Account Manager at Randstad Technologies notes: “Many of our clients look at training and professional development that benefits their employees’ careers, as long as it is also useful to the organisation.”

Remember, to aim high while remaining realistic. Bosses tend to add a 'stretch' element when agreeing targets, yet Randstad consultants observe that, for some employees, this stretch can become more of a strain. In this case, a conversation can make all the difference. Talk to your boss and re-establish your goals, instead of worrying and stressing.

Embrace your weaknesses.

We all have weaknesses, and a willingness to work on them can be a game-changer. Carefully evaluate each piece of work you complete - could you have done anything better? Can you provide examples of how you addressed a challenge? Thinking about these areas and being prepared will really pay back dividends in your meeting. Understanding mistakes and showing your steps to improve will always impress an employer.

Demonstrating self-awareness will also impress – though don't wait for your next appraisal to highlight where things have gone wrong. Instead, put your hand up immediately and ask "how can we get back on track?" Such a move will reflect positively on yourself and a great practice for interviews when you decide to make your next career move.

Deal with disappointment.

If your appraisal is less positive than you'd like, take the emotion out of your response before acting. Whether you request a second meeting or write management a letter will depend on your organisation’s culture, and your relationship with your boss. Either way, calmly ask for a clear explanation, ideally backed up with examples.

Do your own preparation too, so you can politely point to evidence supporting your concerns. And remember, companies are increasingly adopting the practice of offering constructive criticism. So take this in your stride: no one is perfect.

Leave an impression.

In his book ‘Get the Job You Really Want’, James Caan, entrepreneur and former TV ‘Dragon’, says a great question to ask at interview is, “How can I make a contribution to your company?” It's good advice for appraisals too. By asking “How can I contribute to this year’s targets?”, you are thinking about the bigger picture. And while appraisals happen annually, you can pose that question any time.