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Why self-evaluation should be part of every performance review

Georgina Guthrie

Georgina Guthrie

January 22, 2020

Whether you’re being asked how you like your coffee or what you thought of a service, it feels good to know your opinion counts. When it comes to the workplace, the same principle applies.

Research shows that we feel far more engaged when we have a voice. In other words, understanding our opinion makes a difference and helps us feel visible and valued.

All good managers give their employees performance reviews. And incorporating self-evaluation into the performance development process is a great way for employees to share their thoughts, take a deeper look at their role, and feel more ownership over their progress.

What is a self-evaluation?

Self-evaluation is exactly what you think it is: the employee answers questions designed to help them evaluate their performance.

You’ll be given a structured worksheet to fill out when it’s your turn. It’ll typically include your original job description (for reference) plus a series of questions about your accomplishments, performance, and professional development. Common discussion areas include the following:

  • The quality of work
  • Whether you have achieved your previous objectives
  • Goals for the next quarter or year
  • Areas for improvement
  • Next steps

You will likely send copies of your self-evaluation to your manager and HR before the evaluation meeting. Often, the manager will create an additional document post-meeting to summarize the discussion. This should also be shared with and signed by you, then sent to HR for safekeeping.

What’s the point of a self-evaluation?

Call it introspection, call it mindfulness — both fit the bill. The goal is to encourage employees to consider their thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams.

Why? Because being asked your opinion makes you feel more involved. It also allows your manager to learn more about you.

Not only that, but a self-evaluation lays the groundwork for a more two-sided conversation. If the manager’s observations don’t match yours, you both have more information available to bridge the gap. It also means that employees will be more prepared to respond if they don’t agree with something.

3 ways to get the most out of your self-evaluation

As with everything, the more you put in, the more you get out. Obviously, you won’t have unlimited time, but the more detailed you can make your self-evaluation, the better. Below are some techniques to help you create a full and detailed report.

1. Compare your job description

When we start a new job, we sign a contract that includes our job title and responsibilities. It’s often popped into a drawer, never to be looked at again.

The longer we stay in a job, the more our roles and responsibilities change. If left unchecked, these additional responsibilities could potentially snowball out of control.

Most of the time, this isn’t a problem — but in some cases, it can lead to frustration, especially if we’re doing far more than initially agreed to, we’re not being compensated fairly, or we’re unable to complete core tasks due to too many other obligations. Similarly, someone whose responsibilities have diminished over time will naturally feel bored in their role.

Before a self-evaluation, you should write your job description without looking at the original one. Then together, the employee and manager can compare and note any differences.

If the new job description includes more responsibilities than the original one, you can discuss bonuses, pay increases, or delegation options. If it includes less, then you can talk about setting some new goals.

2. Work out your SMART goals

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Assignable – specify who will do it.
  • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.”

It’s the gold standard for objective setting because it doesn’t require formal training, and it’s a simple way to create a pathway to achieving your goals. It’s also helpful for self-reflection because you’ll have to consider where you are to create new goals.

Creating your SMART goals is great for planning progression, but it’s less helpful for helping you analyze past progress. So for that reason, we suggest using it as part of your self-evaluation rather than constituting the whole thing.

TOP TIP: Remember to use employee/manager feedback from previous conversations or evaluations to help you define progress and areas for improvement.

3. Ask questions

It’s important to ask your manager how they think you’re performing.

Stay positive. Remember, your manager’s goal isn’t to highlight all your failings but to help you be the best you can be at your job. If you have a good manager, they’ll tell you where you can improve and, most importantly, how. At this point, they may ask you to work out your SMART goals together if you haven’t already done it.

Similarly, when it’s your turn to talk, resist the urge to complain — even if you’ve faced countless obstacles and your job drastically differs from what’s laid out in the job description.

Start by saying what you like about the job, then go into its various components and highlight any areas you’d like to change, as well as why and, if possible, how. Don’t worry too much if you don’t have a ‘how’ yet — your manager should be able to help you define this.

Next, identify any parts of your job description that you no longer do and any added challenges, goals, or responsibilities you’ve taken on since your last evaluation. Discuss how these impact your job performance and satisfaction with the role. Once you’ve done that, your manager will help you create a plan for addressing any issues and implementing the changes you yourself have defined.

Final thoughts

The conversation doesn’t need to end once the self-evaluation meeting is over. Keep in touch with your manager post-chat to see how they feel about the conversation a few days later — and to let them know your questions or thoughts.

This doesn’t need to be as formal as the meeting itself: a quick email or message over your team’s chat app is enough. Just remember to keep the conversation open, so you both feel comfortable sharing your thoughts throughout the evaluation period and beyond.

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