Self-evaluation can be a tricky approach for performance reviews — who isn’t biased towards themselves?
While it’s difficult at times to see the “big picture” at times, strong self-evaluation techniques are important for employees, and helpful for managers to understand as well. In this guide we’ll break down how to approach self-evaluation, why it’s so important, and we’ll provide a step-by-step self-evaluation worksheet to get you started.
Why Performance Reviews Matter
As nerve-racking as performance reviews can be, they are a critical part of a healthy, productive workplace environment. Sadly, there are still organizations that never conduct performance reviews or solicit feedback from their workforce about employee satisfaction, engagement, or morale, a neglect that amounts to a recipe for poor company culture.
Ultimately, it’s best to think of a performance review as akin to eating your vegetables: it may not be the most pleasant part of the meal, but its benefits more than outweigh any temporary bad taste. This is perhaps even truer of employee self-evaluations, which are becoming a standard component of more and more companies’ performance review processes, and with good reason.
An effective self-evaluation component not only ensures that employees set aside time to think about their workplace performance each year, it also helps managers gauge whether the employee has a deep, nuanced understanding of their role in the workplace and the expectations maintained by their supervisors.
The growing importance of self-evaluation has undoubtedly increased the pressure on employees to monitor and reflect upon their work throughout the year, and in many cases, it has become as valuable to be an effective self-evaluator as it is to be an effective performer. Developing the skill-set necessary to become a good self-evaluator isn’t always easy, but it helps to consider the following points prior to every sit-down with your boss.
How to Do a Self-Evaluation
What’s true in many other aspects of life is just as true in professional self-evaluation: it’s incredibly difficult to be 100% honest with yourself. Each one of us is inherently biased toward ourselves and our own work, but in order for a self-evaluation to be of any use, you need to make every effort to be impartial about your own performance. As a start, answer the following questions as objectively as possible:
- What did I do well this year?
- What are my reliable strengths?
- What could I have done better this year?
- What are my weaknesses and how can I address them?
- What should I absolutely continue doing in the coming year and what should I do to become a better employee in the coming year?
In addition to being honest, you shouldn’t hesitate to craft expansive responses to these self-evaluative questions. The substance of your responses will naturally vary depending upon your particular field and seniority level, but their scope should typically stretch beyond a list of concrete achievements and failures, though these, of course, should also be included. For instance, consider approaching the above questions through each of the following lenses:
The ability to communicate openly and effectively with coworkers, supervisors, and clients alike is nearly always closely tied to your ability to perform your job well.
- When interacting with clients, do you ground your service philosophy in frequent and clear communication so that everyone remains on the same page and no one is left uncertain about the status of a business deal or agreement?
- When contributing to internal documents, do you make your contributions clear so that your coworkers can consult you about a change or ask advice in your area of expertise?
- When carrying out a manager’s orders, do you keep him or her updated on your progress and let them know when you could use additional resources or external consultation?
- Are you significantly better at one mode of communication – verbal, written, body language, etc. – or are you equally adept at them all?
These are all part of robust workplace communication, and they bear upon the success of nearly every employee.
Attitude can be a tricky quality to pin down because so much of it revolves around perception. Even if your thought processes are entirely aligned with the company mission, this by no means guarantees that your behavior and the way you carry yourself convey these thought processes to your coworkers and supervisors. Consequently, when assessing your workplace attitude, try to focus on questions that get at behavior – not just thoughts – like:
- Do you make an effort to share your positive attitude with those around you? Would it be clear to an outside observer that you enjoy your job?
- Do you regularly congratulate others on a job well done? Are you willing and able to take it upon yourself to offer encouragement to others who may be struggling or motivation to those who aren’t quite doing their fair share?
- Do you maintain an even keel – neither too excitable nor too dour – during the good times and the bad? Are you able to keep your energy and enthusiasm up regardless of what’s going on?
- Are you overly-competitive to the point of appearing insensitive or cutthroat? Are you able to engage in healthy competition with your coworkers without throwing them under the bus so that you can get ahead?
Scoring well on these kinds of questions may be tough for the more introverted or stoic among us, but like it or not, this is often what it takes for an employee’s positive attitude to get noticed. Even though abiding by these standards might seem artificial or insincere, the truth is that practice is the foundation of good workplace habits. With a little repetition, you may just find that you actually enjoy putting your positive attitude on display for the whole office to see!
While consistency and adherence to company policy are certainly important, there’s a lot to be said for the power of innovative thinking. Managers love employees who are able to think and work creatively, as these tend to be the people who find new solutions to longstanding problems or, better yet, solutions to problems the company didn’t even realize it had. To evaluate the magnitude of your innovative streak, consider questions like:
- Do you always lean on the methods and approaches you have been taught or are you constantly looking for creative solutions to challenging problems? Are you capable of approaching a problem from numerous angles in order to determine the best course of action?
- Are you comfortable deploying your creativity in a team setting? Do you find that co workers often consult you when they are stuck on something and want an outside perspective?
- Does taking risks terrify you or are you confident in your ability to craft new solutions that question the status quo?
- Have you taken the initiative and sought out activities or exercises that can help develop your creative mind or have you just accepted your current intellectual limits?
There can sometimes be a fine line between being an innovator and being a rogue employee – especially if you are lower down on the company ladder – but the best workers are able to get very close to this line without stepping over. There is a benefit to protocol, no question, but most managers will appreciate it if you are able to innovate within the confines of company policy. It’s not so much about thinking outside the box as finding a new path from Point A to Point B within the box, if you will.
Approaching your self-evaluation “starter questions” through each of these lenses – and any others that you may find relevant – is a great way to add depth and nuance to the review process. If you want to be even more ambitious, make an effort to answer the above questions in the context of your personal career map, not just in the context of your current job.
Depending on where you are in your career – and where you’d ideally like to be at this juncture – a certain shortcoming will appear varyingly concerning. Similarly, the same strength can be either a big deal or simply a given, depending upon where you sit along your career path. Self-evaluations – and performance reviews in general – are a perfect way to give serious thought to where you are professionally, where you’d like to go over the next year, five years, and decade, and how you are going to go about getting there.
Using Your Self-Evaluation to Open a Dialogue
Of course, completing your self-evaluation is only the first step in the performance review process. Now it’s time to share your self-evaluation with your supervisor, which is where the real stress comes into play. What if your self-evaluation differs significantly from your supervisor’s assessment? What if you are uncomfortable standing up for yourself and your accomplishments when face-to-face with your superior? These are natural concerns, but there are ways to approach the dreaded review meeting that can help remove some of the pressure.
For one, try to gauge your supervisor’s willingness to expand the feedback cycle beyond an annual formal performance review. An ongoing, open dialogue about expectations and performance throughout the year limits the likelihood that your self-evaluation and your supervisor’s evaluation will be greatly divergent. Such divergences almost always stem from an employee’s misunderstanding about what they are supposed to be doing and how they are supposed to be doing it. Constantly communicating about these kinds of issues precludes the possibility that such a misunderstanding will exist for very long, and reduces the annual performance review to little more than a formality.
However, whether in the context of a formal annual review or an informal ongoing dialogue, it’s advisable to ground your relationship with your supervisor in honesty. It’s tempting to try to hide your shortcomings from your supervisor – especially if you know that you are a self-hypercritical person – but in the end it’s always more productive to get your faults out in the open. Even if there are many things upon which you need to improve, chances are that your supervisor will appreciate the fact that you recognize your weak areas and are eager to improve them.
To that point, you shouldn’t be scared to ask for help – whether formal training, informal mentorship, casual advice, etc. – during the course of your performance review. Using developmental language in both your own self-evaluation and your performance review meeting is a great way to avoid listing an embarrassing laundry list of shortcomings. Instead of “I’m inadequately equipped to do this…” or “I consistently struggle with that…” use phrases like “I’m eager to improve my aptitude at this…” or “I’d like you to help me become better at that…”
It’s perfectly acceptable to report workplace deficiencies – remember, self-evaluations are most effective when they are conducted honestly – but managers love it when you take the next step and begin to think about how you are going to narrow your performance gaps. Performance reviews are just as much about looking forward as they are about looking backward, and employees capable of doing both with equal acuity are a tremendous asset to any team.
The Value of an LMS in the Performance Review Process
Annual performance reviews will always contain an element of stress, but with the right approach to workforce development, companies can ensure that the lion’s share of their employee reviews go smoothly. Ultimately, the performance review process is meant to be a way to assess what employees know and how well they are putting their knowledge and skills into action. With a learning management system (LMS) like Continu, this can be transformed into a year-round – and thus much less stressful – endeavor.
Continu’s My Reports dashboard provides managers with real-time analyses of their teams’ activity, helping them stay informed and providing them with mechanisms with which to boost engagement with workplace learning materials. This not only gives managers a clearer, more comprehensive view of their employees’ performance throughout the year, it also helps them keep their teams accountable on a daily basis, reducing the often intimidating stature of annual performance reviews.
From the employee side, a good LMS is just as – if not more – valuable. As we’ve covered, the most effective self-evaluations are those which include a plan for self-improvement. An LMS offers employees easy, frequent access to diverse, interactive learning modules capable of erasing skill-gaps in a highly efficient manner.
Regardless of how your company handles annual performance reviews, there’s an argument to be made that good preparation is the cornerstone of a successful evaluation. An LMS like Continu helps both managers and employees evaluate workplace performance in a variety of ways across any number of timelines, and thus represents an invaluable tool for companies hoping to take the edge off one of the most stressful times of the work-year.