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Topics: Career Development, Talent Management
How do you make it through your employee review?

Many companies today have the employee write the first draft of their own performance review. The employee is required to list their accomplishments, strengths, areas for improvements, and other information necessary for their manager to complete their review.

What are some of the things you do to make the most of this experience and prevent yourself from staring at a blank piece of paper for hours?
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Disseminating the importance of the performance review process to the employees will be a good starting point. At many organizations, the timelines and processes for completing self evaluations are given a low priority. Managers can take individual responsibility to make sure their employees complete 'fruitful' evaluations by -

1) Establishing goals for completing the self evaluatons in the first quarter of the year so employees understand the time sensitive nature for the half year evaluations. The same pattern can follow for yearly evaluations.
2) Provide examples of 'practical' self evaluations so that employees do not create themselves false expectations
3) Solicit feedback on major employee performance goals during one on ones so that manager and employee is not surprised at the end of an evaluation cycle
4) Provide high level feedback on achieved goals on a periodic fashion before the formal evaluation so that employee gets a chance to correct his/her actions

It is important for the employee to track their own accomplishments, strengths, areas of improvement, etc. throughout the year. Keeping a diary and doing a personal retrospective at various points would be beneficial.
I am posting anomously because my parent company has a highly ritualized performance review process and may not take kindly to criticism of it.

The best way not to stare at a blank piece of paper for hours is to realize that the excercise has no value and just get it done. List 4-6 items that one has accomplished over the year and skip any analysis. What counts is not how well or poorly one thinks a task went, it is how the boss believes the task went.

The evaluation rarely has anything to do with one's personal effort or ability and more with the final result. It is better to do poorly on a successful effort than to perform exceedingly well on an effort that ultimately fails. In 30+ years of ging through this ritual, I have never received any benefit from this process. I have typically been ranked at or near the top in these evaluations, so I am not bitter. In all that time however, I have never received any indication of what I have actually done well or what improvements I should make.

From the management side, if a report is doing poorly, I will address it at that time and not wait for the review process. By that time, we will have either made improvements or removed the report. If someone has done well or worked extremely hard on something, I will also make sure to publicly thank him and forward that to his supervisor or manager.

By the end of the year, management's views have been already solidfied and additional facts or spin are not going to shift their views. Just list out what one has done, don't take the positives too highly, and don't take the negatives too seriously. As long as one has done his best, that is all that can be asked.


In my current organization, we have a review cycle (which was quarterly, now moving to 2x/yr) which involves having the employees provide their self-evaluations first. While I could wax poetic on the pros/cons of how we actually implement, here's the approach that I take with my team:

I'm up-front with my staff about what my expectations are - not quarterly, not annually, but in our regular 1:1 meetings. There shouldn't be any surprises about what I expect my PM's to be doing or accomplishing, and if there are, shame on me as much as them! We translate these expectations into "Key Responsibility Areas" that are a direct reflection of, and amplify the expectations listed in, their job descriptions. The KRA's don't change over the course of a year, they're the core of what the PM's in my PMO are expected to be doing at a fairly high level. We also have a section for Goals - I use these as a more granular exploration of specific things that I want my team to be focusing on, and these may or may not be project-specific, and may or may not be shorter-term items. But these are always established as a "look-ahead" and provided at the end of each review of the prior period, so that we progress through a "here's how we did last period, and here's what we can work toward in the coming period" kind of discussion.

I also take into account the feedback that I receive from the PMO's customers - our internal stakeholders, project teams, and functional groups. I keep a file for each of my staff with both kudos and opportunities for improvement, and incorporate this into their review process.

The process isn't perfect, but we're constantly working to improve, bi-directionally.

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