Weren’t things supposed to be back to “normal” by now? So much for that.
Life goes on. Work goes on. The pandemic goes on. And somehow, so do performance reviews.
But here’s the good news: precisely because things haven’t been operating in a “business as usual” fashion for more than two years, this year’s annual performance reviews can provide a unique opportunity for individual contributors and managers alike. Now more than ever, there’s an appetite to re-examine how our jobs and our lives intersect. It’s time to get real about how we work, why we work the way we do, and what could be better.
Done right, performance reviews can act as a launching point for the next phase of your career or your team’s mission.
Writing your self assessment for 2022
Self reviews are a common component in performance reviews. Should you sing your own praises? Be humble? It’s a difficult balance. Plus, most people struggle to make honest and accurate judgments of their own skills.
Here’s how to tackle your self assessment.
1. Gather evidence that charts your path forward
Don’t assume that your manager remembers every single one of your wins and contributions. Research shows that humans are notorious overestimators when it comes to how much other people notice and retain our achievements.
That’s exactly why you’re completing a self-assessment — so you can shine the spotlight on all of the top-notch work you’ve done. But, chances are, even you don’t remember everything that’s worth calling attention to.
Start preparing early. Dig through old emails and to-do lists, comb through your completed tasks in your project management software. You may even want to solicit some feedback from people you work closely with.
That will provide a refresher on everything that’s happened over the past few months, which is helpful to have when it’s time to actually complete your self-review. When it’s time to write, break down your accomplishments by quarter so you can stay organized.
Key: focus on achievements that correlate to the kind of work you enjoy and hope to do more of. As you craft your self-assessment, you’ll be laying the groundwork for why you’re ready to expand in directions that are interesting to you.
2. Be honest about your future goals
That means you now have an opportunity to be completely candid about your own career goals and the kind of work you’d like to do moving forward. Clearly outline what you’d like to achieve, and be ready with some suggestions for how your company can support you. Chances are, your manager will be highly receptive to that input if it means they can keep you happy, engaged, and on the team.
Example: “I’d like to play a bigger role in guiding strategy on customer-facing software updates. To that end, I’d like to start working cross functionally with the product team by sitting in on their weekly meetings.”
3. Frame your suggestions positively
While the bulk of your performance review is dedicated to, well, your performance, most managers also take this conversation as a chance to solicit feedback from employees.
But that can feel more nerve-wracking than anything for some people. Won’t providing constructive criticism put your boss in a bad mood? Is it in your best interest to paste on a smile and pretend that everything is perfect?
However, remember that this a key opportunity to make a case for changes that you’d like to see happen. Don’t let it pass you by.
In a piece for Harvard Business Review, Dr. Bret Sanner and Karoline Evans offer two strategies for providing suggestions in a way that’s positive (and doesn’t put your manager on the defensive):
Opportunity framing: Highlight potential gains rather than losses.
Do: “[Idea] will help our team get work done even more efficiently.”
Don’t: “[Idea] means we won’t struggle with such slow progress and bottlenecks.”
Promotive voice: Highlight how you’ll improve on something that’s already happening.
Do: “Our team is already excelling at [goal] and [idea] will help us do even better.”
Don’t: “[Idea] will help us fix [problem].”
For managers: 5 tips for employee performance reviews in the “now normal”
Performance-review time can set the tone for the employee/manager relationship for the next year. To make sure you’re using this time productively and constructively, use the following tactics.
1. Provide information and resources ahead of time
Ideally, you’ve prioritized continuous feedback for your team — meaning nothing that comes up during this performance conversation should be a surprise.
Even so, when you complete an employee’s written review, submit it to them ahead of time. That gives them the space they need to process your comments, come up with questions, and approach their review like a conversation, rather than an inspection.
2. Focus on output, not hours
The days when a manager could identify high-performers based on how much time they were putting in at the office are over. Those types of productivity metrics are dated and simply don’t mesh with the way people work today.
After all, if an employee managed to deliver strong outcomes while working fewer hours (for whatever reason), that’s a win for all of you. Recognize people for what they contribute, not their hours on the clock. It also shows that you’re empathetic to additional challenges people may have experienced during times of upheaval.
3. Emphasize less-quantifiable achievements
Some things are straightforward to evaluate. Did the employee complete their tasks and meet their targets? Great. But those checkboxes alone aren’t what makes a top performer.
Don’t forget to pay attention to soft skills and less tangible qualities too. Does a team member maintain strong and positive relationships with their peers? Are they the first one to volunteer to help out with a challenge? Those contributions deserve praise, too.
4. Clarify future goals
We might all be living with a perpetual state of uncertainty, but that shouldn’t apply to your performance expectations. When Gallup research shows that only six in 10 employees strongly agree that they know what’s expected of them at work, it’s critical to make goals and requirements as obvious as possible.
5. Address the tough topics
From rising cases of employee burnout (49% of respondents in one McKinsey survey admit they’re feeling at least somewhat burned out) to worries about ongoing-pandemic work arrangements, there are likely some hefty concerns looming in your employees’ minds.
Demonstrating that you are empathetic toward team members on a human level can help establish meaningful bonds that improve the wellbeing of your team.