Jumping on the pandemic-inspired DIY bandwagon, I’ve been presenting columns describing how to write your own employee documents. We began two weeks ago with letters of recommendation, and followed last week with job descriptions. Today completes the trilogy with a tutorial on writing your own performance review.
And why, you may ask, would you want to do that? The most logical answer is so you can be assured of receiving a review at all. In today’s short-staffed, dispersed workplaces, this process is more frequently being curtailed, or even abandoned.
In truth, the practice had already been waning in some companies, pre-pandemic, hastened in its demise by consultants and authors calling it counter-productive. It’s not hard to see their point. If you wait six months or a year to tell someone they’re not measuring up, you’ve made it pretty difficult to correct course. Likewise, waiting that long to parcel out praise is like giving your dog a treat three days after he obeys the command to sit. It’s still appreciated, but the teaching moment is pretty much gone.
The answer isn’t to jettison performance reviews, but to adjust them for the way we work now. In many organizations, job duties are changing rapidly; conducting a review based on last year’s job means the conversation could be outdated before it begins.
On the other hand, reviewing an employee’s growth in key soft skills and job competencies is always going to be relevant. Think, for example, about self management, project organization, team leadership, and mastery of specific technology or processes. When these elements are combined with a focus on the employee’s career path and goals, the conversation can be a powerful tool for both sides.
But what if your department uses the delayed-praise concept, rather than a growth-oriented process? Or, again, what if your department doesn’t do reviews at all? It’s time to call on your inner DIY-er. Read on to see how you can influence both the process and the outcome of your next performance review.
WRITING YOUR PERFORMANCE REVIEW
To start, think about your workplace. If this is a very structured setting with a defined review system and strictly measured performance objectives … well, your boss might not welcome a perceived attempt at subverting the process. In this case, frame your contribution as complementary, not as a substitute, and write your document accordingly.
On the other hand, if your organization holds down the opposite end of the range by having no system at all, you can introduce your concept as a helpful tool to ensure everyone’s on the same page with your work. In either case, completing your own document is a good way to prepare for the conversation.
With that big-picture caveat in mind, here are your steps.
1. List your successes. Go back a year, or further if reviews haven’t been happening. Now, consider both the big, shiny accomplishments and also the overall headway you’ve made as a result of steady daily inputs. What was your role? What resulted?
2. Acknowledge problem areas. Using the same time span, think about things that didn’t go as planned. Again, include disappointing events, as well as ongoing processes that aren’t measuring up. What has your role been? What could you have done differently?
3. Identify areas for future growth. Based on your successes and problems (or other criteria): What areas do you want or need to grow into in the coming year? Is there a gap in your understanding of a key process? Have you gotten feedback about weak spots in your work style? Have you been eager to cross-train or gain a certification?
4. Telescope out 2-3 years. Finally, picture your future with this organization. For this exercise, imagine you want to stay a few years. What role would you like to grow into? Are there classes or memberships you’d like to be sponsored for? What would you like to work towards? At the same time, think about more immediate remedies and rewards that you’d like from your boss, ranging from coaching to a raise to a change in job title to match current duties.
5. Write it all up. The easiest format might be a simple document titled “Performance Review — Self-Evaluation,” with your name, job title and date. Then you can summarize your role or any major events from the year, followed by subsections with headings from the list above.
Whether you request a meeting centered on this document, include it as part of an already-structured process, or simply use the ideas as talking points will depend on your perception of company culture. But however you use it, you’re certain to benefit from having considered where you’re at and where you’re going in your job.
Amy Lindgren owns a career consulting firm in St. Paul. She can be reached at [email protected].