Do you find yourself at loss when it’s time for the quarterly or yearly performance evaluation mandated by your company? Don’t worry, you’re not alone in this. Here is an article to help you, especially if you have newly joined the workforce and am unclear about the entire process.
What is performance evaluation?
Performance evaluation is a time for you to highlight the impact that you had made on your team and the company for the past few months (depending on how frequent your performance evaluation is conducted at your company). It is a time for you to “brag” your accomplishments, hard work and this can ultimately even impact your job progression.
Usually, you will be tasked to fill up a self-evaluation form where you will list down a list of things you did and back those with solid evidence such as Jira Tickets or screenshots. Once that is done, your manager will take your self-evaluation and perhaps conduct a 1–1 session with you where both of you will try to come to a consensus on a final performance evaluation of your work. The final evaluation could be the form of a score. For instance, if you manage to hit XXX goals or achievements under a certain rubric category, you will be awarded YYY score for that category. During this session, you will usually need to pitch your contributions and try to convince your manager on the impact of your work, why you think you deserve recognition of your work and should be awarded a certain score value. Along the way, your manager will listen objectively, gather all the data and validate each point made. If he or she is convinced, then you’ll get the score!
Below is an example set of rubrics and expectations set for Software Engineers at my company. As you can see, there is a different set of expectations set for each level. These expectations differs as you progresses up the level. Depending on your contributions for each rubric category, you will be awarded a score. During performance evaluation, if you find that you are achieving the full score in every category for the level that you are currently in and that you have demonstrated some values or ticked off some checkboxes of the next level, then it will be a clear case for you to seek for a promotion or a pay rise.
Therefore, as you go about your daily tasks, it is always a good practice for you to think about the value of your work. How does it contribute or impact the company? Try to aim to do tasks that will allow you to meet the expectations that are of one level above your current level. For eg, if you are currently a SWE1, it is advisable to look ahead and be willing to work on tasks or seek opportunities for you to display attributes that are expected of a SWE2. This way, during the next performance evaluation, you can easily convince your manager that you are doing well in your current position and is ready for a level up.
Of course, it is also important to note that ticking all checkboxes is not a guaranteed way of getting your next promotion. It also depends on the company’s resources, manager’s view of your performance as well as a bunch of other variables. Regardless, it is always good to look ahead and think about the impact of your work as you go about your daily tasks. Even if you do not get a promotion, you might get a pay bump or a bonus.
Why do we need to do performance evaluation?
There are two main goals of performance evaluation.
- Incentivise and reward performance aligned with company goals and expectations.
- Provide feedback for helping employee grow.
Performance evaluation is a helpful tool for both yourself and the company. It’s always a good practice to spend time thinking and reflecting about what you did in the past few months. Asking questions such as: What am I proud of? How can I improve? Am I performing up to expectations? Am I ready for a new set of challenge in the future quarters? will help you to be a better version of yourself and be clearer with what you are doing with your work life.
At the same time, it will allow your company to recognise your contributions and reward you accordingly. Your manager will also be in a better position to help you grow. For instance, if you realise that you score lowly on a certain rubric category, it may mean that you need more support or help in this specific area. After performance evaluation, your manager will be more “aware of this issue” and can be in a better position to provide targeted help to help you improve and eventually improve your score for the next evaluation round.
How can you prepare?
With so much at stake, it is crucial that you take it seriously and make preparations for it starting from day one.
1. Understand expectations for your role
The first step in preparing is to understand what your company expects of you for your job role. Is there a rubric lying somewhere for you to understand the expectations for your role? Perhaps something like the template in figure 1 and 2 above? If so, then go read and understand it. If there isn’t, I highly recommend that you approach your manager to clarify and understand their expectations for you as well as what it takes for you to level up.
2. Set goals for yourself
The second step is to set goals for yourself. To help with goal setting, I recommend adopting OKRs. OKRs are a goal-setting framework that originated from Intel, gained recognition at Google, and is now used by many of the most successful tech companies in the world. OKRs helps you to set goals, motivate yourself, and measure impact.
O stands for objectives and KR stands for key results. One Objective can have a few Key results.
- Objective: Purpose/goal/intent/vision in a statement that is easy to understand yet still aspirational and inexact.
- Key Results: Explicitly write down how do you measure progress against hitting your Objective.
An example OKR would be as shown below:
Objective: Improve your organisational impact. You want to lead in more company wide activities, engage in mentorship activities or activities that can benefit your co workers.
- Devote XX hours to mentoring XX junior engineers
- Organise YY events dedicated to welfare improvement of your colleagues
With OKRs set, you will have a north star to guide your daily decisions and motivation.
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Of course, the most important thing to do is to record down your activities. What’s the use of accomplishing so much but yet when you have to fill up your self evaluation form, you cannot remember all of it? It’s important for you to come up with a systematic way to record them down so that when the day comes to filling up your self evaluation form and for you to pitch to your manager, it will be as easy as ABC.
To make things easy and hassle free, you can make use of a word document or Excel sheet. The document will contain a list of entry detailing all your work. In each entry, you can record down the following things:
- Date of event
- What was the problem you were trying to fix? What’s the context? What’s your motivation for doing it?
- What did you do? What was your action? How long did it take for your to complete it? What challenges did you face along the way? For eg, if you did a bug fix, remember to provide links to the Jira ticket. Or if you contributed to the documentation, include the link.
- What impact did you make towards your team or company goal? Who did it impact? Why does it matter? Did the feature implementation lead to an increase in clickthrough rates? Screenshot the analysis chart on the admin dashboard. Did you receive compliments from your manager or colleagues, whom have benefitted from your work, via slack message or email? Keep screenshots of them and store it.
- Anything you could have done better? This is mainly for your own personal reference.
- What category does this entry fall under? Refer to the set of expectations set for you. Referring to figure 1 and figure 2 above, the categories would be those on the first column of the sheet. For improved readability, you can even do colour coding for each entry depending on which category they belong so that over time, it can be clear to you which category you are doing well in and not so well in. Having many entries of a certain colour means you have many achievements for that category. Perhaps it is time for you to focus on achieving accomplishments for another category that does not have as many entries?
- Which OKR does this fall under? Has accomplishing this achievement helped you be one step closer in achieving your goals? If yes, good job! If no, should you seek more opportunities to help you achieve your OKRs? Talk to your manager and let them know how they can help you.
Along the weeks, you can continuously update and evaluate this document to track whether you are meeting both your own and the company’s expectations. On the day of self-evaluation, it will be a piece of cake for you since you have everything recorded down in a neat and organised manner!
Remember, no matter how small an achievement you think it may be, always record it down! Overtime as you go through several rounds of performance evaluation, you will begin to gain an eye for what are some achievements that are valued by your manager and seek to highlight them in the next performance evaluation.
4. Seek feedback
Seeking feedback consistently is a good way for you to know if your performance is up to mark. You can approach your manager or a co worker whom you frequently work with to get meaningful feedback. To help them, always include a message in your request to let them know what are some things you want to obtain feedback for? For example, do you want feedback on your technical skills or perhaps on your speaking skills? Be clear about your intention and what you hope to gain out of it.
Once you have gotten their feedback, you will then have a clearer picture of what you need to do to improve yourself and be a better version of yourself. You will also be able to gauge whether you are performing up to expectations.
What’s next after performance evaluation?
Regardless of whether you got that promotion that you were chasing after, you should take time to reflect and ponder about the final evaluation you get from your manager after you have showed your self-evaluation to him/her.
It’s a good idea to summarise what your manager has to say about you, what are the things you have done well, what are the things you should work on for the next few months. Do you need to reset your personal OKRs?