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Simplify Employee Self-Reviews: A 3-Question Template

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in HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

by Paul Falcone

Drafting performance reviews is always a daunting task for supervisors, for many legitimate reasons: Judging others’ work often appears exceptionally perception-driven (vs. fact-driven), and providing honest feedback is potentially confrontational. Plus, if you overinflate grades, you create a record that may not withstand legal scrutiny if you later want to terminate or discipline the employee (see box below).

In reality, it doesn’t need to be that way. One simple way to reinvent performance appraisals is to shift the responsibility for initial evaluations back to your employees.

If you ask workers to grade themselves, you’ll find (more than likely) that they’re harder on themselves than you’d ever be! And this, more than any other exercise throughout the year, may place you and your supervisors in the roles of career mentors and coaches rather than unilateral decision-makers and disciplinarians.

Logistics: It’s not simply about asking employees to complete a blank appraisal form. Instead, give them a separate self-evaluation form that allows them to recap their achievements, identify their shortcomings and initiate discussions regarding their future development.  A basic self-evaluation form asks three core questions:

1. “How do you feel you have performed throughout the review period?” You could likewise ask, “Why is our company a better place for your having worked here?” or “What have you specifically accomplished in terms of increasing revenue, decreasing expenses or saving time?”

2. “Which performance areas do you wish to develop?” Or, “What can I, as your supervisor, do to help you in terms of providing you with increased structure, direction and feedback, to help you build your skills and strengthen your overall performance?”

3. “What are your goals for the upcoming review period, and what are the measurable outcomes so that you’ll know that you’ve reached those goals?”

If you’re hesitant about rolling this out because you’re afraid employees will rank themselves higher than supervisors would, remember that the self-review form merely opens up an avenue for discussion. 

If you have an employee who feels he’s a stellar performer while you feel he’s a laggard, this exercise will allow you to discuss the differences in your perception:

Say, “Sam, I see you graded yourself as a five out of five in the area of communication.  Share with me why you feel the grade you’ve given yourself is warranted. Then tell me how you feel I might grade you in that area and why.”

With such a simple tool in hand, you save time, allow your employees to motivate themselves and erode absolutely none of your power or control as a supervisor. And you may just find that everyone involved is empowered and invited to assume responsibility for his or her own career progression.

Paul Falcone is an HR executive and the author of several best-selling books, including 2600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews and 101 Tough Conversations to Have with Employees. Paul is a regular presenter of HR Specialist and Business Management Daily webinars.


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