Quarterly Self-Appraisal

Last time I wrote about the self-appraisal process, I was giving out last-minute tips.  At the time I said that there were ways to invest year-round to make the process less painful.  As Q1 comes to a close and we start Q2, I figured it was about time to elaborate on that, and perhaps take a bit of my own advice.

At EMC, most employees have goals each quarter, and must report whether or not they hit those goals at the quarter’s end.  Every 3 months, employees load up a web application and record their progress against those goals.  A goal can end up in a variety of states, but for all of them the employee has the option of entering a comment.  That comment is saved along with the status of the goals – saved to be viewed later in the year by either the employee or the manager.  There’s even an optional comment for the entire goal sheet.

I imagine many of my readers have a similar system in place. If you’re like me, you probably try and write as little in those comments spaces as possible.  “Achieved measurements as described in goal text” is a nice simple phrase, isn’t it?  Or maybe “Hit all objectives as listed.”  Perfect!

But maybe there’s a better use for this, rather than just having it be a check mark on a form somewhere?  You can probably guess where I’m going with this.  Treat your quarterly goal completion as a quarterly self-appraisal. Describe for yourself and your manager how you achieved your goals.  Be specific. Give examples.  Map it to business success.  Map it to your strengths.  Get really creative and tie it to your performance review from last year!

Why do all this extra work? After all, you don’t need to. Your manager is probably okay with a checkmark, and there’s a good chance he won’t even read your wonderful commentary.  So why bother?

Distribution of work

Writing a self-appraisal is a daunting task. You’ve just divided that work into manageable chunks.  You’re investing an hour this quarter to save an hour at the end of the year.  And you’re writing a better description of this quarter’s work than you would at the year’s end, because it’s fresher in your mind and you’re not in a rush to try and capture all the detail of the year in a single day’s writing.  Do you think you’ll spend as much time writing about Q1 at the end of Q4 as you are about to at the end of Q1?

Planting seeds

If your manager does happen to read this, you’re planting the seeds of your self-appraisal year-round.  You’re saying, right now, look at what I’m doing, look at how I’m doing it, look at how I’m growing, look at how I’m taking your advice.  You’re spreading that performance conversation year-round, whether your manager wants you to or not.  Remember, you can’t assume your manager is going to make time to work with you all year.  You have to take matters into your own hands.  And you are.  If you’re fortunate, you can even leverage these seeds and have a conversation with your manager now about what you just wrote.

Quarterly course correction

Let’s not forget that you also need to check on your progress year-round, and not just at review time.  By writing this you’re refreshing last year’s performance review in your head, you’re taking a step back and trying to think objectively about your performance.  You’re giving yourself a head start, and viewing your work in the context of your performance review 4 times during the year instead of just once.

Practice makes perfect

One of the common comments I hear around self-appraisals is that people aren’t comfortable writing about themselves,about their achievements, about their strengths.  So why not practice it?  Do this every 3 months instead of every year, and you’re getting 4 times the practice in writing objectively about your own performance.

Every year at appraisal time, I wish I had done this.  This year I will.  I’d love to hear in the comments below if you’ve tried something similar.  How has it worked out for you?

(Oh, managers, you can do the same thing for everyone who reports to you.  The idea is a bit intimidating, but all the same principles apply….)