It’s no secret that nobody really loves the self-assessment performance review process. Singing our own praises may make our toes curl — and acknowledging where we’ve made mistakes in the past can feel uncomfortable or embarrassing.
So it seems like little wonder, then, that according to 2019 research by Gallup, 86% of employees say that they don’t find performance reviews helpful for driving improvement. Getting this part of the performance review right requires introspection, a non-judgmental attitude, and asking yourself the right questions to guide self-evaluation.
To get things started, use our tips in this article to help guide your reflection process. Then, follow up with our Self-Evaluation Template to help you structure your written evaluation.
What is a Self-Assessment Performance Review?
The self-assessment performance review is a key part of the performance management process. It’s a chance for self-reflection on your job performance, including your core strengths and areas for improvement. It also paints a picture for your manager of how you view yourself in relation to your team and the company as a whole, and surfaces any career aspirations or growth needs.
Self-assessment performance appraisals help employees see how their work contributes to the organization and their overall career aspirations, making them far more motivated to do their best work. They’re linked to increased employee performance, higher levels of job satisfaction, and improved employee engagement.
Benefits of employee self-evaluation include:
- Set goals more effectively: A 2020 study on managerial feedback found that focusing on future actions, rather than dwelling on past events, leads to better performance. When we evaluate our overall performance in the context of our professional development and progression, it helps us pinpoint the skill sets we need in the future.
- Eliminate performance review bias: A 2019 study on 30 years of performance management research found that when employees participate in the performance management process, it leads to greater satisfaction in the outcome. Employees were more likely to say the process felt fair and unbiased, because their participation created a two-way, collaborative process.
- Improve employee confidence: Our self-efficacy — or beliefs about how likely we are to succeed in a particular topic or learning opportunity — play an important role in how we perform. A 2021 study based on classroom learning found that when students reviewed their own performance, it boosted their confidence.
- Increase team alignment: Viewing your own performance in the context of how it contributes to your team’s overall goals helps highlight areas of misalignment in terms of processes or communication — meaning you can improve how your team works together.
What to Reflect On Before Writing an Employee Self-Assessment
Jumping into a self-evaluation might feel a little daunting. Taking a moment to do an informal review of your performance, progress, and goals can help you collect your thoughts when it’s time to write the real thing.
In the spirit of continuous feedback and the performance review process, consider your metrics of success for your own performance — whether that’s a quantitative measure like KPIs and OKRs, or more qualitative, such as your emotions and feelings about the last year.
Make sure you write down specific examples of any skills learned, goals met, or targets hit, so that you’re well-prepared for the next performance review cycle.
Here are our five best practices to get this process right.
1. Identify how you really feel.
Start by figuring out how you actually feel about your overall performance without the pressure of presenting these thoughts in a professional context.
Try taking some notes or consulting a trusted friend or peer about how you feel you’ve performed over the last quarter or year. Acknowledge the full spectrum of your experiences, including any specific examples you might feel hesitant to highlight in your formal performance review.
Coming up with an unfiltered version will help you understand how your perspective comes across, and you can always make edits once you start writing.
2. Review your goals.
Setting goals — and feeling motivated to achieve them — is the cornerstone of doing your best work. Review how you performed against your most recent goals. Did you meet, exceed, or struggle to meet expectations?
For each goal, evaluate yourself based on the following questions:
- Why did you meet — or struggle to meet — this goal?
- When you didn’t meet a goal, what blockers made progress difficult?
- Was this goal clear, specific, and challenging enough? Why?
- Thinking about the goals you struggled to meet, what could you improve on to meet goals like this in future?
- Thinking about the goals you achieved, how can you build on this success to set a new goal?
As you reflect on goal progress, use your objectives and key results (OKRs) to provide a framework for your self-assessment, adding details and examples from the past year that contextualize your progress or challenges.
3. Review your manager’s feedback.
Your performance review is an opportunity to check in with your manager about your progress and have a dialogue on what’s next. But it’s also an opportunity for you to provide additional context on anything that might have improved or hindered your performance and goal accomplishment.
Look at recent one-on-ones or manager feedback from previous check-ins for guidance. What did your manager highlight or praise? Was there any constructive feedback on your performance?
Make sure you reference your accomplishments in your review and highlight what you did well. For areas that need improvement, provide additional context for any questions you think your manager might ask, and share any details about how you approached a project or situation that shed light on its outcome. Reflect on how you grew, and your plans to continue improving.
4. Review notes from peers and coworkers.
Peer feedback isn’t just great for professional development and surfacing new performance perspectives — it’s also vital for fostering the environment needed for great teamwork. In fact, one 2015 study on employee recognition found that praise from team members can have twice the impact on your wellbeing at work compared with manager feedback.
Evaluating feedback from peers can help you see how you’ve supported your team’s overall goals, as well as highlighting your progress on any non-technical skills — like problem-solving or communication — that build a more complete picture of your progress in the last year. Look through any past performance reviews, emails, personal messages, team meeting slide decks, or your company’s Praise Wall to collate a balanced view of how your peers see you.
Evaluate your progress by considering the following questions:
- How have you helped team members and peers deliver on their goals?
- Were there any specific instances or projects where team members praised your contributions?
- How have you followed through on team expectations?
- How would you rate your teamwork and collaboration skills?
Find more question examples in our Peer Review Template.
Writing Your Performance Review Self-Assessment
Once you’re ready to write your self-appraisal, you’ll want to collate everything you’ve noted during the reflection process, and start crafting your highlight reel that outlines all of your accomplishments since your last review.
To get started, use your job description as a guide. Evaluate how you meet each of the core competencies and skill sets, pointing to specific examples when you demonstrated each. While you write, work through the following topics:
- Role in the wider team: How does your work connect to the bigger picture? What kind of teammate are you?
- Unique selling point: What do you contribute that sets you apart? How is your team unable to function without you?
- Key results: Review any OKRs. What key results did or didn’t you achieve? Why or why not?
- Areas for improvement: Things can change for the better after a performance evaluation. What does that look like for you?
Examples of How to Talk about Your Accomplishments in Your Self-Assessment
Many folks worry about sounding braggy in a self-review. And while it might feel uncomfortable to sing your own praises, try writing it like you’re advocating for someone else to show what you’re capable of.
Talk about the cause and effect of your actions on projects, and make sure to reference praise you’ve gotten from others. Include business outcomes, quotes from happy customers, and any tangible data. Talk assertively about your accomplishments like they’re facts.
Try using these self-evaluation examples to help you guide your review.
- “I set an OKR this year to grow our social channels 20%, but I exceeded that goal by growing them 40%.”
- “My contribution to project X has helped increase customer NPS 10x.”
- “Project Y has streamlined our process and saved time across teams.”
- “Project Z will bring in more and better-qualified leads.”
- “I accomplished a personal developmental goal to learn a new skill by working alongside peers in a different department.”
- “I demonstrate strong time management skills when hitting project deadlines.”
- “I communicate project updates with all team members and relevant stakeholders in a timely manner.”
- “When running project X, I was effective at delegating tasks and following up on work to make sure our team stayed on deadline.”
- “I am effective at taking ownership of new projects and managing their successful completion.”
Team Support and Enablement
- “I always review my team member’s work within 24 hours of being asked.”
- “Because of my feedback on this project, XYZ was completed faster.”
- “I supported the success of our customer conference by being a speaker, and received praise from our VP of Marketing.”
- “I go above and beyond to make sure our team operates at its best, and I regularly provide help and support to team members when working on a collective goal.”
- “My problem-solving skills helped overcome a key strategic challenge in a recent project.”
- “Because of my effective decision-making skills, we were able to complete project XYZ in a timely manner.”
- “I regularly contribute my ideas and perspectives in team meetings to help boost our team’s output and goal accomplishment.”
- “I’m successful at staying on top of my to-do list, and regularly communicate progress with team members on shared projects.”
- “I maintain and moderate a critical daily community discussion channel.”
- “I reach out to prospects early in the morning, since they’re in a different time zone than I am.”
- “I send out a weekly update to the entire organization about my project or function.”
- “I helped launch and manage a new Employee Resource Group that supports our LGBTQ+ employees.”
Examples of How to Talk About Areas of Improvement
It can be hard to talk about your mistakes or recognize room for improvement in aspects of your work. For this reason, tone is particularly important when it comes to this portion of your self-assessment.
When talking about any areas for improvement, focus on honesty, and try not to be defensive, minimize errors, or blame others in your self-evaluation. Remember that everything you say is from your own perspective, so it’s a good practice to phrase things accordingly, such as “I found out I benefit from x”, or “I found I work best in x conditions”.
Reflecting on where you need to improve can also be a perfect opportunity to talk about how you want to grow in your career or improve in your job. When talking about mistakes or known problems during the review period, stay positive and emphasize the solution and next steps. You want to position yourself as a problem-solver with self-awareness.
For example, perhaps you weren’t prepared to take on a task because you weren’t trained. Propose enrolling in a class to help you step up your career development and take on more responsibilities.
When reflecting on your areas for improvement, try emulating the following examples:
- “I can sometimes struggle to take the lead in project management scenarios. I’d really like to take on some leadership skills classes to help me develop.”
- “I find it hard to share my ideas with team members on how to approach a project or piece of work, because I get overwhelmed when talking in a larger group. This year, I’d really like to learn how to develop my confidence with some mentoring.”
- “I made a scheduling mistake that contributed to a delay on our team’s recent project. I learned better time management skills as a result and have a plan to manage these situations better in future.”
- “I struggle with my presentation skills in front of a large audience. Is there someone in our wider team I can learn from?”
Crafting a Roadmap for Future Progression
Your self-assessment is a chance to be your own biggest advocate. As you work through the review process, try not to look at it as exposing your weaknesses, past failures, or mistakes. Instead, look at it as an opportunity, with your manager’s help, to take ownership of your career path, celebrate your wins, and unravel any niggling issues.
Working through this collaborative process should feel like a conversation with your manager that gives you a roadmap to help you perform at your very best in the future. For more support, download our Self-Evaluation Template.