A performance evaluation is an important tool for keeping communication flowing between teams. Periodic evaluation is a chance for managers and employees to review the recent past and discuss expectations moving forward. An evaluation also serves as an opportunity to set goals, both as individuals and as teams.
Importance of self-assessments
Self-assessments can be equally useful for employees and managers. The evaluations are normally short, taking less than 15 minutes to complete, and have long-term benefits for all the involved parties.
Along with the performance evaluation often comes the self-assessment. An opportunity for employees to self-reflect and consider what their strengths and weaknesses are, self-assessments are not only important to growth as a worker but as a person. By critiquing their own work and behavior, employees can gain insight that helps them improve.
Employees' self-assessments offer several benefits for managers. They illuminate how the employees see themselves in the context of the team and the organization at large. They highlight any disagreements or misunderstandings between the manager and the employee. Also, of course, self-assessments offer an opportunity for feedback to managers about what motivates and incentivizes an employee to do their best work.
"Modern employees are intrinsically motivated to work autonomously and by opportunities to learn and grow. So, from a management perspective, self-assessments – which contribute to autonomy and development – are incredibly valuable," said David Hassell, founder and CEO of 15Five. "Work product from employees who are intrinsically motivated tends to be more impactful and sustainable than work derived from extrinsic motivators, such as bonuses or fear tactics."
Despite its importance, writing a self-assessment is no easy task. Analyzing oneself can be immensely difficult, especially when that analysis is submitted to a supervisor for review. If you're having trouble getting started, these five tips will help you learn how to write a self-assessment. [Learn more about performance management.]
Key takeaway: Self-assessments are important for both employees and managers as a lever of professional growth.
Best practices for writing a self-assessment
1. Be proud.
One major goal of the self-evaluation is to highlight your accomplishments and recollect milestones in your professional development. A good self-assessment should point to specific tasks and projects that highlight your best work. When describing those accomplishments, employees should emphasize the impact those achievements had on the whole business to emphasize their value to the company.
Julie Rieken, CEO of Applied Training Systems Inc., said you should strive to connect your actions with a manager's goals. This alignment is encouraging to any manager and conveys that you understand your role within the larger context of the company.
"If your manager needs to hit a certain number, share how you played a role in hitting the number," Rieken said. "Accomplishments you list should connect with business objectives."
2. Be honest and critical.
Self-assessments aren't just about highlighting triumphs. You should also critically assess the times you came up short. Being honest means pointing out weaknesses that could be improved upon or past failures that taught you a valuable lesson. Recognizing your own flaws is important to demonstrating your ability to learn and grow.
Still, it's important to not be self-deprecating in your assessment. Timothy Butler, a senior fellow and director of career development programs at Harvard Business School, advised employees to use developmental language when critiquing the areas in which they need to improve.
"You don't want to say, 'Here's where I really fall down,'" Butler told the Harvard Business Review. "Instead, say, 'Here's an area I want to work on. This is what I've learned. This is what we should do going forward.'"
3. Continuously strive for growth.
It's important during self-assessments to never stagnate; humans are constantly adapting, learning and changing. Whether you've had a great year or fallen short of your own expectations, it's important to remain committed to improving and educating yourself. Taking a moment to list your goals and objectives for the coming year during a self-assessment demonstrates that you are not content to settle.
"The first step is to adopt a growth mindset and understand that adult human potential is not fixed," Hassell said. "We are always in a state of becoming, and our potential increases or decreases based on many factors, including the environments where we live and work. Adopting that framework prevents people from becoming too transfixed on their perceived failures and from becoming too attached to their triumphs."
Managers will also see a willingness to improve and take on new things as a sort of coachability. If an employee has been struggling, making room for growth could improve their performance. On the other hand, an employee thriving in their position requires growth opportunities to prevent boredom or stagnation.
Tip: Take a moment to list your goals and objectives for the coming year during a self-assessment to demonstrate that you are not content to settle.
4. Track your accomplishments.
When it's time to discuss your accomplishments in your self-assessment, providing hard data to show what you've done throughout the year is highly beneficial. Employees and managers generally know how you have performed, but having concrete numbers to back up any assertion strengthens the validity of your self-assessment.
"If employees ... spend 10 seconds a day writing down their one biggest accomplishment, success, metric hit, feedback received for that day, they'd have 10 times more data than they'd ever need for self-assessment," said Mike Mannon, president of WD Communications.
Hank Yuloff, owner of Yuloff Creative Marketing Solutions, agreed. "We teach our clients to keep a list of daily and weekly accomplishments so that when it is time for the self-assessment, there is very little guesswork as to how valuable they are to the company."
5. Be professional.
You should always be professional when writing self-assessments. This means not bashing the boss for poor leadership or criticizing co-workers for making your life more difficult. It also means not gushing in an overly personal way about a co-worker or manager you really like. Whether you are providing critical or positive feedback, professionalism is important.
Being professional means giving the appraisal its due attention, like any other important project that crosses your desk. Dominique Jones, chief operating officer at the BetterU Education Corporation, recommends treating your self-evaluation like a work of art that builds over time. You'll be much happier with the result if you give yourself time to reflect and carefully support your self-assessment, she said.
"Use examples to support your assertions, and … make sure that you spell- and grammar-check your documents," Jones wrote in a blog post. "These are all signs of how seriously you take the process and its importance to you."
Sample: How to write a self-assessment
While the tips above can help you write a self-evaluation, few things improve the process like seeing an example firsthand. To that end, we've created a sample self-assessment to guide you as you create your own.
- I am a dedicated employee who understands not only my role and responsibilities, but the larger mission of our business. I don't strive just to do my job, but also to help make this company a success.
- I am a good communicator who stays on task and helps rally the team when cooperation is needed to meet a deadline or solve a problem.
- I am a creative thinker who can come up with novel solutions and improve upon conventional ways of doing things.
- I am somewhat disorganized, which often impacts my productivity. I have been learning how to better manage my time and intentionally direct my efforts. While it remains a challenge, I have seen some progress and look forward to continually improving.
- Sometimes I do not ask for help when I could benefit from assistance. I am always willing to help my teammates, and I know they feel the same way, so I will try to be more vocal about when I need a helping hand moving forward.
- I believe in teamwork and cooperation to overcome any obstacle.
- I value respect and transparency between employees and managers.
- I value friendship and building warm relationships within the workplace.
- I strive to be a welcoming and helpful presence to my co-workers.
- I never missed a deadline in the past year and, in fact, often submitted my work early.
- I've gone above and beyond my job description to ensure our team operates at an optimal level, staying late and helping others whenever it could contribute to our collective goal.
- I created and delivered a presentation, stepping outside my comfort zone to do so. It was well received and bolstered my confidence regarding public speaking.
- I would like to continue developing my presentation and public speaking skills. As a weakness that I listed on previous self-assessments, it is gratifying to see that I have made some progress on this skill set and I would like to double down on the growth.
- In terms of professional growth, I aspire to enter a managerial role. I enjoy working closely with my teammates and considering the bigger picture, and I often help direct resources in an efficient way. I could see myself as a manager who helps facilitate teamwork and encourages workers to do their best.
- My manager is pleasant and transparent. I never have to guess where I stand. I appreciate the openness and direct communication so that I know what is expected of me and how well I am meeting those expectations.
- I would like to be more involved in decision-making at the team level. I believe each team member has unique insights that supervisors cannot fully understand since their perspective is different, and I believe involving staff members in strategic planning could greatly improve results.
Keeping things simple and using short, declarative bullet points are key to writing an effective self-assessment. While the exact nature of your self-assessment might depend on your industry or your job description, this basic model can help guide you in writing a self-evaluation.
Did you know? Keep your self-assessment short and simple by using bullet points.
Additional self-evaluation example phrases
Along with the elements in the preceding sample, self-evaluation forms might ask you to address some more specific areas. Your answers will give your employer deeper insights on how you view your strengths and weaknesses. Here are some tried-and-true phrases that managers like to see in a self-assessment.
For communication efforts on the job, here are a few common phrases to include:
- I communicate effectively with project managers and team members.
- I can have difficult conversations with co-workers and managers in a respectful manner.
- I provide constructive feedback and know how to accept the same from team members and management.
Performance is normally the most generalized area of self-assessments. These are some effective phrases to use on the form:
- I worked on X projects and was able to meet timelines and goals for each one.
- I take the initiative on each project and confirm that I understand the parameters before launch.
- I'm consistently the top performer within my project team.
- I always look for ways to improve on the job.
The reliability section will discuss how dependable you perceive yourself to be, so you could include these statements:
- I am well known for my dependability and the way I give it my all on every project.
- My work is always done in a timely manner with a high level of accuracy.
- I'm always on time at work and arrive to meetings early, being mindful of other people's time.
For leadership, you should use phrases that demonstrate how you've taken the initiative in the workplace. Here are a few examples:
- I always go out of my way to help co-workers.
- I make sure everyone on my team feels comfortable when exchanging ideas.
- I look for ways to keep my team on track and make sure important milestones are met.
- I brainstorm ways to motivate others and freely give praise when performance goals are met.
For innovation, the self-assessment is looking for ways that you solved problems in a creative manner. Here are a few example statements:
- I always look for better ways to manage projects and make sure the process goes smoothly.
- I'm not afraid to look for out-of-box solutions.
- I don't let change interrupt workflow, but instead aim to roll with the adjustments to keep projects on track.
For teamwork, you need to demonstrate how well you work with others, using phrases similar to these:
- I maintain a positive attitude to benefit my co-workers and managers.
- I encourage team members to work together as a way for us all to reach a common goal.
- I'm always considerate of my co-workers' feelings and show respect for their opinions.
In this section, you're expected to talk about ways you have come up with solutions to common workplace problems. Here are a couple sample phrases:
- I can look at a problem from every direction to come up with a creative solution.
- I'm willing to ask for help when having a difficult time brainstorming a solution to a workplace problem.
Making performance evaluations a regular occurrence
Performance evaluations help everyone know where they stand and how they're performing, including in relation to the goals of the organization. Often, workplaces engage in performance evaluations annually, but they should become an ongoing process to fairly and accurately evaluate employees and create a culture of constant communication and feedback.
"[S]elf-assessments cannot merely be an annual event. They are part of an ongoing and regular practice of reflection," Hassell said. "If you look at a snapshot of performance, you are never going to see the truth. It's too easy to focus on a particular experience or event and then create an overarching story around performance."
This will prevent "recency bias," a type of tunnel vision that centers on recent events rather than the big picture. It also creates an inclusive, give-and-take culture where employees are invited to participate in offering feedback to their managers as much as their managers offer them feedback. Overall, an inclusive and communicative workplace has a greater chance of success.
"Managers who adopt a coaching or mentorship role can provide external reflections and much-needed perspective so employees can see failures as learning opportunities," Hassell said. "They can also enjoy the praise of a job well done but not dwell on past triumphs, because every company has a continued need for peak employee performance over time."
Katherine Arline, Marci Martin, and Jennifer Post contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.