Heidi Barta

Ask an Expert: Self-Evaluations

Heidi Barta, Organizational Development Administrator, UW Information Technology

Why should I ask my employees to complete self-evaluations?

Annual performance evaluations shouldn't just be about employees sitting down and listening to their boss talk about their failures and successes. Instead, the experience should be an opportunity for your employees to engage in conversation with you about the work they're most proud of, the challenges they've faced, and the goals they've set for the coming year.

The self-evaluation is an important tool in the overall performance evaluation process because it allows your employees to document their perspective of the previous year. You and your employee can then compare perspectives and ensure you're both on the same page or have a dialogue about the differences.

Self-evaluations are also important because, as a supervisor, you cannot possibly remember everything your employees accomplished throughout the year as well as they can. Employee input will remind you about all the good things they've achieved and help you understand their goals and objectives for the next year.

How can I help my employees make the most out of self-evaluations?

1. Ask your employees to provide the highlights, not the detailed task list. A self-evaluation should reflect the top 2-5 things an employee felt most successful at and most proud of, as well as any significant challenges. By providing just the highlights, as opposed to the laundry list of duties that were completed, it will be easier for you to see where their strengths shine and where you could potentially provide additional resources, guidance, or support.

2. Rephrase the section on areas for improvement to "performance enhancements" or "growth opportunities." There is usually a section on every self-evaluation that asks employees to disclose the areas in their performance where they feel improvement is needed. Analyzing weaknesses and exposing vulnerabilities is difficult for any employee, so try asking your employees to approach this as a space to share where they think they can get even better or where they have potential to grow. Have them think back over the past year and write about what set them back and what lessons they learned.

3. Encourage your employees to seek help if they're stuck. For many people it's not easy to either think critically about work performance or boast about accomplishments, so sometimes asking a trusted colleague or friend for advice is worthwhile. Those who feel uncomfortable writing about themselves may try drafting their self-evaluation in third person (as if they're writing about someone else) and then revising later to first person. Another tactic employees can use to get unstuck is using their job description to help them think about their core duties and using previous evaluations to reflect on their growth. You may also suggest that employees page back through to-do lists, emails, and calendars to remind themselves of work accomplished.

Spring 2012 | Return to issue home