Are Self-assessments a Waste of Everyone’s Time?

Ugh. The dreaded self-assessment! Employees hate filling them out and managers aren’t quite sure what to do with them. Many on both sides will find themselves wondering if employee self-assessments are a useless, redundant activity.

If you’re in the yes camp on this one, it’s understandable. But perhaps you might want to start seeing them (and using them) in a new way.

There are two sides to every story

Employees may be asking themselves, “Why do I have to fill this stupid thing out? It’s my supervisor’s job to review my performance. Not mine.” And yet these same employees may come out of a one-sided performance review wondering if their boss even knows what they do all day.

The truth of the matter is that there are two perspectives going on at any given time. And unless workplace communication is interactive, clear, and happening on a regular basis, those two perspectives may not cross paths much. This is where a self-assessment can come in handy.

Upsides for employers

Alignment: Having your employees do self-assessments gives you a window into how they view their role, their priorities, their performance, and their strengths and weaknesses. If your team’s perspective doesn’t match what you’re seeing or what you expect, now you have an opportunity to talk about it and to create a plan to bring everyone to the same page. If your respective visions aren’t in alignment, that’s a problem. And one you may never hear about without this simple exercise.

Insight: Most leaders are responsible for more than just one person. In some cases, significantly more. Chances are you don’t have time to keep track of each of your reports’ actions and activities on a regular basis. Failures you will likely hear about, because they often interfere with progress. But every day successes can often slip by unnoticed.

Empowering your employees to track their own progress and results not only requires them to be more aware of and accountable for their progress, it also gives you additional insight and details. For even more impact, make sure your assessment encourages honest feedback on the challenges of the position. This will and alert you to specific issues that may be holding your team back.

Focus: A well done self-assessment won’t look like a freestyle diary entry. It will be a tailored questionnaire designed to track employee progress, successes, and challenges. To maximize the value of the exercise, you’ll want to create a self-assessment that addresses goals, priorities, processes, results, training, and career development. Give your employees enough time to thoughtfully fill out their assessments and turn them in well in advance of your meeting. This will help bring focus and structure to your performance management process.

Benefits for employees

The self-assessment process may seem uncomfortable for many. But evaluating yourself in the context of your work can have some positive upsides.

Establishing your worth: It’s easy to get caught up in the busy day to day of simply “doing your job.” If someone were to ask you spontaneously at the end of the day/week/month/year what you accomplished during that time period, you might just draw a complete blank. But filling out a self-assessment requires you to carefully review what you’ve been working on and what you’ve accomplished.

You may be pleasantly surprised at just how much you contributed to your team and your organization. Not only does this build confidence, it allows you to articulate your value and advocate for your future career path— at your current or future employer.

Creating a record: Not all supervisors are good about providing proper feedback and reviews. Proactively conducting a self-assessment will create a record of your performance, and a paper trail to back it up. If your boss is a fan of pushing off formal reviews or not doing them at all, a self-assessment can be a great way to bring up the subjects you want to discuss in another forum or with another manager or career mentor. Having this record will also help you update your resume if and when the time comes.

Providing perspective: Ideally, you and your manager will be on the same page about your job description, expectations, goals, and processes. But that’s not always the case. Taking the time to document your understanding of your role in the organization, what tasks and results are most critical, the key challenges you face, and how you see your position evolving can be enlightening not just for you, but for leadership as well.

Your experience and knowledge of the position puts you in a unique spot to offer constructive feedback and ideas. They key word here is constructive. If you decide to use your self-assessment as a vehicle to list off all of your complaints, it’s not going to serve you well. But if you use it to confirm, clarify, and develop your role, both you and your manager can benefit greatly.

What are you waiting for?

If you’re an employer, create an employee self-assessment system and start putting it to good use. If you’re an employee, stop dreading filling yours out! Instead, treat it like a helpful advocacy and communication tool it was meant to be.


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