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 wonder if employee self-assessments are a useless, redundant activity.

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

Two sides to every story

Employees may ask 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 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

Self-assessments are useful for peeking behind the curtain, and seeing what your employees think about what's done well and what can be improved. Self-assessments offer:

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 one person, and 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 everyday 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 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, 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 employees evaluating themselves in the context of their work has positive upsides, like: 

Establishing worth: It’s easy to get caught up in the busy day-to-day. If someone were to ask employees spontaneously at the end of the day/week/month/year what they accomplished during that time period, they might draw a complete blank. But filling out a self-assessment requires them to carefully review what they’ve accomplished. 

Not only does this build confidence, but it also allows employees to articulate their values and advocate for their future career paths.

Creating a record: Proactively conducting a self-assessment will create a record of your employees' performance, and a paper trail to back it up. A self-assessment can be a great way to bring up the subjects employees want to discuss in another forum or with another manager or career mentor. 

Providing perspective: Ideally, everyone will be on the same page about job descriptions, expectations, goals, and processes. But that’s not always the case. Self-assessments allow employees to take the time to document their understanding of their role in the organization, what tasks and results are most critical, the key challenges they face, and how they see their position evolving can be enlightening.

An employee's experience and knowledge of their position put them in a unique spot to offer constructive feedback and ideas. The key word here is constructive. If they decide to use the self-assessment as a vehicle to list complaints, it’s not going to serve anyone well. But if the self-assessment is used to confirm, clarify, and develop employee roles, everyone benefits.

What are you waiting for?

Employers need to create an employee self-assessment system and start putting it to good use and need employees to stop dreading self-assessments. Instead, encourage employees to treat them like the helpful advocacy and communication tool it was meant to be.


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Photo by WAYHOME studio