Performance review 📈

All the corporations I’ve worked at had a performance review process, some more costly and/or helpful than others. In general, I prefer some process to no process, but there is a risk of too much process.

Here’s what’s worked for me, as an individual contributor (IC):

Period

I find reviewing every six months gives time for significant change, but is not so long that each self-assessment takes days to compile.

Aside, I find a personal log of activity, updated weekly, helps wrt remembering what I accomplished since the last review cycle. This log can be shared with the team, to support coordination, and aligns nicely with the weekly “cadence” I prefer.

Structure

For some reason, self-assessments are often requested in “resume format”, ie structured chronologically, but reviewed in “ladder format”, ie the definition of the current and next rung of the career ladder. Translating from one format to the other, both by the individual (who uses the ladder for career planning) and the reviewer, is costly.

Aside, resumes are also often reviewed with an implicit ladder in mind, eg “Is there evidence this individual progressed in prior roles?”, ie in addition to reviews for evidence of technical skill appropriate for the hiring role. I wonder if an external resume could be structured using ladder format and still be effective.

So, start with a self-assessment structured around the current and next rungs of the ladder, mentioning significant collaborators by name.

Next, request peer review of this assessment from those collaborators. Ideally, they should be able to simply assert the provided description is accurate, and it should be obvious when someone is operating at the next rung of the ladder, ie eligible for promotion.

Simplify review collection to minimize decision fatigue for reviewers. For example, asking how each peer is performing on 10 point scale, along four axes, phrased two different ways, may be helpful for statistical analysis, but it’s hard on the reviewer, as compared with asking what rung the peer is performing at and with high/low confidence.

Goals

One goal of review is awareness among peers of each person’s career goals. We can all work together to ensure our peers have opportunities to meet the requirements of the next rung.

Another goal is accumulation of artifacts demonstrating professional development. Review cycles are an iterative approach to career planning. We should emerge from each cycle with concrete evidence of progress we can literally include in resumes (internal and external). Quantifying my value is stressful. Offset this by providing an outcome that’s portable, eg I should feel competitive in the labor market after each cycle.

Obviously, one goal is behavior correction, but hopefully bad behavior is caught before six months pass, eg in managerial 1:1 meetings. Perhaps unintuitively, reviews can also be a source of insight regarding what it’s like to work with the reviewer.

Audience

Being reviewed by others is stressful. Offset this by making the process equitable, ie this is an opportunity to reflect on what would improve interactions with all the people I work with, IC and management.

Review peer reviews as a committee, composed of IC and management, to minimize bias and provide diverse perspectives.

Feedback

Thoughts? Suggestions? Hit me up @erikeldridge

License

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