Several friends of mine work at a nice boutique consulting firm in the Boston area which typically promotes everyone once a year depending on their performance. As such, they are also in the midst of review season whereby their bosses will critique their performance and they, in turn, will also evaluate their performance.
The self-review packet is eleven pages, consisting of mostly prose responses whereby the writer will elaborate on their different core competencies and skill sets, preferably using examples from their project work. Each question has three parts, asking the writer to elaborate on: their successes, their challenges, and their goals for the future.
The reviewer, too, has to write about the reviewee, grading each of these criterion and carefully deciding on why or why not this person deserves a promotion.
The full review packet, mind you, is incredibly thorough – a ton of thought was clearly put into this process – and the self review packet, with due respect to it’s creators (who obviously labored intensively over it’s creation), sucks.
Why, pray tell does this process stink?
- There is a HUGE waste in productivity. Each Self-Review packet takes on average over 5 hours to complete. And each review of this person takes another several hours (lets guesstimate 3), meaning that for each employee of the firm, 8 hours are spent on this. It’s a small firm, and only about 100 or so of the employees are reviewed, so that’s 800 man-hours of time. Each of these people also bill out at an hourly rate (for the most part), and I can tell you, those rates ain’t cheap. Starting employees are right around $200/hr, so let’s assume, conservatively, that the average rate is $250/hr for all employees. That means the firm will lose $200,000 from the process.
- The questions ask, nay, BEG for bullshit responses. When, for example, in a section on Self-Management, when a question asks if you are mature, responsible, understanding of project needs, what rational person in their right mind isn’t going to BS this? And if every response is BS, what do you think the likelihood of a quality actionable self-evaluation is? Not very high.
- Once you fill it out, nobody looks at it again. In fact, the only reason to keep old reviews is so that you can copy and paste entire sections from the last review into the new one! What’s the point of asking for goals for the next year, and then not comparing your results?
- It measures the wrong things. This process rewards generic, BS responses, while harming individuals who recognize they need to improve in certain areas. You need to be good, but not cocky, just enough above average to get that promotion, but don’t remind anyone of any flaws that you might have. The point of a self-review is so that your bosses can see if your views of yourself are in any way different than their views of yourself. Any areas where there is a huge disconnect should be explored in greater detail. ie. If I think my Excel skills are piping hot, but my boss thinks I’ve got the Excel acumen of a 3rd grader, then that begs for action.
So what’s a better process?
Listen up people in HR, because it’s going to blow your mind. Less is more!
Any self review must take into account the 4 criticisms above. It must be:
- Elicit Truth
- Measure the right qualities
So here’s the ideal review process, IMO:
The reviewee will get a form with upwards of 10 different qualities, each with its own sliding scale from 1 to 10. This can be things like “Excel Skills”, “Presentation Skills”, “Client Interaction”, “Managing Employees”, etc., and the user will rank themselves 1 to 10. They also should be required to mark 2 or 3 skills that they would like to improve upon over the next year. Lastly, there should be ONE (and only one), comment box which would allow someone to list the projects they worked on since the last review, and any thoughts about that specific project that they might have.
The reviewer will also get a form, with the sliding scale from 1 to 10 for each of the qualities of the reviewee. They will not know how the reviewee reviewed themselves, on each of the categories but they will be able to see the comment box with the projects and thoughts the individual had. They will then rank the reviewee, write a brief comment about the employee (project based comments) and then submit their review.
The HR department will then sift through all of these reviews and only look for 2 things:
- Quality: Is the reviewee below a certain threshold of quality (let’s say below a 5)?
- Perceived Differences: Are there differences between what the reviewer and reviewee’s scored?
Any score differences will necessitate further elaboration from the employee. Any employee that passes the quality threshold and the perceived differences threshold will pass directly through the system, and will be eligible for a promotion.
Let see if it matches up to the criticisms:
- It’s definitely short – a sliding scale, 3 check boxes, and a comment box…probably 45 minutes at most to fill out.
- It elicits truth through a bidding-like mechanism – the reviewee only is eligible immediately for a promotion if their scores are in line with their reviewers.
- It’s possibly actionable – by selecting 3 areas where you would like to improve, you can check your scores from last year to compare to this year.
- Measures the right qualities – this is more up to the different categories that are chosen by HR, but I believe that a ranking scale is far superior to a prose review.
What do you guys think? Where can the self evaluation be improved?