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Self-Assessments: Useful or Not?

The annual employee evaluation process is a universal aspect of the modern workplace. Almost every industry has developed a relevant employee evaluation model, and individual firms have further refined the practice in an ongoing effort to measure employee performance, maximize productivity and foster professional growth.

In order to achieve these ends, and to increase the objectivity and accuracy of performance reviews, many companies require employees to complete self-assessments (a.k.a. self-evaluations) before the formal review process takes place. Employee self-assessment models have been praised and widely embraced, since they offer employees a sense of control over the process and a structured opportunity to list accomplishments that may have been overlooked by managers and supervisors during the year under consideration. Some argue that self-assessments also serve to re-engage employees in the review process prior to the actual review.

Some organizations are even moving pass the traditional ‘past and present’ self-assessment model and adopting ‘future-focused’ self-assessments. Instead of assessing skills against current job requirements, employees have the opportunity to proactively manage their career progression by evaluating their skills against future or desired jobs (evaluating their own potential). Companies then use the employee’s and manager’s performance and potential ratings to tap their talent pool and execute effective succession planning processes.

These are the benefits of the self-assessment process in theory. But in actual practice, do employee self-assessments really improve productivity? Critics claim that self-assessments only add time and expense to the review process and encourage employees to spin or overstate accomplishments for the benefit of an easily compromised official record.Some studies have shown that lower-performing employees tend to rate themselves higher and higher-performing employees are more modest than they should be when evaluating themselves. The value of self-assessments has been debated; however, we believe that if done correctly and for the right reasons, self-assessments can do more good than bad. The process as well as the results contribute to employee engagement and manager/employee communication – not to mention the data collected can be used for company decision making.

How can you decide if the self-evaluation process is worthwhile in your workplace? Begin by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Are your self-assessments standardized? Self-evaluations will have more value and will more accurately inform the review process if stated accomplishments are measurable and transferable across similar positions.
  • Does each evaluation criteria accompany a numbered scale? Each criterion should offer an opportunity for open-ended comment, but should also allow employees to grade their performance on a scale of one to five.
  • Do your evaluations allow employees to list clear areas in need of improvement and deliverable goals for the upcoming year? Like the formal review, the self-evaluation should end with a list of action-items and specific, realistic goals.
  • Do your assessments allow employees to evaluate their skills against future positions so that effective development and succession plans can be put into place? On the same note, are employees made aware of how the results of the self-assessments are being used in that regard? Employees might be more likely to engage in the process and offer deeper feedback if they know that their self-assessment could translate to future promotions of career development initiatives. It also lets the employees know that the organization is engaged in developing their careers.
  • Are you simplifying the appraisal and self-assessment process by using technology to automate forms and to allow the results to be analyzed properly? Is your company prepared to factor the results into decision making? It is simple – if the appraisals are easy to complete – employees are more likely to get them done in a timely manner. Also, there is no point in implementing an insightful assessment process that captures rich data if the organization is not willing to properly view and use the data. Technology solutions that automate the process and allow for reporting solve these issues.

Although the practice of employee self-assessment is not new, the range of useful possibilities to which it can be applied is rapidly evolving. Employee self-assessment does, of course, concern specific individuals. Yet, through technology it now offers company-wide strategic possibilities for growth and improved financial performance.1

If you’re in the process of developing or refining your employee assessment model, software solutions, such as CRG emPerform, can help you focus on your process and maximize the efficiency, value and productivity of your reviews.

1. There’s More to Employee Self-Assessment than Meets the Eye – John Kiska, CMA, AdvisorOnTrack

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