How to Use Self-Appraisal Comments to Improve Employee Performance Evaluations
Performance evaluations are an important part of managing your workforce. The goal is to identify what an employee is doing well and what they need to improve upon, then to agree on a plan to improve performance.
But performance evaluations can be stressful and ineffective for both managers and employees if done without tact. In a professional setting, it can be difficult to have an honest and productive discussion about an employee's performance. Some people don't take feedback well, and it can be challenging for managers to tell employees what they're doing wrong or need to improve upon. What’s more, managers (especially of larger teams) have a limited perspective on each employee's daily workflow. Some employees may also be unsure how to describe their own performance or contributions to the organization.
Self-appraisal comments are a great way to improve the traditional performance evaluation format. Providing pre-written suggestions for the employee to describe their performance can help those unaccustomed to the evaluation process find the words the need. By doing both, you put the review process in the employee's hands.
Using self-appraisal comments in your performance review process can lead to higher employee engagement and more productive conversations around evaluation time. It can even result in greater commitment to the organization due to employees feeling a sense of ownership over their work.
Let’s take a closer look at how self-appraisal comments can be used to improve employee performance evaluations.
What is a Performance Evaluation?
A performance evaluation is a formal process in which an employee's job performance is evaluated and reviewed by their manager or HR professional. The purpose of a performance evaluation is to provide feedback to the employee in terms of:
- Job responsibilities
- Goals and metrics
- Strengths and areas for improvement
- Their contributions to the organization
Performance evaluations are also meant to identify opportunities for the employee’s development and growth.
These evaluations can take many different forms, but they typically involve a conversation between the employee and their manager in which the manager provides feedback and discusses the employee's job performance. Some organizations use structured evaluation systems, such as rating scales or checklists. While these can be effective at assessing performance, turning the review into a conversation between both parties often produces better results in terms of performance improvement.
What is a Self-Appraisal (also called a Self-Evaluation)?
A self-appraisal, also known as a self-evaluation, is a process by which an employee reflects on and assesses their own job performance in a way that is recorded for future comparisons. This typically involves the employee completing a form or questionnaire that covers their job responsibilities, accomplishments, and areas for improvement. The employee will usually be asked to provide feedback on their own performance, including any challenges or successes they experienced during the period under evaluation.
Self-appraisals are a popular (and effective) method for performance reviews for one reason: they allow the employee to consider their own performance and report on it themselves. Rather than passively receiving feedback from a supervisor, the employee is forced to think intentionally about their goals and past performance.
Self-appraisals also make the performance evaluation process more conversational and reflective. It’s considered less confrontational than a manager-led evaluation, and gives the employee a sense of ownership of their own career development. This tends to provide better results than traditional formats.
How to Structure Performance Evaluations With Self-Appraisal Comments
When conducting a performance evaluation that uses self-appraisal comments, it's important to focus on the organization’s goals first. Consider the criteria you use to evaluate employee performance and structure your reviews to evaluate those areas in the review.
It's also important to make sure that all employees are being evaluated using the same criteria. Typically, an employee will receive a survey or questionnaire to be completed before a formal meeting with their supervisor. During the meeting, managers will discuss responses in detail and provide feedback from their perspective.
Within the evaluation, you’ll want to focus on both the positive and negative aspects of an employee’s performance. Even if you prefer to discuss negative aspects in a positive light (i.e. opportunities for growth), you’ll want to be clear about failings, undesirable outcomes, or inadequate performance as much as possible.
Performance Evaluation Sample Structure
Need ideas on where to start? This is one possible structure for a performance evaluation:
- Job Responsibilities: Start the evaluation by discussing the employee's job responsibilities in full and note whether those responsibilities have changed since the previous evaluation. Talk about the metrics for success within the job and how the employee has performed against these expectations.
- Performance and Contributions: This section of the review should focus on how well the employee has achieved their goals and what they have contributed overall to the organization. Use verifiable metrics to support your observations, such as attendance, core KPIs, completed training, etc. You’ll also want to discuss any violations of company policy, errors in the employee’s judgment, or times where they failed to do the job correctly.
- Specific Strengths and Weaknesses: This section of the review should focus on the employee’s general performance and skills related to success in their role. You’ll want to assess the employee’s specific strengths and weaknesses according to criteria, such as teamwork, reliability, job knowledge, communication, customer satisfaction, etc. Use specific examples to illustrate how the employee scores for each of these criteria.
- Future Plans and Goals: Once you have discussed the employee’s performance over the last review period, discuss plans for how to improve performance in the future. You’ll want to help the employee create plans for achieving specific goals over the next evaluation period. Talk about any support the employee may need, as well as any development or learning opportunities that may be beneficial for them.
Using Self–Appraisal Comments in Performance Evaluations
Even if an employee receives a performance evaluation survey well before the formal meeting, it can be difficult for some to describe their own contributions or strengths.
The goal of using self-appraisal comments is to give employees a structure for how to think about their own performance. When employees resonate with a provided prompt, it can help them communicate with management and the rest of the team about the results of their particular work within the organization.
Employees can then use these suggested comments verbatim or think of them as jumping-off points to help them articulate their thoughts and spark further discussion. Encourage employees to customize these statements as they prepare for their performance evaluation meeting.
How to use Self-Appraisal Comments for Each Subject of Evaluation
Here’s how you might implement self-appraisal comments in each section of your performance evaluations (with examples):
When discussing a job’s responsibilities, there is no need for a prescriptive set of comments. Instead, you’ll want to get the employee’s honest assessment of their own job responsibilities. The goal is to achieve clarity to set a precedence for the evaluation. If there is any confusion about the employee’s job description, give them feedback to correct their understanding. You may stumble upon critical miscommunications in training or priorities by simply asking employees to describe their positions.
Performance and Contributions
A discussion about the employee’s performance and contributions is key to a performance evaluation. This section of the evaluation should focus on trackable metrics as much as possible. Here are some self-appraisal comments you can offer your employees to spark discussion in these areas:
- "I have made a consistent effort to arrive at work on time and be present for all scheduled shifts. I understand the importance of reliable attendance and have made it a priority."
- "I have had some difficulty with attendance in the past, but I recognized this as an area for improvement and have taken steps to address it. I have made an effort to be more proactive in communicating with my manager about any potential absences and have implemented strategies to improve my attendance record."
- "I have had some challenges with attendance due to [specific reason], but I have worked with my manager to come up with a plan to improve my attendance going forward. I believe this plan will help me to be more reliable in the future."
- "I have consistently met or exceeded my targets for [KPI] this year, and I believe this has had a positive impact on the team and the organization as a whole because [specific result]. I have made an effort to stay organized and focused in my work, and I believe this has contributed to my success."
- "I have struggled at times to meet my targets for [KPI], but I have recognized this as an area for improvement and have taken steps to address it. I have sought guidance from my manager and have implemented strategies to help me stay organized and focused in my work, including [specific strategy]. I believe these efforts will help me to improve my performance on [KPI] going forward."
- "One of my strengths is my ability to achieve high results in [KPI]. I have consistently exceeded my targets for this metric and have contributed significantly to the success of our team and the organization as a whole by [specific result]. I have made an effort to stay up to date on industry best practices and to continuously improve my skills in this area."
- "I have made an effort to improve my performance on [KPI] this year by seeking additional training and seeking out opportunities to learn from more experienced team members. I believe these efforts have helped me to improve my performance on this metric."
- "I have completed several training programs over the last review period, including [specific training programs]. I believe completing these programs has helped me to improve my skills and knowledge in my role, and I feel more confident and capable as a result."
- "I have made an effort to seek out additional training opportunities and have completed [specific training programs] over the last review period. I believe this training has helped me to improve my performance and contribute more to the team and organization."
- "I have recognized the importance of ongoing learning and development since my last evaluation, and have made a consistent effort to seek out training opportunities. Over the last review period, I have completed [specific training programs] and believe these have helped me to improve my skills and knowledge in my role."
- "It has been difficult to find the time to complete extra training programs, but I recognize how ongoing learning and development can help me succeed in my role. I have made an effort to prioritize training and have completed [specific training programs] over the last review period. I believe this has helped me to improve my performance and contribute more to the team/organization."
Violations and Errors
It's important for employees to be honest and transparent about violations or errors made at work, as this can help to identify areas for improvement and prevent issues in the future. Here are some self-appraisal comments employees might use to discuss failings or code violations:
- "I made a mistake on [specific project or task] that resulted in [consequence]. I take full responsibility for my error and have learned from it. I have implemented strategies such as [action] to prevent similar mistakes in the future and believe I have improved as a result."
- "I have struggled at times to follow [specific policy or procedure] and it has caused [negative outcomes]. I recognize that this is an important aspect of my job, and I am doing my best to improve my adherence to company policies and procedures.”
- "I made a mistake on [specific project or task] that resulted in [consequence]. While I take full responsibility for my error, I believe it was also due to [specific reason or challenge]. I have learned from this experience and I believe [specific strategy] will help prevent similar mistakes in the future."
- “I have not made any significant mistakes of consequence that I can recall within the last review period. I continue to strive to adhere to company policy and learn from past mistakes so that our team is free of unnecessary obstacles to success.”
Specific Strengths and Weaknesses
Using self-appraisal comments in this section of the evaluation can help employees to own their own strengths and opportunities for improvement. Since this is a more general discussion of the employee’s ability to perform the job and function in the workplace, thoughtful comments like these examples can help improve performance and encourage honest reflection and communication.
- "I believe that my teamwork skills are one of my greatest strengths. I am able to collaborate effectively with my colleagues and contribute to the success of the team. I am also able to effectively resolve conflicts and find creative solutions to challenges we may face."
- "I recognize that I still have room for improvement in my teamwork skills. I have been working on being more open to others' ideas and perspectives, and I have been making an effort to be more flexible and adaptable in my approach to teamwork. I believe that these efforts have helped me to better collaborate with my colleagues and contribute to the team's success."
- "I have received feedback that I can be overly dominant in team situations, and I recognize that this is something I need to work on. I have been making an effort to be more mindful of my communication style and to allow others to have more of a voice in team discussions. I believe that these efforts have helped me to improve my teamwork skills and build stronger relationships with my colleagues."
- “Throughout the past year, I have made a concerted effort to improve my teamwork skills. I have actively participated in team meetings and offered suggestions for how we can work more efficiently. I have also made an effort to listen to the perspectives and ideas of my colleagues and have been open to feedback. As a result, I believe that I have made significant progress in my ability to work effectively as part of a team.
- "I believe that I am a reliable and dependable employee. I have consistently met or exceeded deadlines and have a strong track record of delivering high-quality work on time. I am also able to handle multiple tasks and priorities effectively, and I have received positive feedback from my manager and colleagues on my reliability."
- "I believe that I still have room for improvement in terms of my reliability. I have been working on being more consistent in my work and have been focusing on being more proactive in addressing challenges as they arise. I believe that these efforts have helped me to be more reliable and better meet the needs of my team and the organization."
- "I have made an effort to improve my reliability over the past year by being more organized and proactive in my work. I have also worked to be more proactive in communicating with my manager and colleagues when I am facing challenges or delays. I believe that these efforts have helped me to be more reliable and to contribute to the success of the team."
- "I feel that I have a strong understanding of my job and the responsibilities that come with it. I have consistently demonstrated my knowledge and skills through my work. I have received positive feedback from my manager and colleagues on my ability to effectively carry out my duties."
- "I have made an effort to improve my knowledge of my job over the past year by seeking out additional training and development opportunities, as well as staying up-to-date with industry trends and best practices. I believe that these efforts have helped me to be more effective in my role and to better contribute to the success of the team."
- "I need to improve my knowledge of my job, and I recognize that this is an area that I need to focus on. I have been making an effort to [solution to knowledge gaps], and to actively seek out training and development opportunities. I believe that these efforts have helped me to improve my knowledge and skills, and to be a more valuable member of the team."
- “I recognize gaps in my job knowledge in areas such as [knowledge gap] and [knowledge gap]. These are areas that I need to improve to continue being successful in my role. However, I believe that obstacles such as [problem] or [problem] have stood in the way of my ability to learn more about my job. I believe that [proposed solution] would help me learn what I need to do my job more effectively.”
Effective communication is a critical skill in any work setting. Self-appraisal comments can help employees reflect on their own ability to communicate their ideas, challenges, and needs effectively.
- "I believe I am an effective communicator. I have made an effort to communicate with my team members on a regular basis and to be more clear and concise. I believe these efforts have contributed to the success of our projects and the overall effectiveness of our team."
- "I have struggled at times with communicating effectively, particularly when it comes to [specific aspect of communication, such as presenting to large groups or conveying difficult information]. However, I have recognized this as an area for improvement, and I am participating in additional training and seeking feedback from colleagues. I believe these efforts have helped me to improve my communication skills."
- "I feel that my communication skills have improved significantly over the past year. I have made an effort to be more clear and concise in my written and verbal communication, and I have received positive feedback from my colleagues and customers on my ability to effectively convey my ideas and thoughts."
- "I have received feedback that I can be [descriptor] or [descriptor] in my communication style, and I recognize that this is something I need to work on. I have been making an effort to [improvement strategy]. I believe that these efforts have helped me to improve my communication with my colleagues and build stronger relationships with them."
- "I believe that my commitment to customer satisfaction is one of my greatest strengths. I have consistently received positive feedback from customers on my ability to address their needs and concerns, and I have made an effort to go above and beyond to ensure they are satisfied with our products and services."
- "My commitment to customer satisfaction has been lacking in the past, and I recognize that this is an area that needs improvement. I have been making an effort to be more attentive to customer needs and concerns, and to be more proactive in addressing any issues that may arise. I believe that these efforts have helped me to improve my customer service skills and better contribute to the satisfaction of our customers."
- "I still have room for improvement in terms of my commitment to customer satisfaction. I have been working on developing my customer service skills and have been striving to be more responsive and proactive in addressing customer needs. I also believe that [support need / resource] would help me meet the needs of our customers more effectively and contribute to their overall satisfaction."
Plans Moving Forward
Self-appraisal comments can also be useful when discussing plans for future improvement and support needs. You’ll want to provide some prompts to discuss future plans, but also allow the employee the freedom to be creative and come up with their own approach to improvement. As part of this, you will also want to provide suggestions and support to help them take the best course of action.
Use these self-appraisal comments to help employees plan to improve their own performance metrics moving forward:
- “I have identified [number] key areas where I can improve my performance in terms of meeting my KPIs. These areas are [area 1], [area 2], [area 3]. I believe if I [strategy for improvement], this will help improve my metrics and help me better contribute to the success of the team."
- “My performance has been somewhat inconsistent in the past, and I have identified a few key areas where I can improve. For example, I have recognized that I need to be more proactive in seeking out additional support and resources when I am facing challenges, and I have also identified that I need to be more consistent in my work habits and processes. I believe that these efforts will help me to improve my performance in terms of meeting my KPIs and to contribute more effectively to the success of the team.”
- “I see that I have not been meeting my [KPI] metric, and I am aiming to improve. However, I don’t think I know quite how to improve this metric based on my performance. While I am seeking feedback from colleagues, I would like to also discuss strategies during this meeting to help me improve and contribute better to the organization.”
- “While I have not met my [KPI] metric very consistently, I believe this is due to [specific challenge, hardship, or obstacle]. This has prevented me from performing at my best, and I would like to discuss the problem further along with possible solutions.”
- "I believe that I have done a good job of meeting my responsibilities and contributing to the success of the team. But I recognize that there are certain areas where I could use additional support. For example, I have struggled with [area of skill] and [consequence] has happened as a result. I would appreciate additional resources or training to help me improve in this area and be more effective in my role."
- “I have noticed that a good portion of my job relies on me being able to do [task] effectively. However, I have found that [obstacle or challenge] is preventing me from doing so because [reason]. In order to do my job effectively, I would like support in [specific area]. I also need [resource or specific action from manager]. I believe these will help me improve my performance in this area because [reason].”
- "I believe that I have done a good job of meeting my metrics and have made contributions to the team in [area of contribution]. However, there are certain areas where I could use additional support. For example, I have struggled with certain aspects of my job that require [specific skill], and I would greatly benefit from additional training time or resources in these areas. I also believe that additional support in the form of mentorship or coaching from [identified candidate for mentorship] would be beneficial to my development and would help me to continue to grow and improve in my role."
Manage Performance Evaluations More Effectively with Criterion
Performance evaluations don't have to be ineffective. The goal is to both evaluate and report on the employee’s performance, but also to motivate the employee to continue improving and contributing to the company. By making the review process more conversational and creating a consistent process for evaluation, these performance reviews can be a valuable tool for clarifying expectations, improving employee performance, and boosting engagement across departments.
To do this, you’ll need to standardize your performance evaluation process so that you can gain a clearer picture of your workforce as a whole. You need a way to both quantify the performance of your employees while also making room for bigger conversations that can improve the way your company operates.
The HR module of Criterion’s flexible HCM solution includes features that help you codify self-appraisal comments and evaluations, giving you a comprehensive view of your workforce. Criterion HCM is built to align your HR policies with company goals, engage your employees more effectively, and even run payroll more efficiently.
We combine user-first experience design with enterprise-level functionality — so you can leverage extensive people analytics and still provide the personal touch that’s so important in Human Resources.
Learn more about how Criterion can help you improve your performance evaluations and virtually every other aspect of your HR processes. Book a demo today!