How to Use Self-Appraisal Comments to Improve Employee Performance Evaluations

Steve Tompkins
January 6, 2023

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:

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:

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):

Job Responsibilities

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:


Core KPIs

Training Completed

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:

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.



Job Knowledge


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.

Customer 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.

Improving KPIs

Use these self-appraisal comments to help employees plan to improve their own performance metrics moving forward:

Support Needed

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!

Steve Tompkins
HCM Solutions Consultant
Steve Tompkins is an HCM Solutions Consultant at Criterion HCM and is located in San Diego, California.

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