In the tech industry, performance evaluations are the gatekeeper to promotions, compensation, and career advancement; understand the most senior employees’ strategies to go ahead.
People get fired due to poor performance reports. They also exist, secondarily, to offer criticism, cultivate talent, and assist individuals in improving.
Performance evaluations aren’t the ideal tool for the latter portion if you’re interested in it. So instead, take command of your performance and advance your career by following this approach.
1. Recognize How Evaluations Process
Performance is evaluated every six months at most significant tech businesses, culminating in a performance rating. Bonuses (including an equity “refresher”) and promotions are based on this grade.
There is no onerous restriction on how many individuals can receive a specific rating.
There are no rigid quotas or “stack ratings” for performance ratings at virtually all tech organizations; however, there are basic recommendations on what percent of the workforce should obtain each grade.
For example, there are seven performance ratings on Facebook, ranging from “Does not meet expectations” to “Redefines expectations.” Facebook aims to provide “Redefines” to 5% of its employees; however, this may (and frequently does) vary by organization, function, or office.
To determine performance ratings, almost every major tech company follows a similar procedure:
Peer Reviews + Self-Evaluation: You write a thorough “self-evaluation” of your accomplishments and areas for improvement, and you designate 3-5 peers to evaluate your work.
Initial Assessment: Your manager gives you an initial grade based on your self-evaluation and peer evaluations.
Calibration: All managers meet for calibration. They individually summarize their direct reports’ performance and justify their grade.
All front-line managers in your organization (i.e., your manager’s colleagues) are often included in first-level calibrations, while more senior calibrations are company-wide.
Final Rating: The rating becomes official if a quorum of the calibration panel agrees on it.
This whole process is recursive: all managers assess ICs, which their managers then review, and so on, all the way to the top.
Your manager will organize a 1:1 meeting with you to discuss the rating and their written comments after this process.
If You Do Low Enough, You Will Be Put On a PIP
A Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) is a written document that lays out specific performance goals that must be met in the next 30, 60, or 90 days.
It serves as a record of your poor performance and is usually the final step before being dismissed. Don’t be fooled by HR jargon; it has nothing to do with “performance improvement.”
A PIP is a critical situation that requires a prompt and careful response. If you’ve been issued a PIP, get expert help.
Performance Evaluations Safeguard the Company
Because big tech businesses are a prominent, conspicuous, and profitable target for litigation, they work very hard to create a bullet-proof trail of evidence before terminating an employee.
One of the reasons tech companies are so wary about hiring is because it can take 6+ months to fire an obvious underperformer.
HR controls the performance process, which is a political, CYA-driven process that managers fear just as much as you do. Feedback may take up to two months to arrive, which means you’re already halfway through the next performance cycle.
Do not depend on your personal development on three-month-old feedback twice a year – the company’s performance method is insufficient to move forward.
2. Conducting Your Performance Evaluation
Quality feedback is a significant accumulating benefit for a rocketship career. You’ll be unstoppable if you can boost the rate you get feedback.
The company’s performance evaluation is insufficient. The result of committee design is slow, carefully filtered, and tailored to the most delicate egos.
You must manage your performance process if you want to achieve. It entails three steps: directly requesting feedback, doing your peer evaluations, and planning project retrospectives.
Directly Requesting Feedback
Realize that everyone at work has an opinion on your performance, and everyone has knowledge that may help you improve your job performance, but they’re afraid to tell you.
It is your responsibility to assist them in informing you. You’re not going to need your manager for that.
Every one-on-one interaction you have with someone is an opportunity to learn something new that will help you develop in your profession. So make it a habit to seek feedback in the final 5 minutes of 1:1s:
Is there anything I can do to assist you out more?
Hmm. Well… How you handled the Infra team has placed me in a dilemma; they are no longer willing to speak with me.
Please accept my heartfelt apologies. What went wrong? Let’s discuss how I can make things right.
You can request feedback in a variety of ways:
General: “How can I be of more assistance to you?”
Project-specific: “Do you believe there’s anything more I could do to help this project go forward?”
Interaction-specific: “Do you believe there was anything I could have done better in that meeting?”
It’s best to start at the bottom and work your way up: initially, ask people how you performed dealing with a colleague, or at a meeting, or on a doc or code review, and then ask for more general comments.
Run through your list of top ten coworkers: if you haven’t asked them how they’re doing in the previous month, you’ve already fallen behind.
Once you’ve got into the discipline of asking, the most crucial thing you can do to get honest, high-quality feedback is to act on it quickly and honestly, no matter how tiny or insignificant the suggestion is, or even if you disagree with it.
It may be unpleasant, but the benefit of receiving more long-term, high-quality feedback is well worth it.
Giving high-quality feedback to others is one approach to earn better feedback. Be attentive, considerate, and endeavor to assist others in achieving wherever possible (for example, during code reviews).
Create Your Own Peer Review System
Your goal is that nothing on your formal performance evaluation comes up that you haven’t heard directly from someone and had an opportunity to respond to.
While asking for feedback in person is a beautiful start, there are still certain things that individuals would struggle to articulate in person.
You can even gather direct peer feedback using a specific application-like matter.
You can also send a Google Forms survey to the five individuals you work with the most every few months, emulating the official business peer evaluation. Then send an email message to your closest collaborators. Here’s the sample email:
Subject: What’s Your Feedback About Me
I’m seeking feedback from the individuals I work with the most, and I’d appreciate it if you could contribute. I’d appreciate it if you could spend 5-10 minutes by Friday answering the following questions:
[Link to a Google Form]
Please be open and honest; this will benefit me the most. And, if you have anything else to say, good or bad, I’d be delighted to hear it.
Thank you very much!
People want to offer you feedback, so keep that in mind. In addition, it will help if you give them as many chances as possible to accomplish it in a manner that seems natural to them.
Please don’t wait for your manager to filter and spoon-feed your feedback; it’s jet fuel for your career.
For any project, you run or are an essential part of, make sure you do a post-mortem retrospective.
Schedule a 30-minute meeting for everyone, open a shared Google Doc, move from person to person, fill in two columns – what went well and what needs improvement – and write any action items.
Nothing spoken should be criticized or judged. Instead, make a mental note of what you’ve seen, and then move on.
Follow up on the action items diligently after the retro.
Nothing else needs to be said. It’ll be the most delightful 30 minutes of your life.
Being competent at your work is required, but not sufficient, for doing well in performance evaluations. Therefore, it would be best to have prepared for your review precisely and consciously.
3. Performance Evaluation Game-Based Learning
It is required, but not sufficient, to be competent at your work to do well in performance evaluations. Step 2 will assist you in doing well at work, but you must still optimize the performance evaluation process.
The following are the primary inputs to your performance evaluation:
- Your assessment of yourself (self-evaluation)
- What your peers think of you (peer reviews)
- What does your manager think of you?
- What do your manager’s coworkers think of you?
Let’s speak about how you’ll deal with each one independently.
Writing your self-evaluation the week before it’s due is the most significant error you can make. Keep a regular record of the items you sent and their effect throughout the year.
In particular, keep track of the business effect of your achievements: not simply “I lowered latency of the endpoint,” but it also enhanced conversion by Y and eventually produced Z revenue.”
Your manager has a shocking lack of knowledge about your accomplishments. So you have to keep track of them, tie them to corporate objectives, and deliver them to them in a method that enables them to calibrate their responses.
Second, you’ll be asked to cover potential growth regions. You want to be vulnerable in this situation, but only just so. Be truthful, compassionate, and direct while discussing the qualities you’re aiming to improve.
Concentrate on describing how big your goals are and the talents you’ll need to achieve them. For example, “My ambition is to manage a game-changing team in the e-commerce industry, and I’m honing my cross-functional communication skills this semester.”
Lite vulnerability makes you appear robust, competent, and moral, according to Erik Torenberg. In contrast, serious vulnerability requires divulging security weaknesses and dark secrets.
Most large tech businesses will ask you to choose 3-5 persons you work with to produce a peer assessment of your performance.
Peer reviews are crucial – it’s difficult to stress how important they are: a single tepid peer review might ruin a whole promotion.
It is the most powerful tool for influencing the performance process’s inputs.
If you followed Step 2’s suggestion and conducted your peer evaluation, you already know what everyone has to say about you.
Only choose peer reviewers who will assist you in constructing a positive image of yourself and confirm your self-evaluation.
You’re correct if you believe this is a touch deceptive. However, remember that the company’s performance procedure does not exist for your benefit; you are responsible for your performance.
Peer reviews are not the place, to be honest. Negative feedback should be reserved for in-person contacts, and you should be recognized as the person who exclusively writes lovely good comments.
Every week or two, your manager will meet with you one-on-one. The worst error you can make in these meetings is to see them as nothing more than status updates.
Find another forum for status updates, such as a weekly email, and keep the 1:1 centered on high topics: what you need assistance with, what your supervisor needs help with, and how you’re performing on the job.
Set up a rolling Google Doc plan, ask for input regularly and directly, and be careful about updating action items.
If you record every complaint your supervisor has, and you’re able to communicate and demonstrate constant improvement — regardless of whether you “solve” the problem — you’ll win the performance evaluation game.
Your Manager’s Coworkers
Nobody realizes how vital your manager’s peers are regarding performance reports. Remember, they’re the ones who are evaluating your performance in calibration, and they’re the ones to whom your manager must justify their choice.
You will have a considerable advantage if people have a positive image of you.
Throughout each performance evaluation cycle, you must discover how to have 2-3 good encounters with each person on the calibration panel.
The simplest method to do so is to participate in cross-organizational or cross-functional initiatives, such as:
Hiring: Assist in improving your team’s or function’s recruiting procedure (very high leverage).
Inclusion and Diversity: Assist in promoting initiatives that make your workplace more inclusive (also extremely high leverage).
Interns: Assist in the rise of the organization at colleges, recruit interns or oversee interns on your team.
Volunteer: Assist with volunteer events such as Christmas volunteer activities, blood drives, and so forth.
Social Groups: Assist in forming business sports teams or social gatherings.
Work Groups: Form a corporate group around new technology, best practices, or emerging concepts, and invite speakers to talk on-site, for example.
Process of Collaboration Between Teams: Assist your team in collaboration with other departments within the organization.
Praise Your Manager: Congratulate a manager when you see them succeed publicly (e.g., giving a lecture).
Request Advice: Directly asking a peer manager for guidance is one of the most efficient methods to attach yourself to someone.
The most significant takeaway is that performance evaluations need ongoing and deliberate preparation.