Writing Software Engineer Performance Reviews in 2023

With the end of the year right around the corner, your year-end self-evaluation for performance review is quickly approaching. If you manage software engineers, you likely use a combination of metrics and subjective criteria to judge their performance.

Software engineer performance reviews never seem to get easier, so preparing for them is your best bet for yourself and your employees, especially if you find them nerve-wracking yourself!

In this article, we'll talk about performance reviews for software engineers, the benefits they provide, and tips you can use to ensure you conduct effective ones.

The article will attempt to answer all your questions.

Types of Software Engineer Performance Reviews

Types of Software Engineer Performance Reviews

In many companies, software engineer performance review goals examples are used, with each focusing on a different performance metric and business model. Let's examine the peculiarities of each option in greater detail in order to determine which option will be optimal for your company.

Manager Reviews

To evaluate an engineer's performance, managers are required to conduct incorruptible and consistent reviews.

Providing feedback to developers requires managers to suggest the most beneficial strategy to enhance their performance. Typically, it includes the tools, approaches, and resources to learn, such as mastering a new programming language, completing training, or taking advanced software classes.

Self-Appraisals

One of the most common software engineer performance review examples used for evaluating employee productivity is the self-appraisal model. Managers need to perform a thorough self-analysis of each metric to gain a better understanding of the overall performance.

People may be overly critical of their performance or excessively confident about it, just as with any other self-evaluation process.

Peer Reviews

In this category, each team member and colleague from the same department can act as a reviewer and handle the assessment, making it the most accurate performance review model for software engineers.

It is usually conducted anonymously, but reviewers have spent most of their time with a software engineer under test, worked on the same projects, etc. The anonymity of this process encourages openness and better engagement in the reviewing process without negatively impacting the working relationship of the reviewer.

Ultimately, this provides a great benefit for accessing the reviewee's strengths and defining areas for improvement.

360-Degree Assessment

By combining two or more evaluation models, the process of software engineer performance review can be enhanced. This type of review involves analyzing multiple assessment sources, thereby providing a more detailed assessment of the employee's abilities.

Typically, it's categorized and delivered as feedback for each developer, allowing for deeper insights into their strengths and weaknesses and enabling them to establish more accurate software engineer objectives.

How to Conduct a Software Engineer Performance Review

How to Conduct a Software Engineer Performance Review.jpeg

1. Identify your criteria

The Coding Sans State of Software Development survey found that 27% of tech leaders do not use performance metrics. A major problem with most reviews is that we rarely define what we expect from our subordinates, and if we know what we want, we are likely to get it.

These are the most popular among those who do:

Criteria for engineer performance review.jpeg

In addition to these criteria, we've categorized suggestions from Michael Shpilt, software developer and blogger, and David Kofoed Wind, CEO, into three categories: core job responsibilities, communication, and extra effort.

2. Choose the right metrics

This step will break down possible review metrics, such as code readability, communication skills, proactivity, and velocity.

- Readability and design of code

In addition to maintaining, reusing, and testing the code, development teams should ensure the system runs without failures. Additionally, when code is easy to understand and well-designed, code review becomes a breeze. Using code quality as a metric for peer reviews is ideal since peer engineers and software architects typically conduct code reviews.

- Velocity

Product Backlog items or story points are measured by velocity during a specific interval, usually a sprint. As a result of how quickly similar work was previously completed, teams can estimate how much work they can complete in a sprint based on this metric.

Additionally, the company can compare the productivity of a particular developer to the amount of time they spend on similar tasks. It is easier to measure these estimates with a thorough understanding of the task complexity and software architecture.

- Competencies in communication

An analysis of ZipRecruiter found that these soft skills were the most in demand. Being a software engineer involves working with a team of developers with different backgrounds and technical skills, which can be extremely challenging.

Team leaders or CTOs should observe how willingly a developer shares information, asks questions, listens, and focuses on the problem rather than the individual. Code reviews also reveal how carefully they choose words.

- Proactivity

Proactive developers have the confidence and courage to express their ideas about improving a product or the development process. Successful ideas and plans do not emerge from nowhere.

A manager should appreciate such aspirations and never confront them since a developer can be replaced by a machine if he follows orders.

- Number of bugs

A tech company can compare the number of errors found in production with those found in testing. Employers should refrain from allowing such metrics to foster heroism or blame culture instead of teamwork, even though they can help identify a developer's areas for improvement.

Explicit discussions of bugs can sometimes lead to disagreements between developers about which engineers caused which bugs, as well as a lack of cooperation between them. In addition, it can hurt relationships between teams.

Most developers and testers do not get along, and the hostility will only grow if every bug found by a tester hurts a developer's performance. Therefore, companies should only pay attention to how many critical bugs are found.

By implementing a formal process for manual code reviews, several fresh eyes with complementary expertise can uncover mistakes the original programmer may have missed during code writing.

Moreover, while individuals are susceptible to errors, experts may be able to identify a bug or security flaw. Automated code review tools may need to be used to handle this.

For all its benefits, the following are some peer evaluation examples for coding standards that you as a manager can suggest:

  • When creating source code, add comments
  • Test everything before you assume it works
  • Propose code for testing
  • Make sure that pull requests are small and focused
  • Run automated code checks
  • Check all PRs and code
  • Check code lines and review time limits
  • Examine the security code

3. Internal communication

Setting up a productive workflow among developers requires effective communication and interaction with the team. It has been found that 86% of employees complain about their projects failing due to a lack of effective collaboration and interaction. On the other hand, teams with excellent communication can increase productivity by nearly 25%. During communication, engineers can brainstorm solutions for a specific project and troubleshoot problems.

In addition, it will enhance the exchange of experience between them and their peers, team leads, and stakeholders, which will lead to the acquisition of some new skills.

4. Completed projects from the review period

As part of the review period, managers can ask developers to keep track of their accomplishments. It will be easier for them to prepare for the assessment if they write down each project, its scope, and completion date in a spreadsheet or use a project management tool.

Each completed project can also be evaluated using the following questions:

  • Have you acquired any new skills?
  • Do you have any challenges to overcome?
  • What were your solutions to these problems?
  • What factors contributed to those situations?

5. Recognize achievements

Team leaders and engineering managers can analyze the most significant projects that have resulted in achieving the product goal and improving user satisfaction using a list of completed projects and KPI scores.

The developer's perspective is equally valuable when hearing about accomplishments.

The team leader should also observe what new skills the developer has learned to demonstrate growth and readiness for new responsibilities and whether they have been open to experimenting, trying new things, and finding out what works well for them.

Companies must find specialists on the job market to close skill gaps with internal talent willing to learn the latest technologies. Developers who continuously update their skills should be rewarded.

6. Establish a cadence

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Your next step is to decide on a cadence. Annual, biannual, and quarterly are common cadences.

Three types of reviews are recommended by Coding Sans, each with a different cadence:

  • The annual compensation decision
  • A snapshot of performance on a quarterly or per-project basis
  • Check-in on a weekly basis

Regarding cadence, separating performance reviews and compensation meetings may be a good idea. People tend to tune out once they hear their compensation numbers, reducing the impact of the rest of the meeting.

7. Include the right people

Having defined what you want to measure and how often, it's time to determine who you need to talk to about your direct report. Are you letting People Ops or HR handle it, or is the manager handling it?

The Manager's Path by Camille Fournier describes a 360-feedback example as integrating feedback from team members, direct reports, peers, and oneself. In addition to product managers, project managers, your manager, QA, and others, you may also want to include them.

Even if it's not an official part of the review, it's a good idea to grab a coffee with the people who oversee your engineer's work to know what they think about your strengths and weaknesses.

8. Ask the right questions

In spite of training, not all managers who conduct appraisals are experienced in the process. Many new managers are just as nervous as you are about conducting a review.

As a starting point, here are 6 powerful questions to ask in your performance review:

  • Are there any recent experiences, projects, or actions you are proud of?
  • Has your manager helped you achieve your goals in the past few months?
  • What do you enjoy most about your job?
  • What corporate/personal goals were achieved? Which ones failed?
  • In what ways are you relied upon by your team or company?
  • How do you envision the next quarter/six months/year?
  • What do colleagues and clients think of your recent interactions?

How to Give a Fair Performance Review to Software Engineers

Here are some tips to help you better prepare for your developers' next performance review:

  • Finding the time to do it right takes a lot more time. More managers should do it, even though it is such a big win. Spend the time on a proper, in-depth review, especially when building trust with your direct reports.

  • Your review needs to be clear and realistic and be a basis for your team members' learning. How do you expect the review to motivate, build trust, or teach them?

  • Software engineers are motivated by a variety of factors. As a manager, you should learn their expectations and how you can help them in reaching them.

  • More is needed to point out what developers need to improve in the future. You need to set their development course based on the results of the reviews, their current projects, and the specialists' priorities.

  • Ensure that your performance review considers individual competencies by reviewing previous performance appraisals. Earlier appraisals will help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of developers.

  • Ensure that your team members have a clear understanding of their job descriptions. This will simplify the review process.

  • You should coach your engineers during the performance review. The main purpose of a performance review is to improve productivity at work by allowing your engineers to learn and develop their abilities. Make sure they learn what they need to do better and help them make the necessary changes to their work.

  • Some developers could be better communicators, making it easier for you to communicate with them. If you have such employees, you can better communicate with them by paying attention to their body language.

  • Organize your findings better by writing a custom review before using the standard review format.

  • A pleasant conversation is another task. It is also important to create a friendly atmosphere during the meeting and explain what employees will gain from it. It is not just a compensation review. Developers will be more efficient if they know the benefits of performance reviews.

  • Keeping a finger on the pulse and taking a systematic approach make performance reviews more effective than a one-time meeting every six months.

Importance of a Good Software Engineer Performance Review

Performance reviews are essential for your software engineers, you as a tech leader, and your organization. Here's why:

Talent retention

Objectively reviewing developers results in higher satisfaction levels, leading to higher retention rates. Because software engineers receive honest and valuable feedback from their managers, along with the opportunity to discuss their challenges.

Encourage teamwork

When managers take performance reviews seriously, they take time to understand each team member's personality and way of working. Keeping an objective perspective can give your team a fair review that motivates them instead of breaking them down.

Build diligent teams

You should always strive to improve your leadership skills and build a system of objective, fair, and motivating software developer performance reviews.

Appreciate people

A software engineer performance review identifies the positive contributions that each team member has made to the company's projects and acknowledges them individually. To foster a healthy working environment, professionals need to feel validated and seen.

All that said, let's discuss how to give efficient performance reviews.

1. Be clear and concise

You cannot emphasize enough how important honest, unbiased feedback is to the receiver. Be clear about expectations and results and let the receiver know if they are meeting them or not.

2. Recognize accomplishments beyond numbers

Reviewing metrics is an excellent way of assessing software engineers, but praising their work and walking them through their procedures is equally important.

3. Use examples to review

A valid and constructive assessment should be based on actual events and situations. To remain a relevant and credible tech leader, you must also reference what approaches are promising and should be improved.

4. Give Mentorship

Enhancing a person's skills and expanding their capabilities will be beneficial to anyone seeking career advancement or expanding knowledge. By offering your guidance and mentoring, you can help the organization retain valuable talent and place yourself as an authority when reviewing the team's work.

5. Use Data-driven insights

Use data to eliminate subjectivity and gut instinct from a quality performance review. ‍

‍Performance Evaluation Challenges

Only a few enterprises have implemented employee performance reviews into their workflow despite recent studies by Betterworks showing companies outperformed competitors by 24%.

This process entails challenges that are actually beneficial to the review process.

  • Easily biased

The performance reviewer's perception of workflow processes will always influence the performance review, which can help determine how the team members perform and what they are capable of. Consequently, you'll get a "second opinion" that can help you discover valuable insights that were overlooked.

  • Individual or team evaluation

The better option may be to set personal goals for each developer and then emphasize how these objectives will help you develop your team.

  • Poor performance assessment

Performance reviews are about more than just getting the results. Apart from an in-depth analysis of employee performance, you should also provide feedback on how it could be improved.

Wrapping Up

A successful performance review is essential for the longevity of your software development company. It is efficient for your in-house team as well as for distributed teams.

The next time you have to do a performance review, take a look at our tips and examples. If you're struggling, remember that it's better to be in the process of continuous improvement rather than waiting for perfection to happen.

To provide our clients with impeccable services, Remotebase is a results-driven organization. In 24 hours, we will provide highly skilled software developers with comprehensive coding skills.

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Software Engineer Performance Review: FAQs

How should software engineers measure their performance?

Performance reviews for software developers should be transparent, objective, and clear. An interesting approach is called SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and anchored within a Time Frame). You can come up with relevant software engineering performance review goals using these factors as a team leader.

How do you evaluate programmers?

The evaluation of software engineering requires both technical and auxiliary knowledge. The key to creating interesting and relevant performance reviews is correlating positive and negative feedback and making improvements.

How do you rate a software engineer?

You can use a variety of approaches depending on your business model. One of the best ways to evaluate software engineers is to assess how they performed rather than whether they met operational targets.

Did you enjoy this read? Have a look at these articles, too: 10 Highest Paying Developer Jobs in 2023 and Guide to Developer Vetting Process in 2023.