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Perfecting Your Software Developer Performance Review With Data-Driven Analytics


By Alex Circei, CEO & co-founder Waydev.

While financial benefits are essential in talent retention, in my experience, software engineers want to be part of teams where they feel challenged, learn and constantly improve their skills. A crucial element that comes into play in this context is the quality of the performance review these professionals receive. Performance reviews can help teams better understand the project’s objectives, or when done poorly, they can break the morale of the members and cause the company to lose valuable members.

Let’s first look at how not to conduct a software engineer performance review.

Don’t be ambiguous.

Performance reviews motivate teams and offer them the necessary feedback and guidance to overcome difficulties and expand their capabilities. To do so, engineering managers need to be extraordinarily practical and give valuable insights to make an impact.

The best way is by referencing real-time situations, touching upon each team member’s strong and weak points, what they did well, what they can improve and how they can improve this.

Offer your performance review from a project perspective.

For this, you will need to ensure that you clearly understand the project requirements your team is working on.

Understanding the requirements can help you better understand each team member’s impact on the project and enable you to gather all the necessary information to provide relevant feedback and a productive review.

Don’t offer one-sided reviews.

Part of the research you need to do is to understand each situation. This is particularly important when offering negative reviews because this is where things get trickier. If a bad outcome occurs, you have to know what happened, how the team handled things and how they could have done something better.

For this, you must know in real time what is happening with tasks and approach things as soon as they occur.

Don’t fall prey to recency bias.

The recency bias generates the tendency to pay more attention to the most recent period and, thus, only partially assess performance. This can have negative and positive consequences for team members, depending on when they deliver their best work. An excellent way to prevent this is to collect feedback at different points during the development life cycle and prepare for the performance review. It is only by comparing those that a trustworthy result may be achieved.

Why is it essential to get your software engineer performance review right?

Getting performance reviews right is essential for your software engineers, you, a tech leader and your organization.

• Talent retention. When objectively reviewed, developers benefit from a higher level of satisfaction, which translates into higher retention rates. This is because each software engineer receives honest, valuable feedback while also getting an opportunity to state their challenges and work with their managers to solve them.

• Motivate team members. Managers who take performance reviews seriously spend time understanding each team member’s personality and way of working to assess what career development opportunities are good for them and what they may do further. Keeping an objective perspective will help you give a fair review that motivates your team rather than breaking their morale.

• Create diligent teams. Engineering managers often set the tone in their teams. This is why it is crucial to ensure you constantly develop as a leader and build a sound system of software developer performance reviews that are objective, fair and motivating.

• Acknowledge people. The right software engineer performance review identifies the positive involvement that a team has had in the company’s projects and offers acknowledgments to each individual that helped make the project succeed. This validates professionals and makes them feel seen, which is crucial for fostering a good, healthy working environment.

With all that in mind, let’s talk about how to give efficient performance reviews.

• Offer clear feedback. Just how vital honest, unbiased feedback is for the receiver can not be stated enough. Be clear about expectations and results and specify whether the person is meeting the expectations or if they are below or above them.

• Acknowledge achievement beyond the numbers. Assessing metrics is an excellent way of reviewing software engineers, but going beyond the numbers is also extremely important. Praising people for their exceptional results and walking them through their work processes helps make them feel seen and considered.

• Review based on examples. Valid and constructive assessments focus on actual events and situations. To remain a relevant and trustworthy tech leader, you need to always back up your recommendations with examples and reference what approaches are promising and which ones can be improved.

• Offer mentoring. Solutions to improve their skills or expand capabilities are well received by anyone looking to grow their career or expand their knowledge. So why not be a catalyst for these professionals and offer them your guidance and mentoring? This way, you can help the organization retain valuable talent and place yourself as an authority when reviewing the team’s work.

Turn your engineering performance reviews into conversations, ask team members to write down their challenges or struggles and help them create an improvement plan you can assess over the following months.

A quality performance review has a few characteristics, but all reviews should be based on data-driven insights that eliminate subjectivity and gut-driven decisions.

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