June 12, 2022
20 min read

How To Create an Effective Software Engineer Performance Review?

In this article:

A quality software engineer performance review routine is the most powerful and adaptable tool in the arsenal of every engineering team lead and manager.

Performance reviews are an excellent method to ensure your team members are on the right path toward the organizational goals. Continuous feedback lets you assess their work habits and helps them identify the gaps they should work on. Companies use performance review software tools to tap into what performance reviews have to offer.

More specifically, regular one-on-ones can help employees develop professionally and increase their output. Besides, with personalized review templates, users can create tailored-to-their-needs personal growth plans. 

Overall, with performance reviews, you will see who is a high-performer in the team and who is underperforming. This is crucial for sustaining the company’s growth and tapping into employees’ full potential. Now, let’s discover how you can make that happen.

How to write actionable performance review for software engineers?

Identifying the operational gaps in your company's workflow and offering clear instructions about how each individual should proceed to ensure maximum efficiency requires much knowledge. First, you must always decide which standards should be considered during the performance review process. 

Software engineers involved in the web development process need great performance reviews. This will help them enjoy effective professional growth from one performance evaluation to another. 

Many tech companies (including companies that accept cryptocurrency as payment) overlook the importance of actionable feedback. Moreover, many managers evaluate only the surface of their engineering teams. At the same time, they forget to include specific examples of how software developers could improve their performance. Further, let’s find out more insights on the issue raised. 

Preparing for the performance review process

As it is always with adopting an action plan, everything starts with preparation. In such a case, there are three key pre-implementation steps to make. These are the following:

  1. You should determine and assign all the levels/grades within the company’s organizational structure. For instance, you need to establish whether you’ll have Junior Experts, Senior Experts, and a Tech Lead. These are some notable job leveling aspects determining the complexity of the employee structure in your firm. For the review’s sake, each level has particular competencies, roles, and responsibilities you can assess, 
  2. The next step is to design and adopt a skill matrix. It will include all the core competencies and skills employees at each level should have. Besides, you need to set behavioral indicators for each given job grade. Note that in most cases, software developers work in teams. Consider interpersonal skills as important as technical ones in employee development. 
  3. The final preparation step is about creating review surveys based on behavioral indicators and skill matrix competencies. 

In addition to the insights above, always remember that you need to raise three key questions for the most accurate employee assessment. First and foremost, how effectively does a person work as a team member and interact with others? Second, how high is an employee’s productivity level, including the low error margin? Third, how strong are the person’s professional skills, and what is their growth potential? Asking these questions directly impacts the review process decision. 

Besides, during the preparation stage, having access to the library of pre-made review templates is a must. Effy.ai is a performance management software offering you access to multiple performance review templates and much more. The platform enables users to easily start and manage review processes to evaluate employees’ strengths and growth potential accurately. So, don’t put aside a chance to tap into what Effy offers for free. 

How does the performance review process for developers work?

When evaluating an individual's performance, you should always plan ahead and take advantage of the 360-degree feedback approach. This method gives you complete control over the review cycle and easily identifies low performers (depending on your organization's size).

360-degree reviews offer your employees a different perspective on their strengths and weaknesses while giving them clear instructions about their areas for improvement. Many engineering managers in enterprise-level companies use this approach to ensure they always come up with unbiased feedback about software engineers. 

The circular performance review process includes three distinct segments, as follows:

  • manager's evaluation;
  • peer reviews (feedback from other team members);
  • self-review (commonly referred to as self-appraisal).
  • tech skills evaluation (the assessment is done by the tech lead or the most experienced engineer)

Manager's evaluation

Any software engineer performance review must include relevant feedback from their direct manager. Using the list of critical competencies included in their job description, software development engineers should follow a set of crucial aspects.

For example, if you are the team leader of a game development department and a software developer is hired to optimize the overall code quality, one of the main competencies they should have is problem-solving. Therefore, at the end of each review cycle, you can quickly assess how that team member resolved the encountered issues.

Their performance is not necessarily based on whether they resolved the problem but on how they fixed it. One major issue is that most companies focus on the final objective of their departments. However, being performant does not equal being able to fulfill a goal.

You should continually evaluate your subordinates in a circular way by including their approach towards work, their actions and methods applied, and the fulfillment of the organizational goals. Of course, it makes sense only if your company uses a highly optimized workflow.

Peer feedback

Software engineers are usually part of more complex internal and external teams. Therefore, an effective software engineer performance review should include their strengths and weaknesses based on their colleagues' perspectives.

You can ask other team members to provide feedback (either public feedback or anonymous feedback). After gathering feedback from all the relevant peers, analyze all the peer reviews. Some are more advanced, while others are newbies to your team.

However, they all have different perspectives and knowledge about enjoying professional growth. Yet, please note that public feedback may also affect the team’s overall performance, depending on how well your team members get along with each other. Biased feedback is always a risk that should be minimized using different leadership methods.

Positive reviews are not always good feedback. Negative feedback also has its own role for a particular software engineer. Peer reviews help you better understand how exactly the software development engineer manages to work inside the team.Seniors that are part of the workflow can also help you with effective code reviews that will help you identify methods to fulfill particular needs in matters of training.

What is more, other engineers are great feedback sources because they speak a similar language. Engineering managers may not be experts in all the coding languages used in a particular team. Therefore, a senior can be the one that takes the initiative inside the team and comes up with a relevant review about how a particular junior does their job.

Self-appraisals

A self-review is the most complicated one. Think about the last time someone asked you to evaluate your performance. Making sure you are as objective as possible is a challenging task. However, self-feedback is an excellent way of ensuring your software engineers are as self-aware as possible. Software engineers require many technical skills but ensuring customer satisfaction takes more than that.

When it comes to asking someone to evaluate their performance, one thing you might want to consider is that the criteria are your best friend. Like any phase of the software engineer performance review, personal feedback should be objective and relevant.

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Performance review tools for software engineers

Each performance review software comes with its advantages and disadvantages, so choosing the one that works best for you and your company is a matter of comparison.

Such tools have proved very useful for teams aiming at the highest levels of efficiency. To get a better understanding of how exactly a performance review software works, our experts have included a brief description of one of the most popular applications in this field.

Automated review cycles

When it comes to peer performance feedback and self-review, people tend to snooze them until the last minute. Using the integrated progress tracker, you can easily send reminders to all the employees that did not complete their self-assessments. Sending a follow-up message can generate new ideas about self-assessments, so it is best to ensure your employees put their best effort into evaluating their performance.

The available integrations allow your employees to avoid using too many software tools. For example, you can either connect your Slack database and send a performance review request there or ask your subordinates to type their feedback about a colleague in the comments section. 

Moreover, Microsoft Teams can also be connected to your Effy.ai workspace. This way, any software engineer's performance review cycle will be easily completed without worrying about time wasted checking up on different software applications.

Rapidly-deployable surveys for self-reviews

One great way of ensuring any software engineer can come up with relevant and objective feedback about their performance is to include surveys in their assessment. This way, you can set up the key competencies and fields that should be included in any software engineer performance review. 

Software development requires particular knowledge about certain technical activities. Therefore, having a subordinate rating their cooking skills in a job-related review is not necessarily good. Using the surveys, you can ensure that only relevant competencies are included in the review and that your employees do their job as effectively as they are expected to.

Three things to consider about software engineer performance reviews

When evaluating a software engineer's performance, five distinct aspects must be kept in mind. Using this advice, you can guide your subordinates toward success and ensure your company reaches the highest levels in matters of efficiency.

  1. Be objective and unbiased. Feedback is valuable only if it is true. Forget about what that employee did when you met them at the golf club and focus only on what matters for the project. However, if they did a great job during the past months but made some mistakes during the past week, that does not necessarily mean they are not qualified. Maybe they need a break or are unsure what path to take with a particular task.
  2. Peer performance reviews are crucial. What your colleagues have to say about you essentially concludes your work performance. Therefore, make sure you always give people a chance to tell what they think about a particular team member. Maybe there is something that you have overlooked during the past period and should be immediately addressed.
  3. Include a written version. Conducting a 1-on-1 meeting is an excellent way of telling people what they did great and what they did wrong. However, some employees prefer to re-read everything themselves and determine what changes they should make. Therefore, always send out written versions of the cyclic reviews.

5 Essential steps to evaluate software developers

To keep things as high-quality as possible, here are some of the best tips you should consider when evaluating one of your software engineers working in your team.

  • Create an outline - always have a sketch of the meeting so that you can address issues gradually;
  • Use the one-sleep rule - write the review, wait at least 24 hours and then re-read it so that you can make the necessary changes;
  • Look back - discuss 2 or 3 accomplishments from the past year;
  • Look forward - discuss 1 or 2 goals for the following year;
  • Decide the frequency - decide how often you will follow up with another performance review (monthly, quarterly, yearly).

FAQ: Software engineer performance review in 2023

What are some good performance goals for a software engineer?

The operational goals should be clear, transparent, and objective regarding software developer performance reviews. One interesting approach you can take advantage of is called S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and anchored within a Time Frame). Using these factors, you, as a team leader, can come up with relevant goals for all the software engineering performance reviews.

How do you evaluate programmer performance?

Evaluating software engineering requires a lot of knowledge related to the technical field itself, as well as auxiliary knowledge. Coming up with interesting and relevant performance reviews involves correlating positive and negative feedback and including improvement suggestions for the software engineering field.

What should I write in a performance review for developers?

When writing software engineering performance reviews, you should focus on several key aspects of your job: technical competencies, interpersonal skills, approach towards work, and peer reviews. All these factors will help you, as a business owner or a team manager, to identify the gaps in your subordinate's workflow and guide them toward the solution.

How do you rate a software engineer? 

Depending on your company's business model, you can take advantage of many approaches. Generally, one of the best ways to create relevant performance reviews for software engineers is to assess how they did their job instead of whether they reached the operational goals.

What’s Effy software?
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1:1s
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Personal development plan
Develop your people by providing them an explicit plan to the next level. Track goals progression.
Analytics
Create a skill set, competency matrix for your company and teams.
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