How To Do Performance Reviews for Software Engineers

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Regina Welle
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Regina Welle
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How To Do Performance Reviews for Software Engineers

Table of Contents

Conducting performance reviews for software engineers can get confusing, but start here for some ideas so you can help your tech team move forward with work.
Published on
February 9, 2023
Updated on
October 10, 2023

Performance reviews are an essential part of several different career paths, but they’re necessary in the technological world, including software engineering. Performance reviews help engineers learn about their strengths and weaknesses and offer guidance.

Still, some software engineers don’t understand the importance of performance reviews, and even more fail to realize how to conduct one effectively. That's why it's important to see software engineer performance review goals examples.

Why Are Performance Reviews for Engineers and Developers Important?

Performance reviews benefit the developer, their team, and the company they work for. For example, from a developer’s point of view, performance reviews are a way they can learn to work more efficiently. A more efficient developer makes the whole team more efficient, too. The business also benefits from that efficiency because when things tend to be done right the first time, it improves workflow and decreases the cost of production.

Performance reviews can also affect the relationship with the client. An effective review system allows bugs to be found and squashed more efficiently, ensuring that the final product or service is of high quality. Finally, creating employee goals for software engineers and developers helps you evaluate their progress, and it becomes easier to determine how to help them improve.

What Should a Performance Review for a Software Engineer Include?

Now that you understand the importance of conducting a software engineer performance review, you’re probably wondering what you should include in your follow-up evaluation. While performance review for software engineers may differ from company to company, there are a few essential components that make up performance reviews:

Actionable Feedback

Feedback can be challenging to give and hard to hear. But feedback is essential to a company’s growth and future success. Most employees rely on accurate assessments of their work to help them improve in their field.

Feedback shouldn’t just tell your team what they’ve done wrong and where they can improve; it should also explain expectations, help improve a team’s confidence, and build trust between the employees and the employer.

But what makes feedback practical and actionable?

  • Specificity: Any feedback given to your employees should be clear and straight to the point. Your employees should not have to guess what they’re supposed to improve on. The clearer you are regarding your vision, the better the outcome will be with your employees' work.
  • Preparation: You must prepare to have a serious conversation. Contemplate the issues that need addressing, the expected outcome, and more. Also, be ready to manage bad reactions. Sometimes employees can get defensive, especially if they feel they’re being cornered or attacked. If you find yourself at odds with an employee, extend empathy. Empathy goes a long way; your employee will likely drop their guard and become more sensitive to the situation.
  • Knowledge: Besides preparing for the conversation, you must understand why the conversation needs to happen in the first place. Figure out why you’re handing out feedback, and ensure that your feedback will provide helpful information.

Opportunities for Growth

One of the most important aspects of a performance management review is providing employees with areas where they can grow. These may include:

  • Attitude: Attitude can mean many things to different people. When fostering a better employee attitude, possible factors to consider include patience, empathy, acceptance, sympathy, trust, judgment, self-control, leadership, honesty, respect, attentiveness, determination, approachability, and positivity. A good work attitude and mindset go a long way in building a healthy work culture.
  • Conflict resolution: Even a well-rounded team can expect to face some conflict here and there. If a dispute isn’t dealt with, it can reach a boiling point. Those in managerial roles are responsible for resolving conflicts, but employees should be encouraged to resolve their own disputes.
  • Time management: Time management is critical. It’s how well your team will manage their tasks and be able to meet deadlines. Encouraging good time management skills is a must for organizations that want a reputation for high-quality and convenient products and services.

Performance Issues

Typically, performance issues happen when your employees underperform. Burnout is one possible cause of performance issues, but what else can cause them?

  • Insufficient technical skills: One of the main criteria for being a software developer is a good foundation of technical skills. The technological world is constantly evolving, and developers’ skills and tools should keep up. However, some developers are set in their ways and use outdated technologies. Others lack adequate training, resulting in poorly written code, defects, and bugs. Provide them with the proper training and tools to succeed, and have seniors mentor juniors through their projects.
  • Poor working environment: The working environment is critical to a team's process and performance. A supportive and healthy workplace contributes to productivity. Gathering employee feedback on what they want to see improved is a helpful step.
  • Unclear expectations: Employees have trouble meeting expectations if they don't know what those expectations are. Sometimes, companies even fail to write a clear and concise job description, creating confusion from the start. It’s vital that you set clear guidelines for the roles and responsibilities of your employees and conduct routine meetings to discuss progress and provide feedback.

Operational Goals

How do you define operational goals? An operational goal is a time-sensitive goal. Its purpose is often to keep employees on track and drive their daily functions.

  • Come up with a business strategy: Before you come up with any goals, decide on your overall business strategy. If you’re a nonprofit, you’ll have a different business strategy than a small business. Decide what your business strategy is and then stick with it.
  • Break them up: If you already have an operational goal, break it down into smaller milestones. Having smaller plans to focus on instead of one significant objective can help your team focus on efficiently completing daily tasks.
  • Set realistic deadlines: While deadlines can add stress to your team’s workflow, that isn’t always the case. Don’t expect your team to finish a week’s worth of projects in a single day. Instead, make realistic deadlines for your team to focus on.

Collaboration

No matter what business you’re in, collaboration among your team members will be essential to the longevity and success of your company.

How can collaboration be improved?

  • Improve technology: Several computer, Android, and iOS apps allow for better collaboration. For example, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Trello are popular applications that can improve collaboration. These apps are essential for teams with remote workers but can be just as important for in-house management teams, who can share and communicate with their teams more effectively when working different shifts.
  • Provide encouragement: Encouragement can go a long way in guiding employees to work together and form meaningful and lasting relationships. Encouragement also reinforces patience and kindness, and you can influence your employees to do better.
  • Offer effective feedback: Feedback is always important, but it’s even more important if you provide your employees with feedback early on. Early feedback can help employees remain motivated and focused and will also help them collaborate with their teammates more effectively.

How Should You Measure Employee Performance?

Employees are what makes your business succeed or fail.

When measuring performance, it’s essential to recognize both stronger- and weaker-performing employees. For those who over-perform, showing gratitude and appreciation by acknowledging their hard work can ensure they continue to perform exceptionally well. And for those who perform just enough or underperform, feedback that is clear, tactful, and actionable may be just what they need.

Measuring performance can be intimidating, so how should you do it? Here are a few software engineer performance review examples:

Code Reviews

Reviewing code can be daunting. Typically, when code is written, there’s a lot of it, and it can be written in several different languages. So, when reviewing code, use these tips to help you:

  • Process 400 lines of code or fewer at a time: The brain can only process so much information at once; too much, and the risk increases that you'll overlook defects. For best practices, review 200-400 lines of code every 60 to 90 minutes, and you should be able to pinpoint 70% to 90% of bugs.
  • Have authors annotate source code: Your developers should be annotating their code before you review it. Annotating the code will help you comb through any changes and help you quickly find any defects or bugs. Additionally, authors who annotate their work are likely to pick up on bugs while doing so, saving you some work.
  • Make a plan for debugging: Once you’ve found bugs and defects in the code, it’s critical to have a plan in place to fix these issues. Know how you're going to quickly tackle any troubleshooting or debugging that needs to be done. If you wait until the last minute to devise a plan, you may have to scramble.

Code Readability

Code readability is another area that needs to be evaluated appropriately. This is what makes code either well-written or sloppy. The standards for code readability vary among developers and their teams, but no matter what, it should be easy to read and understand.

Well-written code can be easily maintained, managed, modified, and debugged without a ton of time and effort.

Code that is readable has the following characteristics:

  • Objects, methods, and functions perform one action.
  • Methods and functions are written to be clear and concise.
  • Objects, methods, and functions are named with actionable requests in mind.
  • Unnecessary and obvious comments are avoided.
  • Similar code is grouped.
  • Deep nestling is avoided.

Communication

Internal communication is another area critical to employee performance. To assess it, you can:

  • Evaluate employee responses and feedback
  • Review employee engagement
  • Monitor employee turnover rates
  • Use analytic tools to view performance
  • Assess how many employees have been reached

Professional Growth

Professional growth typically refers to improving identity, talents, awareness, and potential. Mostly, this type of growth will rely on your employee, who must have the necessary dedication and determination to reach professional development.

To evaluate professional growth, assess your employees on the following criteria:

  • Has a similar vision to your company and works hard to achieve it
  • Shows a high need for growth and maturity in the career world
  • Reaches professional objectives
  • Takes a responsible approach toward professional growth and development
  • Demonstrates initiative in goal setting
  • Is confident in their ability to lead others

Individual Contribution

Individual contribution is just as significant as team contribution, if not more, at least regarding metrics. Measuring personal contribution allows you to assess an employee’s ability to work independently and determine how much effort they put into your company on their own. Assessing individual contributions will allow you to see who can perform independently and who can’t.

Alignment With Organizational Goals

Ensuring your employee’s goals and vision align with your organizational goals and idea is imperative to your company’s success. Companies with employees aligned with their goals have been found to increase their revenue 58% faster and be 72% more profitable.

The increase in revenue and profitability is likely due to:

  • Clear, shared priorities
  • Connections among employees, teams, and management
  • Employee understanding of the role of their contributions in organizational goals

Software Engineer Performance Review Examples

There are several types of performance reviews to consider implementing. The two most common are peer reviews and 360-degree feedback.

Peer Reviews

Peer reviews are a type of informal performance review that happens when one or more employees evaluate another employee’s performance over a period of time, including their skills, attitude, and capabilities. For most companies, employees will only assess a co-worker’s performance if they have a strong working relationship and interact daily.

Peer reviews have their drawbacks. They can be stressful for both parties, especially if employees know they’re being watched. In addition, interpersonal dynamics between co-workers can affect the results; an employee may protect a friend or sabotage someone they dislike.

If peer reviews are used, reviewers must remain anonymous.

360-Degree Feedback

360-degree feedback comes from all sides; direct reports, peer feedback, and feedback from managers are all used to evaluate an employee’s work performance.

This type of feedback provides a diverse set of input as it comes from multiple sources, allowing the employer to see the employee through a wider lens. 360-degree feedback is also more reliable and offers better insights into an employee’s performance. Additionally, employees place trust in this type of feedback, since it’s coming from all directions and not just one.

However, there are some notable drawbacks. For example, 360-degree feedback needs to come from the right people, or it won’t be effective. The reviewers must come from different perspectives, be in a position to know the employee's performance well, and not be so close to the employee that they can't be objective.

Additionally, 360-degree reviews take more time since they’re more involved than other performance reviews.

Tips for Giving Constructive Feedback

To give feedback that is constructive and helpful instead of flat and unactionable, keep these principles in mind:

  • Provide consistent feedback: If you want to make a difference in how employees improve their skills, provide feedback regularly. This will allow employees to make smaller course corrections and maintain a full understanding of your expectations for them.
  • Communicate face-to-face: Having your constructive feedback delivered face-to-face rather than through written or digital communication is crucial. Digital communication leaves too much room for misinterpretation and can appear standoffish and indifferent, whereas direct, face-to-face communication allows for an organic human connection.
  • Counter the negative with positive: When you approach someone with constructive feedback, it’s just as important to compliment strengths as it is to pick apart their weaknesses. Tell them what they’re doing well, and then provide feedback on where they can improve. Complimenting their strengths will make them feel appreciated and valued and may make them want to work harder to improve their shortcomings.

How Often Should You Conduct Performance Evaluations?

How often a performance evaluation should be conducted varies depending on the industry and company. However, companies typically perform evaluations every 6 or 12 months.

End of Year

In end-of-year performance reviews, or annual performance reviews, the employer or manager, will review their employees’ year-round performance, offer performance appraisals and employee reviews, and assess whether they have met their goals. During these reviews, both the employer and employee get an opportunity to address any work-related questions and discuss future plans and goals.

Mid-Year

During a mid-year review, the company evaluates the employee’s performance. They identify knowledge gaps, ensure developmental goals are being met, and change direction and develop a new plan if needed.

Implement a Fair Performance Review for Software Engineer

It can be intimidating to conduct performance reviews and ensure that feedback is constructive and fair, but it's important so that you can improve employee morale. If you’re unsure how to perform performance reviews or are too scared to try, reach out to Revelo. We can help.

Our mission is to connect U.S.-based companies with top-quality developers and engineers in Latin America to help scale your engineering teams. We can help you find your footing in doing fair performance reviews or hook you up with a team member to handle it.

Are you interested in finding out more? 

Further Resource: Alternative Engineering Recruiting

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