Engineering Performance Review (2023)

In order to maintain career growth and ensure fair compensation, every engineering team needs an efficient method to evaluate its members.

Engineering Performance Review (1)

A nicely developed assessment model requires considerable resources in terms of time and professional expertise. However, we believe it is a significant contribution to the team and business development, that is definitely worth it.

Railsware invests a significant part of the company’s income in the team and products. It is obvious that the growth of engineering expertise directly affects the success and profitability of the entire company. The more income we earn, the higher the level of compensation. We have developed our own model of annual performance review, which is based on this correlation.

The Railsware approach was developed over seven years ago. As our business grows, processes improve and new roles emerge, the assessment method is being constantly updated.

Contents hide

1 The Process

2 Skill Matrix

(Video) A Performance Review Example for Software Engineers (from an engineering manager)

3 Assessment and feedback biases

3.1 Common evaluation problems and how we deal with them

3.1.1 Time Bias

3.1.2 Over Strictness or Leniency

3.1.3 Averaging the team

4 How we avoid evaluation biases

5 Recap

(Video) How Performance Review Works for Software Engineers (From L8 SWE at Microsoft)

The Process

We believe that engineering performance reviewed by the manager can become quite subjective. Being unaware of the whole picture and the feedback from other team members, one person may be biased. That is why we decided to focus on the peer review model, where engineer evaluation is based on the feedback from other engineers. The engineering management team acts as a moderator of the process.

We developed a matrix with the core skills, competencies, and areas of responsibility for the Product Engineering teams. These teams don’t have Project Managers and are independently responsible for the development process, planning, scoping, and product architecture.

According to this matrix, engineers assess the colleagues they’ve been working with during the past period. They define the level of each skill in accordance with the estimation scale.

Constructive feedback must be attached to each evaluation: what exceeded or was below expectations, what could have been done better and why. This way all initiatives completed by the team will be taken into account. E.g. an engineer proactively configured a CI Pipeline, accelerated test suite, or sorted out all the bottlenecks of the planned feature and helped break it down into detailed tasks – all this should be considered during the performance review.

Peer review metrics help to define an engineer’s position on the growth scale, relevant level of compensation, and what one should focus on for future development. The performance review results in compensation revision and regular feedback for each engineer. The level of compensation is defined according to the company’s growth and holistic feedback.

There are 3 things I like in the Railsware performance review process:

    It is regular. There is no reason to have awkward talks and ask for a salary review. All happens automatically.
    It is transparent. All the assessment categories are known and well described from the first day. I can focus on the interesting activities that help to boost my skills.
    It brings actionable feedback from my colleagues with good and to-improve points.

Engineering Performance Review (2)

Olexander Paladiy

Product Manager

Skill Matrix

Railsware Engineer Assessment System is a skill matrix. We had two goals in mind while developing it:

  1. Show the ways of professional development to the team
  2. Provide support in career growth and create a compensation enhancement model

Taking into consideration the needs of product engineering teams and business goals, we came up with four main skills to assess. Each has three categories.

1. Technical Skill. A basic engineering skill containing the breadth and depth of the technical stack knowledge. This includes:

  • Core engineering – understanding and usage of data structures, design patterns, refactoring, testing, and TDD, dealing with technical debt.
  • Deep expertise – level of knowledge of main technologies, frameworks, and libraries, complexity and uniqueness of the solved tasks, experience in improving application performance.
  • Broad knowledge – the ability to come up with alternative approaches and architectures. Knowledge of other programming languages, frameworks, and databases, along with the ability to propose and implement it in the proper way. An engineer should understand the pros and cons of each proposed technology, see how it fits the current project.

2. Productivity. This is about an engineer’s productivity while working on a product. Both individual and team impact is being assessed here. Productivity is not about the number of lines of code written per hour. Its meaning lies in the quality and stability of the implemented solutions and following established team code review practice:

(Video) Preparing for the Performance Review as a Software Engineer (from an engineering manager)

  • Speed of delivery – meeting planned deadlines or getting ahead of schedule. The skill of breaking tasks into smaller manageable parts is also assessed here.
  • Stability of output – the solution stability, the number of changes made after review, as well as the ability to unblock oneself and others.
  • Speed of learning and obtaining new context – time required to deal with a new stack or project. Another thing that counts here is helping others learn a new context: writing documentation and proactive work in pairs.

3. Product Contribution. Here we assess all tech leadership activities that go outside of the core skill – writing code. There is no Project Manager role in most of our teams. That’s why working directly with a product owner, engineers develop task requirements, do planning and decide on execution. Along with the building development process, engineers are responsible for the application architecture, mentoring, and onboarding.

Such structure requires a good understanding of the product, users, business priorities, and managing technical depth. The more responsibility and involvement in such activities an engineer has, the higher level of his Product Contribution.

Read our Product Engineering article to know more about this approach.

4. Soft skills. Soft skills are often an underestimated part of the engineering team. Mostly it is perceived as the ability to negotiate and find common ground with others. We have divided these skills into three equivalent categories:

  • Proactiveness and leadership, decision-making, ownership over the task from requirements level to release, feedback on improving development processes, and so on.
  • Communication skills and teamwork.
  • General work approach, which we call Work Ethics. Independence, focus on results, reliability, and work transparency are assessed here. It is not related to communication skills but shows if an engineer can be entrusted to solve problems independently.

The skillset and performance review method is described in detail to all company engineers, especially newcomers. From the first days, we reach out to all team members to explain how the scale works and answer the following questions: what is essential for the product and business, and how to grow in the company.

Engineering Performance Review (3)

Assessment and feedback biases

Feedback should be fundamental for an objective review process. It has to be specific and detailed. Therefore we have highlighted two mandatory sections of holistic feedback: Goods – what went good, To-improves – things that could be improved, accompanied with clear argumentation and possible alternative results.

Biases often arise when developing feedback or during the assessment. This can hinder objectivity. It can happen either because of a lack of information or an excessive concentration on recent events.

Common evaluation problems and how we deal with them

Time Bias

Performance reviews take place every 12 months. Skills level and all results achieved during the past calendar year are taken into consideration.

However, sometimes feedback is shaped shortly before the performance review process, while only recent achievements of the last 1-2 months remain in the memory. Conversely, peer feedback may be based on events that happened a long time ago but are stuck in memory. Some great achievements in the long past remain in our memory and affect all skills and performance estimates in the future.

Over Strictness or Leniency

Some people can be too demanding to other team members and treat minor mistakes too critically. E.g. if one forgets to fix linter warnings before creating a pull request it is not a reason to evaluate an overall technical skill as low.

Others can miss critical things such as a lack of tests or obvious performance problems and over-assess the teammate. It is important to understand which group of skills a contribution belongs to and avoid evaluating all skills simultaneously.

Averaging the team

Every time there is an “average” score on the scale, people are tempted to use it, just for a quick evaluation. It happens when a reviewer doesn’t have enough feedback and has no time or desire to collect it.

And this is not about the average estimation itself, but about the lack of argumentation and constructive feedback. Such evaluations bring no value to the end-users of the performance review process – the engineering team. The average score must be supported by a list of goods/to-improves and have enough explanations for why this skill is not above/below average.

A detailed skill matrix and a clear understanding of the engineer role in the team help to avoid averaging estimations.

In our performance review process, I like the elimination of biases the most. This is achieved by working in review groups and doing the planning poker.

You might have a strong (and sometimes, too emotional) opinion on some features of the engineer you evaluate. But your review groupmates usually make it more impartial and weighted.

Engineering Performance Review (4)

Viktor Zahorodnii

Full Stack Engineer

(Video) Performance Review Tips for Engineers (From an Engineering Principal)

How we avoid evaluation biases

The engineering management team is responsible for creating the scale of skills and developing the performance review process itself. This team also acts as a moderator during the peer review, helping to avoid biases.

The review is performed in several groups with up to 4-5 engineers in each. Each participant estimates skills in categories for the team members, supporting evaluation with feedback. After this, a final assessment is displayed, using the planning poker method. It is similar to how the team does the task estimation during the sprint.
This way all participants of the review process moderate each other, minimizing biases and improving the overall understanding of the skill matrix. As a result, a group review becomes more objective.

Additional questions help to clarify the details of some cases, and feedback from team members gives an overview from different perspectives. Each skill of the matrix has its specific list of questions, which helps to assess the skill. E.g., if a team member suggested to refactor the main part of the codebase, one should understand how it was explained to the product owner, how it was planned, who was in charge of the task execution.

It is important to describe each case in detail to define skills level according to the scale.


The performance review method at Railsware helps to define engineer’s engagement in projects, direct responsibilities, and company life: onboarding for newcomers, participation in side-projects, and team development. All this affects the compensation level and every engineer sees direct dependency of the compensation on the scope of work.

Of course, there will always be a bit of subjectivity, however, we believe that this can be managed. Our model is based on data and cross-functional feedback which makes the whole review process transparent.

We believe this model helps to motivate Railswarians. On average people stay in the company for 5 years and this is the best proof.

Want to join Railsware? Checkout our job openings


How do you write a performance review for an engineer? ›

How to conduct a software engineer performance review
  1. Consider the type of performance review. ...
  2. Decide on the criteria. ...
  3. Gather relevant information. ...
  4. List projects from the review period. ...
  5. Acknowledge achievements. ...
  6. Suggest specific goals for improvement. ...
  7. Deliver the review. ...
  8. Set clear expectations.
Mar 10, 2023

What are the 5 key elements of performance review? ›

Let's have a look at five elements of a healthy performance review process.
  • Regularity. ...
  • A Strong Focus on Goals. ...
  • Two-Way Conversations. ...
  • Balanced Feedback. ...
  • Performance-Based Incentives.
May 16, 2017

What are 4 components in a performance review? ›

Writing the performance review

Performance compared to agreed-upon expectations. Key accomplishments and contributions. Examples of strengths and development opportunities. Key expectations for the coming year.

What are the 5 C's of performance? ›

We call it the 5 Cs: Common Purpose, Clear Expectations, Communication and Alignment, Coaching and Collaboration, and Consequences and Results. On the surface, it's a simple framework but in practical application, it can really change the game for teams and leaders.

What are the 5 C's of performance management? ›

These five elements; Create, Comprehend, Communicate, Collaborate and Confront, form the basis of an effective people management approach. Whilst each element is important in its own right they all interrelate with and support the others.

What are the 3 key elements to make a good performance? ›

A framework for performance management

An effective process will address these three interlinked components: Planning – do employees know what you're evaluating? Cultivation – creating the space for employees to bloom. Accountability – making performance a proactive process.

How do I write a summary of myself for a performance review? ›

How to write a performance self-evaluation
  1. Make a list of your positive attributes. To write a self-performance review, first determine where you are in your professional career. ...
  2. Reflect on your accomplishments. ...
  3. Reflect on your mistakes. ...
  4. Close with opportunities to grow.
Mar 16, 2023

What not to write in a performance review? ›

Avoid using words like "always" and "never" in employee appraisals. Employees rarely "always" or "never" do something, whether it is positive or negative. Using extremes can leave you open to employees who want to argue and prove that they did what you accused them of "never" doing.

What are the 3 core questions of performance reviews? ›

Performance Review Questions: Overall Performance

Good questions: What accomplishments this quarter are you most proud of? Which goals did you meet? Which goals fell short?

What is a 4 point scale performance review? ›

This is more often than not a 5 point rating scale (5– Outstanding, 4– Exceeds Expectations, 3- Meets Expectations, 2- Needs Improvement, 1- Unacceptable).

What do you say in an employee performance review? ›

What to say in a performance review
  • Talk about your achievements. ...
  • Discuss ways to improve. ...
  • Mention skills you've developed. ...
  • Ask about company development. ...
  • Provide feedback on tools and equipment. ...
  • Ask questions about future expectations. ...
  • Explain your experience in the workplace. ...
  • Find out how you can help.
Sep 30, 2022

What are the six basic fundamentals of performance? ›

Current level of performance depends holistically on 6 components: context, level of knowledge, levels of skills, level of identity, personal factors, and fixed factors.

What are the three mental Cs of optimal performance? ›

It is humanistic, scientific, and pragmatic and is comprised of the three components of the Pyramid of Optimal Performance: mental fitness skills, engagement in the flow of activity, and personal satisfaction.

What makes a good leader? ›

Good leaders possess self-awareness, garner credibility, focus on relationship-building, have a bias for action, exhibit humility, empower others, stay authentic, present themselves as constant and consistent, become role models and are fully present.

What are the 4 pillars of managing performance? ›

The cycle of performance is based on 4 key pillars: planning, monitoring, reviewing and rewarding.

What are the 7 dimensions of performance management? ›

Performance Management – 7 Important Dimensions: Result and Output, Input, Time, Focus, Quality, Cost and Output.

What are the six basic management skills review? ›

Management skills are a collection of abilities that include things such as business planning, decision-making, problem-solving, communication, delegation, and time management.

What are the six steps of performance management? ›

  • Performance Management Process. ...
  • Planning Phase Overview. ...
  • Write S.M.A.R.T. Goals. ...
  • Set Performance Standards. ...
  • Define Behaviors. ...
  • Coaching Phase Overview. ...
  • Provide Feedback. ...
  • Give Effective Feedback.

What are the three 3 factors that determine performance? ›

The key factors that influence employee performances are: Training and Development. Employee Engagement. Company culture.

What are the three 3 determinants of performance? ›

Individual differences on performance are a function of three main determinants: declarative knowledge, procedural knowledge and skill, and motivation.

What to write for areas of improvement on a performance review? ›

Areas of improvement for employees
  • 1) Time management. Time management is crucial to your business's success. ...
  • 2) Organization. Organization can make time management much easier. ...
  • 3) Interpersonal communication. ...
  • 4) Customer service. ...
  • 5) Cooperation. ...
  • 6) Conflict resolution. ...
  • 7) Listening. ...
  • 8) Written communication.

How do I write my accomplishments for performance review? ›

In your performance review highlight your achievements that demonstrate how well you perform the duties and responsibilities of your job, team achievements you contributed to and the specifics of what you contributed as well as new skills you learned to demonstrate growth and readiness for new responsibilities.

What are the golden rules for performance review? ›

The golden rules for conducting a performance review meeting: Managers should be prepared by referring to a list of objectives and their notes on performance throughout the year. Sufficient time should be provided for allowing a full discussion. Building a friendly, supportive and an informal environment.

What are soft skills in performance review? ›

Assessing soft skills in performance reviews can lead to improved teamwork and collaboration. Strong soft skills, such as effective communication, active listening, and empathy, are crucial for fostering positive relationships among team members.

How do I ace an annual performance review? ›

How to Ace Your Next Performance Review
  1. Document your goals. ...
  2. Regularly check in with your boss. ...
  3. Track your work accomplishments. ...
  4. Understand the ways in which you add value. ...
  5. Look for opportunities to augment your impact. ...
  6. Ask for support. ...
  7. Become a model for constructive feedback.

What is the most common performance review? ›

A ratings scale—or grading system—is probably the most commonly used performance review method. This method is based on a set of employer-developed criteria—which can include behaviors, traits, competencies, or completed projects—against which employees are judged.

What are key objectives in performance review? ›

Performance objectives are designed to motivate employees to do better and help managers and companies invest in their growth. Setting and measuring employee performance goals is a key tactic to increase team efficiency, help companies grow, and encourage employees to prosper in their careers.

Is a 3 out of 5 good on performance review? ›

The rating scale on a performance review form at many businesses is 1-5, with a standard rating of “meets expectations” being a 3. "Meets expectations" vs "exceeds expectations" can be a thin line — particularly when the expectations for your job might be to "go above and beyond what is asked."

What is 1 to 10 performance rating scale? ›

A rating of 1 to 6 equates to below expectations, a 7 or 8 equates to meeting expectations, and a 9 or 10 equates to exceeding expectations.

What is a 1 to 5 rating? ›

A 1 to 5 rating scale is a simple and effective way to rate the severity or magnitude of something. It typically goes from 1, the lowest rating, to 5, the highest rating. The 1 to 5 scale allows respondents to answer quickly and can be applied to a variety of things, such as pain, temperature, and brightness.

What are the attitude phrases for performance review? ›

✓ His attitude is always spot on. ✓ His cheerful attitude makes others feel good when he's around. ✓ He accentuates the positives in most situations. ✓ He maintains a steady, positive attitude that helps.

How do you tell an employee they need to improve examples? ›

How to tell an employee they need to improve
  1. Schedule a meeting. When you decide you need to speak to an employee about their performance, you can schedule an informal, one-on-one meeting. ...
  2. Ask how they're doing. ...
  3. Explain missed expectations. ...
  4. Set clear goals and metrics. ...
  5. Offer to support them. ...
  6. Schedule a follow-up meeting.
Jun 24, 2022

How do you write a positive performance review example? ›

Effective Performance Appraisal Phrases
  • 1) Always on time (or even early) for meetings and conferences. ...
  • 21) Has a cheerful attitude that benefits her teammates. ...
  • 41) Excellent at customer service. ...
  • 61) One of our most dependable team members. ...
  • 81) Accepts constructive criticism and works to improve.

How do I start writing a performance review? ›

How to write a performance self-evaluation
  1. Make a list of your positive attributes. To write a self-performance review, first determine where you are in your professional career. ...
  2. Reflect on your accomplishments. ...
  3. Reflect on your mistakes. ...
  4. Close with opportunities to grow.
Mar 16, 2023

What is performance analysis in engineering? ›

Sometimes referred to as profiling, performance analysis as it relates to software engineering is simply the process of evaluating how a particular software program is functioning. This process normally begins with how the program loads and what happens when each step in using the program is executed.

What is a positive good review example? ›

An example of a generally positive review is “I had a great time at [Business Name].” Some positive review response examples that your business can use: “Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us.” “Thank you so much for taking the time to leave us feedback.”

What is performance engineering skills? ›

Every Performance engineer should have the ability to communicate an ideas/practices wrt to business requirements, the ability to have a balanced point-of-view on key issues, the ability to learn/understand quickly, the ability to work with global teams and the ability to convert ideas to results.

What are the key attributes of performance engineering? ›

Performance engineering is proactive, continuous, and end-to-end application performance testing and monitoring. It allows seamless collaboration between teams, tools, and processes through continuous feedback loops.

What is the goal of performance engineering? ›

Performance engineering is driven by business requirements. The aim is to provide better business value for the organization by discovering potential issues early in the development cycle. The cost of fixing a bug increases in orders of magnitude as you move down the line from the design phase to production.


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(Gro Up Leadership)
4. Super Neat Engineering! // 2023 Lexus RX500H FSport Review
(Sarah -n- Tuned)
5. Nissan Titan STILLEN Cat-Back Exhaust | Review
6. Effective Performance Reviews
(Learnit Training)


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