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12 Strategies and Examples to Give Software Engineer Feedback

12 Strategies and Examples to Give Software Engineer Feedback

Do you need software engineer performance examples? Giving your team a helpful performance review is vital, not just because a review provides useful feedback for you and the employee but also because having a bad review experience can damage trust and even lead your staff to quit. Employee satisfaction is a top priority for most companies, and this is the reason organizations invest extensively in employee feedback software.

With ‘The Great Resignation’ still in full force (4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in April 2022), it’s vital that you get the review process right. So here are some tips and software engineer feedback examples for doing just that.

Strategies to Give Software Engineer Feedback

1.  Set Expectations

If you want someone on your team to perform to your standards, they need to know what those standards are. This means communicating their job responsibilities and your expectations regarding meeting goals and milestones. In other words, let your team know how they will be evaluated as soon as they start with you, and reinforce that as part of every evaluation for better performance and retention.

There are many different ways to give a software engineer feedback and performance review for developers, and they may have come from a company where presenteeism was valued over deliverables or where they were required to self-review. Make sure everyone on your team knows what you’re looking for so they can deliver.

2. Face-to-face feedback goes a long way

Slack is no place to carry out performance review, especially when it comes to software development since nuances get lost without body language and facial expressions. Your developers must understand the feedback they are given. Therefore, a software developer performance review should ideally be done face-to-face so you can discuss challenging points then and there. 

In-person software engineer feedback is the best, but if distance makes that impossible, work with your team members to find timings that suit both of you and get this done over a video call.

3. Do the Preparation before-hand

Schedule some time in your diary to make an honest review of your team member’s performance. Look back at projects they’ve worked on and what they contributed, review notes from team meetings and one-on-ones, and think about other interactions that you’ve had with them. 

As a manager, it’s easy to forget details or overlook the performance of staff who stay under the radar in some way. An objective review of performance is an important foundation for this process.

4. Consider Feedback

What do other people think of this developer? Have you had any comments from co-workers about their performance or thank-yous from clients or other internal staff? Collect software engineer feedback by looking back over the team chat and see if this person is supporting others or if they need a lot of support from their colleagues? This all helps to build a picture for a software engineering performance review. It would be best also to take advantage of software product discovery workshops to communicate with developers effectively

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5. Ask for a self-review

Asking your team to self-review can give you a great insight into your performance review. Not only will you learn more about what the person has achieved, but you also get to find out where they think they are shining or struggling. This can be useful in helping you to structure your review. 

For example, if a team member seems to have a more pessimistic interpretation of their performance, you can plan to be reassuring and affirming, but if they seem unaware of their failures, that will need to be handled more delicately. Former Engineering Director at Uber, Gingerly Orosz, has shared his template for self-review software engineering, which might give you a useful starting place.

6. Write your Review

With all your information in place, it’s time to get to work and write the review. A good software developer performance review includes:

  • A chronological list of projects they’ve been involved in along with key contributions.
  • A list of key competencies and how that person has performed in your estimation
  • A narrative of their performance focusing on the positive
  • If needed, an outline of any areas that are of concern
  • A list of any next steps to improve performance for the next review

Manager Writing review to share Software engineer feedback

7. Sleep on it

Try not to leave the task of giving software engineer feedback and writing reviews to the last minute if you really want to have an accurate, objective-driven look at a person’s strengths and weaknesses. Ideally, you should complete it and save the file, step away for a while; and come back to it on a different day and read with a fresh pair of eyes.

8. Give them a heads-up

In addition to letting your staff know when their review will take place, it can be a good idea to just give them an overview of what will be discussed. This is particularly important if you are discussing any problems, as you can relieve a lot of stress by framing the discussion. 

If some of your team members have recently screwed up on something, they may be expecting it to reflect badly in their reviews, and you can reassure them of that in advance; for example, you can convey something like, ‘We’re going to touch on the issues with the latest release, and what support we can put in place to stop that happening in the future.’ You can share a software engineer's feedback and review the draft with them and stress that it's a draft and that the final version will be amended based on your discussion (if that’s the case!)

It’s also a good idea to make them aware of any role you want them to play in the review meeting - confirm this isn’t a one-way street and that you are looking to hear from them on what you can do to support them better as an individual and the team as a whole.

9. Run the Review

Unless it is absolutely unavoidable, don't reschedule reviews. These are vital meetings to help you give and receive feedback to support your team's performance. Make sure you are in a receptive space and in touch with your engineers, and there won't be any areas of misunderstanding. Still,

if there are some, look at them as growth opportunities for you and the company rather than challenges.

Where there is disagreement, mutually discuss and agree on a plan for going forward. This might be to do a bit more fact-finding on a specific incident or to monitor output or another team member's attitude. Whatever it is, set a clear timeframe and agree on what will happen to monitor/measure between now and then.

10. Follow up in Writing

With the wrinkles ironed out of your software developer performance review, it’s time to formally send it out to your engineer with a copy of it to other relevant departments such as directors or HR.

11. Positive Feedback for Software Developer Example

If you’re looking for how to give feedback to software engineers with some inspiration on positive software engineer feedback to give, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Be Willing to change code based on feedback
  2. Code should be clean and simple
  3. Think through the design before coding
  4. Keep scalability and future-proofing in mind.
  5. Feedback should work well within the team and the company
  6. Take full responsibility for their output
  7. Accurately estimate the time required for changes
  8. Update the team with any changes to the timeline
  9. Keeps it up-to-date with industry knowledge
  10. Provides valuable strategic insight

12. Examples of negative feedback for Software Developers

And if you need some help in finding the right way to phrase the less positive and share constructive feedback for software engineers, we have covered some of them for you:

  1. Code is hard to read and decipher
  2. Doesn’t always follow the process
  3. Sometimes focuses on irrelevant design ideas
  4. Doesn’t consider the overall design
  5. Important tasks are not always prioritized correctly
  6. Could be more proactive outside their main role
  7. Struggles with accurate time estimation, which can impact other team members
  8. Often needs to call in support to meet deadlines
  9. Isn’t aware of emerging trends in technology
  10. Resistant to trying new methods

FAQ

How do software engineers give feedback?

It’s important that the review process be a two-way process, with you listening to feedback from the engineer too. Understand that signs of poor performance, may be symptoms of something going wrong within the team or company; if some engineers are always late with their own deliverables, is it because they have to support others too much? If their code isn’t up to scratch, do they need more training on the company standards?

How do I give feedback to an engineer?

The above tips should give you a good framework for a positive performance review, but delivery is really important, particularly if you have to give some negative software engineer feedback. The key to doing this is to be professional and compassionate and to be willing to listen as well as speak. Tips for doing this include:

  • Make sure there is positive as well as negative feedback - and that the positive outweighs the negative.
  • Focus on strengths and contributions, and where negatives are mentioned come from a place of wanting to understand and support
  • Try and stay objective and fair; if you’re emotional about an issue, then it may be better to ask someone else to give the review.

Published on Jul 18, 2022. Updated on Dec 06, 2022.



Abril Lombardi

Written by Abril Lombardi

Jul 18, 2022

Abril Lombardi is an SEO copywriter and content editor for Distant Job. Based on her studies in communications and her passion for real-life stories, she became a journalist and an expert on experienced-based reports. As a brand-new remote worker, she focuses on online work guides and digital nomads´ lifestyles.

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