Performance reviews weren’t ever something I paid much attention to when I was on the receiving end. To be honest, they were a pain.
I spent the formative years of my career in the belly of a vast, international, professional services firm. HR was a massive, well-oiled machine. Everything was formalised, templated, standardised, polished and streamlined.
Professional services firms don’t typically develop much software, so they were not set up to support or differentiate our software engineering roles in any way. We filled out standardised SMART performance reviews once a year. It wasn’t fun. It felt like it wasted enormous amounts of my time and most of the questions were not relevant. Or at least we received no guidance on how to make them relevant. A line from “Evolutionary Architecture” by Neal Ford, Rebecca Parsons and Patrick Kua comes to mind, “The more reusable something is, the less usable it is.” As with software, so too with performance reviews.
We just did our best with the paperwork. Then our boss would go to his boss and tell them his team was doing great, and we’d get pay rises. Or not. It was all very opaque. So far as I was aware, performance reviews were just part of the vast corporate engine that sucked in opinions and spat out either happiness or disappointment, based on the whims of the machinery.