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Great questions to ask in a performance review for managers and employees

Updated 31st July 2022

The Weekly10 platform is supports constructive and effective performance reviews through its use of real evidence. This is one of our platform's biggest strengths. Information is collected during the weekly check-ins completed by staff. Then it's reviewed by their line manager in no time at all.

But it matters just how managers go about structuring these reviews. It doesn't matter if it's an annual review or a more routine one-to-one. These meetings must account for a range of issues over large increments of time. 

So in this article, we'll be going over some great questions to ask in a performance review. A few general pointers first though!

Framing and phrasing are really important

Choosing great questions to ask in a performance review isn't always easy. It's about much more than just figuring out what you want to know. 

How managers ask these questions can affect employee responses, and therefore the effectiveness of the performance review as a whole. 

Avoid leading questions to ensure you get honest answers. We talked a bit about leading questions in our article on check-ins versus surveys. Check that out if you want to learn more about the problems leading questions can pose for accurate sentiment analysis.

Also, be wary of the host of human biases that can creep into questions without us even realising it. For this check out this great list of cognitive biases from Business Insider

Make sure to check in with your employee

For once, we're actually not talking about our employee check-in. When you sit down with a staff member, it's good to touch base. It's not only an ice-breaker but it builds trust and rapport. 

Ask about their day or week, or what their current priorities are. Inquire if anything is on their mind, and about any issues they might have mentioned in previous reviews.

Great questions to ask in a performance review: Focus on engagement, wellbeing, workload, and achievements.

Questions for assessing engagement

As the broadest category which encompasses the others, employee engagement is a good place to start. These questions should give you some insight into how your employee feels about their role and the workplace in general. It's also your chance to address any workplace obstacles limiting their engagement. 

Some good engagement-based questions include:

What aspect of their performance are they most proud of?

Being able to take pride in your work is an important aspect of employee engagement. A firm answer to this question can imply that the employee takes at least some care and pride in their role. It can arguably also help the employee settle into a more confident and relaxed frame of mind for the one-to-one by allowing them to highlight their strengths. It's easy to follow this up with more specific questions about particular accomplishments.

How would they describe their level of job satisfaction?

You need to know how your employees feel about their roles. Even jobs that feel initially rewarding can end up feeling unfulfilling or stressful, especially if they're going nowhere. Discussing workplace satisfaction also leads quite nicely into our next engagement question!

Is there anything they would change about the workplace?

Another way of phrasing this might be to ask whether they feel like anything in the workplace is impeding them in their role. It's important to be careful how you ask the question. Don't phrase it in such a way that the employee's answer could reflect poorly on them. Otherwise they might be hesitant to open up about workplace issues affecting their engagement.

How aligned do they feel with company objectives?

Some really great questions to ask in a performance review have to do with assessing alignment. It's basically the extent to which employees understand or identify with the goals of their employer. In other words, employees with high alignment can be great for engagement. This is easiest when employers have laudable goals, like charity organisations or companies developing greener technologies. It might also be worth inquiring about their understanding of these objectives because a lack of clarity can be awful for engagement and productivity. 

Questions for monitoring wellbeing

While engagement may be the broadest factor contributing to employee performance, wellbeing is still one of the most vital. There are a few different aspects that make up someone's overall wellbeing. Your questions will need to address them all if you want to keep your bases covered.

Is there anything they would like to make you aware of regarding their physical health?

You should take care when inquiring about an employee's physical health. But it can be necessary in order to make reasonable adjustments to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities or chronic health conditions. This can then lead to questions about physical barriers that might be present in the workplace. Some workplace issues can even directly contribute to poor physical wellbeing, such as a lack of ergonomic equipment. Ensure that any medical information stays confidential and secure the employee's permission before disclosing it to anyone else.

How much stress have they experienced over X amount of time?

This can be another good question for identifying issues in the workplace, as well as getting a sense of an employee's work/life balance. But it's also useful for opening up the conversation about mental wellbeing. Just remember, like with physical health issues, any direct inquiries about mental health need to be made with confidentiality and respect.

How connected do they feel to their colleagues/the organisation?

Social wellbeing is our sense of belonging, and it's important for your team's long-term success. If you're looking to build up a social connection between members of your team, questions like this can easily transition into a conversation about ideas to help your employees socialise with each other. These can include optional groups and activities, like book clubs, paintballing, in-door climbing, or anything else you can think of.

Gret questions to ask in a performance review: managers and employees should come to a review armed with questions.

Questions to emphasise personal development

People generally want to feel like their work is going somewhere. After all, when was the last time you heard someone say the words "dead-end job" like they were a good thing?

Some really great questions to ask in a performance review are the ones concerning an employee's journey of personal development. Questions can be as blunt as asking about their expectations of promotion. But they can also come in the form of asking about the skills they want to develop, or areas they want to improve. One of the most commonly quotes statistics supporting this approach is that 65% of employees want more feedback.

What do they want to achieve with their career?

Your employees were probably asked something along these lines in their job interview, but it's still worth touching on. People's long-term goals can change, especially if they've been with an organisation for a long time. Try taking more of an interest in your employee's personal development. It's a great way to get them engaged in their role and aligned with company objectives.

Are there any new skills they want to develop?

Whether it's getting to grips with a new computer application or developing leadership skills, driven employees have things they want to learn. It's an important conversation to have. That's because, as their manager, you're best positioned to facilitate their growth. Another plus is that, if an employee is unsure of their long-term career aims, developing individual skills can help them work those out.

In which areas do they want to improve?

This is another area where phrasing really matters because you're basically asking your employee to highlight their own weaknesses. As their manager, you may already have an idea of where they need to improve. But this question will help to establish a shared understanding.

Great questions for employees to ask in a performance review

This article is mainly aimed at managers. But we thought we'd close with a few brief suggestions for employees to keep in mind, too. Here are some great questions to ask in a performance review for employees:

  • I want to learn new skills, can I develop them in the workplace?
  • Are any options for flexible work available?
  • In which areas can I improve?
  • What opportunities are available for career development?

Performance reviews should serve not only as a means to gauge how an employee stacks up against the expectations of their employer, but also how the role and its management stack up against the expectations of employees. A problem on either end need to be addressed and so clear two-way feedback is an absolute must.

If you're still stuck for inspiration regarding performance review questions, we've got you covered with our follow-on piece!

Would you like to see how Weekly10 reimagines the traditional performance review to make it effective and efficient (with a reduction in prep time of up to 87%)?