Zensai makes your performance conversations more effective because it’s based on frequent feedback. That’s because frequent feedback drives better conversations between employees and their managers. Which underpins the questions you need to ask in a performance review.

But it matters how managers structure 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.

Be mindful of how you ask questions in a performance review

Choosing the right questions to ask in a performance review isn’t 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. And be wary of biases that can creep into questions without us even realizing it.

Start with questions about them, not their performance

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.

If you want to champion performance best practice, you’ll know there’s more to a performance review than questions about performance.

Questions for assessing engagement during a performance review

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.

1. What aspect of your performance are you 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.

2. How would you describe your 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!

3. Is there anything you 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.

4. How aligned do you 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 exploring employee experience during a performance review

Employee experience is the broadest factor contributing to employee performance. There are a few different aspects that make up someone’s overall experience. Your questions will need to address them all if you want to keep your bases covered.

5. Is there anything outside of work that might affect your performance?

You should take care when inquiring about an employee’s 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.

6. How much stress have you experienced in the last month?

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.

7. How connected do you feel to their colleagues or 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 socialize with each other. These can include optional groups and activities, like book clubs, paint-balling, in-door climbing, or anything else you can think of.

8. How do you like to receive feedback from me? Is there anything I could do differently to communicate more effectively?

A performance evaluation serves as a great chance to build relationships with team members. In discussing how to give and receive feedback and recognition, you are learning about how to best teach, motivate and support your team.

9. What are the two things I could do differently to make work more of a breeze?

Away from the specific context of giving feedback, it’s good to check-in with your people to see if there is anything else they’d like to change. Everyone likes to be managed in different ways, so it is important that you discuss what kind of management style works best for your employees.

Questions that discuss personal development during a performance review

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.

10. What in your current role has left you feeling disappointed?

Understanding where employees feel they have struggled (with appropriate input from their manager) is vitally important in planning for future performance. If an employee can’t pinpoint any disappointments, managers can lead here.

11. What areas will you focus on in the next few months to help improve, grow, and develop?

Like the previous question, a self-exploration of areas for improvement is important. By framing your question like this you offer your employee an opportunity to take responsibility of their own development – autonomy is a great motivator! Again, as manager come ready with some suggestions in case your employee comes up blank.

12. Are there any new skills you 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.

Questions around current and future roles during a performance review

Analyzing the current and future roles and responsibilities helps managers in succession planning. It also makes them better prepared for business scenarios that may lay ahead.

13. What do you see as your next role or career move?

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.

When you ask about employee aspirations you begin to understand what really motivates them. Ask them to be completely honest here. Are they looking at a step up or sideways within the organisation? Or are they looking to step out of the company and move on to new things? Think about the tools, training, and resources you can offer to help them progress towards their target role.

14. What would you like to do less of moving forward?

By understanding the things your employee doesn’t love about work you gain the opportunity to reorganize their working day to accommodate them and keep them engaged. It doesn’t have to stick to task-based elements either. Perhaps they want to change the frequency they are in the office, or communicate more directly with you etc. It also helps pinpoint potential future opportunities that focus more on the stuff they love doing.

15. What can we do to help you meet your goals?

On the subject of employee growth and development, one productive way to approach this is by asking specifically about what the company can do to help employees progress in their careers and reach their goals. If you aren’t sure what their personal goals are, now is the time to ask.

Ask them about what they have learned and the skills they have already gained in their current role, as well as their outlook and long-term ambitions. In close collaboration with your employees, you can then devise effective professional development plans.

Performance review questions aren’t always about performance

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.