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Top Questions To Ask Employees During Performance Reviews

Baili Bigham
Baili Bigham

Performance reviews aren’t simply a time to discuss performance. It’s a valuable development conversation that can uncover an employee’s unique strengths, align them with the company’s mission, and empower continuous development. But that’s no simple feat.

A successful performance review cycle includes HR leaders working in lock-step with managers to gain accurate insight on team performance, but to do that, managers must be given a structure for having these conversations–especially when it comes to asking the right questions.

Below, we’ve curated a list of questions managers can use during employee performance reviews to extract the most valuable information so you make the best decisions for your business and your people.

Uncover your employees’ top strengths

First and foremost, the performance review should be focused on employee strengths, not their weaknesses. Helping employees recognize their strengths can improve their ability to experience positive emotions, which has been correlated with higher performance. But unfortunately, only a third of individuals can name their strengths.

A company’s biggest competitive advantage is its talent, and when managers encourage employees to hone their unique strengths and seek new ways for them to leverage them,  HR leaders can tap into the full potential of their workforce. (Pro tip: Encourage employees to use a strength-identifying tool, like Clifton Strengths Assessment or the VIA Character Strengths Survey.) 

Here are some helpful, strengths-based questions managers can ask employees:

• What do you believe your top strengths are and how do these strengths shine through in your role?
• Since the last performance review, what achievements are you most proud of and why?
• Which parts of your role bring you the most energy? Which parts drain you?
• Which strengths would you like to focus on and hone over the next few months?

Align employee goals with the organization’s mission

It’s no surprise that most people want to feel a deep connection to their company and make a positive impact. And because of that, employees are more intrinsically motivated to go above and beyond for organizations that align with their values and put their people first. 

When HR leaders can train managers to connect their employees’ passions to the company’s ultimate purpose, the result is businesses and their people crossing the finish line together. 

Here are a few questions managers can ask during reviews to better understand what their employees’ goals are:

• What personal goals do you have outside of work? 
• What areas of the company are you most passionate about?
• Over the next year, what accomplishment or impact would you like to have at this organization?

Help your people define their career path 

According to LinkedIn’s Workforce Learning Report, 94% of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if it invested in helping them. And while the idea of crafting personalized experiences for every employee can seem daunting, HR leaders can help managers take the time to do this during performance review cycles.

When managers work closely with employees to map out their ideal career path and empower them to develop towards that path, it can lead to increased motivation, engagement, and performance all year long.

Here are several performance review questions focused on identifying employee career goals:

• What rare and valuable skills do you want to develop?
• What are your short- and long-term career goals?
• What’s your dream job title and what responsibilities would fall into that job description? 
• What’s one thing you could focus on over the next few months that would help you get closer to achieving your dream role at the company?

If you’ve ever facilitated or conducted a performance review, you know how tough it can be. Instead of trusting that managers are having future-focused conversations with each employee to map out their future with the organization, equip managers with the above questions to uncover individual strengths, align employee goals to the company’s mission, and empower continuous development.

Candid picture of Baili Bigham

Baili Bigham is the Content Manager at 15Five, continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, OKR tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and 360° reviews. When Baili isn’t writing, you can find her binge-reading a new book or strategizing ways to pet every dog in San Francisco. 

Image credit: Shutterstock