Done right, the annual performance review can be the single most impactful exercise for your team. Problem is, most companies do them wrong.
In one survey, 85% of employees said they would consider quitting after an unfair review and 25% felt that inaccurate reviews led to missed promotions and workplace friction.
It’s time to revamp the employee performance review with questions that spark the right kind of conversations.
Ready to give your employees the growth-oriented feedback they crave? These 25 performance review questions are the perfect place to start.
Types of performance review questions
- Self-evaluation questions
- Peer review questions
- Direct report questions
- Employee feedback questions
- Company culture questions
1. Self-evaluation questions
According to research, 71% of employees feel that their performance reviews weren’t fair.
That’s why it’s crucial to give employees a chance to analyze their own overall performance via self-evaluations.
From accomplishment overviews to new year goal-setting, self-evals allow employees to reflect on their own development. Done right, they can also open an important line of communication between reviewer and reviewee, which is especially valuable for managers with many direct reports and not enough visibility into each one’s accomplishments.
What to ask:
- Describe the accomplishment you are most proud of in this review period.
- Which professional goals did you meet? What helped you meet them?
- What do you plan to do differently next year? Why?
- Name two areas you want to focus on for future development and career growth.
- What can your manager do to help you meet your career goals?
Self-evaluations give employees a chance to advocate for themselves, but not every employee feels comfortable bragging about their wins. And that’s especially true for women. Stay mindful of the gender-confidence gap when reading self-evaluations and take time to compare comments against peer praise.
2. Peer review questions
Peer feedback is an essential part of the review process, creating a space where coworkers can offer kudos and constructive feedback.
But it’s not just about collaboration. The peer review is a great way to capture a larger volume of feedback so employees aren’t graded solely on their manager’s opinion, where top-down bias can be a major factor.
To reduce bias in performance reviews, companies like optics manufacturer Optimax have adopted a team-based performance appraisal system that relies on peer feedback for insights into employee performance.
Optimax employees receive a 360-degree evaluation from the people working shoulder to shoulder with them, whether they’re a direct report or a supervisor. Workers are rated on five attitude-based attributes and five skill-based attributes speaking to employee strengths, team performance, and areas for improvement.
“You get a benchmark, and the feedback is all the more powerful because it is the perception of your peers, not just your supervisor,” Optimax CEO Rick Plympton told Forbes. “There are plenty of potential pitfalls with peer reviews, but we avoid them by giving the reviewers clear guidelines and by contrasting the employee’s self-review with peer reviews so they can compare self-perception with team perception.”
What to ask:
- How effectively does this employee approach collaboration? Do they communicate well with others?
- How does this employee’s work impact your ability to perform?
- Does this employee lead by example? Why or why not?
- How does this employee contribute to the workplace culture?
- Can you identify any areas for improvement? How would this shift impact your work?
Three out of four HR professionals agree that performance reviews are more accurate when paired with peer feedback. By increasing your emphasis on peer recognition, you can create a comprehensive performance review process that doesn’t depend on the views of just one person.
3. Direct report questions
Meaningful feedback fuels performance. Without it, people quit.
Take it from McKinsey. According to their research, the top two reasons employees leave are because they don’t feel valued by their organizations or their managers. With only 30% of employees saying they’ve received recognition for good work over the past week, it’s no surprise they’re heading for the exit.
At the end of the day, employees need to feel appreciated to make they’re job more enjoyable.
While a simple “good job” can help stave off the office blues, your employees need actionable, meaningful feedback to remain engaged at work.
That’s where these questions for performance reviews that focus on direct report performance come in. From praising an employee’s strengths to course-correcting for success, manager feedback is crucial to personal goals and gaining professional growth opportunities.
What to ask:
- What areas does this person excel in?
- Does this person consistently meet deadlines? If not, how can you help them manage their workload?
- How well does this person communicate with their team members?
- What skills does this person have that aren’t being utilized?
- In what areas can this person grow and develop?
When it comes to giving a performance evaluation, train your managers to think like a coach.
Address any mistakes while remaining mindful of the external conditions impacting their performance. Acknowledge what they did right, while clearly defining areas for improvement.
4. Employee feedback questions
Great leaders know feedback is the cornerstone of a healthy workplace. And often the best feedback comes from the bottom up.
But as you can imagine, few employees feel comfortable waltzing into the boss’s office and giving them a piece of their mind – especially, if it involves sharing feedback on a toxic manager.
And according to the data, you really can’t blame them.
A recent FlexJobs report found that 49% of professionals have had their feedback ignored by both their manager and HR.
Assuming you genuinely want the feedback, one of the most effective ways to start creating the right culture is to simply incorporate employee feedback into your performance reviews. Over time, delivering feedback will feel natural for everyone, not just those higher up the org chart.
What to ask:
- How does your manager encourage you and your teammates to create your best work?
- How effectively does your manager communicate performance expectations? How do they reward you for exceptional work?
- How open is your manager to employee feedback?
- How does your manager support your personal and professional development?
- How does your manager promote work-life balance? Do they ever infringe upon your personal time?
Open conversations create a culture of accountability. By welcoming dissent and creating a forum for employees to share their thoughts, you can resolve workplace issues before they become full-blown conflicts.
5. Company culture questions
Company culture is how you live out your company purpose and deliver on your brand promise. It’s also one of your most powerful recruitment and retention tools.
But when it comes to improving your culture during a review cycle, diagnosing the issue is only half the problem. Sourcing honest feedback on what needs to change is just as challenging.
So, why not throw in some employee evaluation questions for the company, to ask your employees what they really think?
What to ask:
- How clear are the company values and mission statement?
- How well does your work align with the company’s goals?
- How comfortable are you expressing your opinions and ideas in the workplace?
- Do you feel like your professional growth is actively supported?
- How effectively does the organization promote a diverse and inclusive environment?
Culture thrives when you center curiosity. To dig in and create a thriving culture, extend your curiosity beyond the culture survey. Walk the halls, talk to your employees, and keep your finger on the pulse.
Performance review do’s and don’ts
Good performance reviews inspire productive conversations that benefit the whole business. Bad ones feel like pulling teeth.
Here’s how to create a performance review process employees will actually appreciate:
- Provide frequent feedback. Don’t wait until the annual review when it’s too late to act on the feedback you’re delivering. Acknowledge your employees’ impact, invest in their development, and offer constructive feedback year-round.
- Add context. Mistakes don’t happen in a vacuum – they throw off other people’s timelines, too. When an employee makes a mistake, articulate the downstream effects of that behavior to emphasize the need for change.
- Practice positive reinforcement. When employees do something right, tell them. Emphasize their strengths and explain how they can strive for further success – instead of merely avoiding failure.
- Compare coworkers’ performances. Instead of pitting employees against one another, emphasize how each person’s individual performance has changed over time.
- Give false hope. If an employee is underperforming, they deserve to know. Get comfortable with corrective feedback and collaborate on a plan to get them back on track.
- Deliver written-only feedback. Find a private location where you can speak one-on-one. Most employees will prefer to receive feedback in person, so they can ask follow-up questions and discuss details.
Performance review questions employees actually want to hear
According to recent findings from Breezy, 66% of employers say they rely on regular check-ins and performance evaluations to strengthen performance management.
But just because most employers are using them, doesn’t mean they’re executing performance reviews effectively.
With the right questions, you can diagnose problems before they become chronic issues and make every employee feel seen and heard.
When you’re ready to level up your HR processes, swing by the Hire Learning blog for more free guides and resources. Or to set the right expectations from the get-go, sign up for a free 30-day trial of Breezy Perform and get all the features you need for a top-performing team.