The Best Questions to Ask in Performance Reviews

October 18, 2021

If you’re familiar with the BambooHR® Performance Management add-on, you know it comes with four built-in questions carefully designed to minimize subjectivity when analyzing responses and to provide actionable items for recognition and growth. Here are the four questions employees see when performing their self-assessments:

  1. How well does my company recognize my value? (Scored multiple choice)
  2. What would have the greatest impact on my ability to do my best work more often? (Multiple choice)
  3. What are some things I do well? (Open-ended)
  4. How could I improve? (Open-ended)

Managers receive the same questions, phrased to evaluate the employee. However, even if you’re familiar with Performance Management as an employee or manager, you might not know that Performance Management allows administrators to add up to three custom questions in addition to those four already provided. That’s why we’ve created a list of additional questions for performance reviews.

Should We Ask More Questions in Reviews?

Customers frequently ask us for ideas about what kind of questions would be good to ask in those “custom questions” fields. That puts us in a bit of a bind: wanting to help, but going against our own advice.

We created Performance Management to change the face of traditional performance reviews—long, annual or semi-annual sessions with lots of tough questions. In our opinion, dreading a review cycle serves nobody’s interests and makes it more likely that they’ll be put off or rushed through when they do happen. As for doing them only once or twice a year, well…we can’t remember what we had for lunch yesterday, so it’s hard to recall what we were working on six months ago.

The theory that underpins our Performance Management software is that reviews have a bigger impact when they’re relevant to what’s going on in employees’ daily work. Making them easier and more frequent takes some of the weight off the experience, which allows employees and managers to communicate more openly.

You can make reviews easier and more effective. We have the technology

But, while we believe in keeping reviews shorter (and thus we encourage using just the four provided questions to start), we know they aren’t always enough—even here at BambooHR.

What Kind of Review Questions Should I Ask?

We approached creating our list of additional questions in the same way we developed the original questions above: by consulting a number of sources, including our friends at Deloitte and Gallup, and carefully wording the questions to minimize subjective or vague replies. Some of what you’ll see in the list are actual questions BambooHR has asked our own employees!

One of the ways we determine what makes for a good performance review question is by comparing it to Gallup’s 12 elements of employee engagement, or Q12. You may recognize these affirming statements from the well-known business advice book, First, Break All the Rules:

The 12 Elements of Employee Engagement

  1. I know what is expected of me at work
  2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right
  3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  7. At work, my opinions seem to count.
  8. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
  9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  10. I have a best friend at work.
  11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

Source: Gallup

If you’re looking for a way to develop your own performance review questions, one idea is to create questions that gauge whether or not one of the twelve engagement statements is true or false. If you want more detail, or a result that you can track over time, you can turn a yes/no question into a scored response. Going even further, if you are seeking action items like areas to improve upon or where you can recognize achievement, ask for a response in the form of a list, or, leave the response open-ended.

Top Questions to Ask in Performance Reviews

Here’s the list of additional questions to ask in your performance management program.

Best Performance Review Questions for Employees

These questions are for employees to answer during a self-assessment section of the review process.

  • What experience, project, or action are you most proud of since the last review?
  • Which of our company values did you live best in the last few months?
  • How has your manager helped you achieve your goals during the past few months?
  • What do you enjoy most about the work you do?
  • What corporate/personal goals did you accomplish? Which goals fell short?
  • What skill or knowledge do people on your team or at the company rely on you to provide?
  • What project/goal(s) would you like to focus on in the next quarter/six months/year?
  • How were you able to contribute to the company’s current goal of [creating a more inclusive culture, closing more sales, launching a new marketing campaign, etc.]?
  • What would colleagues or clients say about their recent interactions with you?

Best Performance Review Questions for Managers

These questions mirror those above but have been phrased to ask a manager about their employee. This allows you to compare the manager’s answers to the employee’s and see whether they’re aligned.

  • Describe a meaningful contribution that [Name] has made since the last review.
  • Which company value have you seen [Name] emulating well in the last few months?
  • Describe how you have impacted [Name]’s ability to succeed and grow in their position.
  • What types of projects does [Name] excel at?
  • How has [Name] done with creating and meeting goals over the past few months?
  • What role does [Name] have on the team and what impact have they had?
  • What are some areas of focus/projects that could benefit [Name]?
  • In what way(s) did [Name] contribute to the company’s current goal of [creating a more inclusive culture, closing more sales, launching a new marketing campaign, etc.]?
  • What are some positive interactions you’ve noticed between [Name] and others?
Want more performance insights? Keep reading:

Additional Questions for Performance Management Assessments

The following is a compilation of even more questions we created while researching the performance review process. Some of them are for employees or managers performing a self-assessment, while others are intended to assess the performance of an employee or manager.

  • Are you happy at [our company]?
  • What special projects have you worked on this past quarter/year?
  • In what ways can [manager/employee name] improve/help you?
  • Would you recommend working here to your friends? Why or why not?
  • How have you met corporate goals/values this quarter/year?
  • How well have you achieved your goals this past quarter/year?
  • What do you enjoy most about working for [manager/company name]?
  • How do I show my focus on quality work?/How is [Name]’s quality of work?
  • How do I show my focus on clients?/How does [Name] demonstrate a focus on client success?
  • How do I show that I am solution-oriented and responsive in my role?/How does [Name] demonstrate that they are solution-oriented and responsive?
  • What do you hope to be doing within the company one year from now? What about five years from now?
  • What do you want your next position to be at this company?
  • What is one recent project that you have made significant contributions to and how did you contribute?
  • Looking back, how has your manager helped you improve and do your best work?  Please share 1-2 examples.
  • Going forward, what do you need from your manager to better support you in your role?
  • Looking back, what have you done to encourage and support [Name] during the past three months?
  • Going forward, what do you need in order to better support [Name] in doing their best work and/or achieving growth?
  • What are your top three priorities for the next 6-12 months?
  • What are your personal development goals (new skill, knowledge, work experience you’d like to acquire) to help you maximize your performance and potential?
  • What training does [Name] need in order to improve?
  • Do you feel comfortable taking risks and approaching your manager with new ideas? Why or why not?
  • What training do you wish you had/would you like to have?

What questions have you been asking employees and managers in your performance reviews? We’d love to hear your best performance management tips and tricks, so please comment below with any suggestions.

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Rob de Luca
Copy Director | BambooHR

Rob de Luca has written extensively on culture and best practices in the HR field, combining original research and input from HR experts with his own perspective as a manager, creative executive, and veteran of industries ranging from hospitality to consumer electronics. He believes culture is critical to organizational success and that HR holds the keys to defining the employee experience.