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Performance & Feedback

30 smart performance review questions for employee development

Leapsome Team
30 smart performance review questions for employee development
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Did you know that over 95% of managers think their company’s performance evaluation process is broken? (1) If the people running reviews lack faith in them, something is seriously wrong with the system.

Employees also feel their company’s review process is ineffective and yields inaccurate results. Our recent Workforce Trends Report found that only 68% of people were happy with how their organization runs reviews. (2) 

If your company’s reviews are falling flat, you’re probably not asking the right performance review questions.

That’s why we’ve created this blog post — to help you develop performance review questions that truly strengthen your process. We’ll cover the following topics:

  • What are good performance review questions?
  • How to prepare for the performance review process
  • Effective performance review question examples

We’re so excited to share this information with you — let’s dive in straight away.

1. Performance Management Can Be Fixed, Elaine D. Pulakos et al.

2. Leapsome Workforce Trends Report, 2023

🤖 Move beyond cookie-cutter reviews with our customizable questions 

Use our complete performance review questions list to go deeper and get clear, actionable feedback for every individual employee. 

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What are good performance review questions? 

While performance appraisals usually help organizations gain insights into employee performance, another high-priority objective should be employee development.

Tracking an employee’s performance is crucial — but it’s equally vital to ensure that appraisals help you identify strengths, areas for development, and challenges your people are facing. Once you do that, you’ll understand if a team member needs more training, can take on more responsibilities, or is better suited for tasks other than what they’re being assigned.

A performance review template can get you started, but eventually, you’ll want to work with a tailored review process that perfectly fits your company’s needs. 

Screenshot of Leapsome's performance review tool
Streamline your review process and analysis with Leapsome's comprehensive performance review tools

Good questions to ask during a review will help leadership evaluate employee performance and learn more about them as professionals.

“Done right, a performance review is one of the best opportunities to encourage and support high performers and constructively improve your middle and low-tier workers.”

— Kathryn Minshew, Founder & CEO at The Muse

It’s also important to note that employees often have jam-packed schedules and a lot on their plates. So asking the following kinds of questions may feel like an accusation:

  • Why did you fail to achieve [goal] this quarter?
  • Why did you consistently miss deadlines last month?

Avoid asking questions like “Why did you fail to achieve [x]?” during a performance review — it will most likely come off negatively. Performance appraisals are stressful for many employees, and their natural reaction to those questions may be to defend themselves rather than take them in stride. 

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to understand why someone failed to achieve goals, but remember to frame your questions so they don’t trigger people’s “I need to defend myself” instincts.

Good performance review questions have a clear intention and purpose. If you’re asking a question, acknowledge why you’re asking it and what you want to achieve with the answer — so be specific rather than vague or generic. 

Last, ask follow-up questions to build the conversation and dig deep into your employee’s experiences, get your hands on more details, and gain clarity on the results you’re seeing.

🚀 Want to run impactful leadership and 360° performance reviews?

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Deciding which questions to ask during a performance review

With a limited amount of time per review, you won’t be able to use every great question you have compiled.

So how can you narrow it down and determine what to ask in a performance review for a specific employee? 

First, get specific with employee roles. 

The questions you ask managers during performance reviews will differ from questions targeted to individual employees or company leaders. Go through your catalog of performance questions and actively flag or tag each one with the specific roles it is most relevant for.

Use a competency framework to define particular skills based on seniority levels. With Leapsome, you can integrate your defined company-wide and team-wide core competencies and integrate them seamlessly with reviews and development plans.  

You may also want to work with different departments to define specific role-focused questions specific to sales, technical, and marketing teams. 

You can also use the review timeframe to decide on your questions. You may want to focus quarterly or mid-year review questions on the period’s wins and upcoming support needs. When deciding which annual review questions to ask, you’ll likely need to prioritize longer-term goals.

Now, let’s explore how to prepare for an excellent performance review.

Preparing for the performance review process

Preparing for an employee performance review doesn’t have to be complicated. 

To streamline the process, set clear goals. Our recommended goals for a performance appraisal are:

  • Evaluating performance 
  • Focusing on employee development

Once you’ve established your objectives, the next step is putting together your performance appraisal form or employee evaluation questionnaire.

Make sure all of your questions have a clear intention and purpose and divide them into different categories as outlined above. 

To build a performance evaluation process that engages managers and employees, focus on the seven essential performance review elements:

  • Getting your timing right
  • Looking forward to the evaluation process
  • Understanding the opportunity
  • Focusing on development rather than compensation 
  • Being clear
  • Being sympathetic
  • Getting multiple perspectives
Manager shaking hands with employee after their performance review.

Good performance reviews are those that HR leaders smartly prepare for
💡 Pro tip: Revolutionizing performance reviews demands not just the right questions, but also a deep understanding of employee dynamics.

HubSpot’s free AI content writer is a pivotal tool in this transformation. It aids in formulating tailored, insightful performance review questions that truly reflect the organization’s values and objectives. The AI’s advanced analytics and language processing capabilities enable the creation of a dynamic evaluation framework, resonating with both managers and employees. This leads to more accurate, constructive feedback, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and alignment with organizational goals. HubSpot’s AI tool is an invaluable asset for companies seeking to refine their performance review processes for a modern, evolving workforce.

30 effective questions for performance reviews 

A smart way to ensure a smooth employee performance review is to ask targeted and specific questions across different areas.

We’ve divided our questions into subsections, each focusing on a set of questions:

  • Overall performance
  • Employee strengths
  • Current role
  • Areas for improvements
  • Future growth
  • End-of-year reviews
💡 Looking for impactful questions for your next performance review cycle?

We can help! Leapsome’s performance review template is full of best practice question for employee, 360, and leadership reviews.

👉 Download the template here

Questions about overall performance 

Rather than diving straight into employee strengths, areas for improvement, and future opportunities, start slow and focus on overall performance. 

Think of it as exercising. The first step is the warmup.

By focusing on overall employee performance, both of you will be able to understand how well they did throughout the period at hand. You’ll discover what your report is most proud of, which goals they accomplished, which ones they missed, and more. 

Here are a few performance review questions managers can use to initiate conversations about overall employee performance:

  1. What accomplishments are you proud of since our last performance review?
  2. What factors motivate you to get your job done and be productive?
  3. Which goals did you accomplish? And which ones didn’t you achieve?
  4. What steps can we take to make your job more enjoyable? 
  5. What do you hope to achieve before our next performance review?

After, ask follow-up questions to gain deeper insights into your employee’s overall performance.

In contrast, you should avoid asking vague, directionless questions like:

  • What are your goals?
  • What are your achievements?

Questions about employee strengths

Not many people have the opportunity to showcase all their skills at work. As a result, there’s a chance you’re not fully aware of your employees’ potential. That’s why managers should dive deep into employee strengths in the performance review process.

Doing so allows you to learn more about team members’ strengths and skills —  and you’ll also be able to use these insights to give them the space to showcase these qualities.

Here are some performance review questions you can customize to learn more about employee strengths:

  1. What are the core strengths that help you excel in your position?
  2. Which skills haven’t you yet been able to showcase at work?
  3. What type of work inspires you the most? 
  4. What skills make you a good fit for your position? 
  5. What kind of tasks comes easiest to you?

On the other hand, avoid asking overly broad or “yes/no” questions to learn more about employee strengths:

  • Are you the right fit for your position?
  • Do you have hidden skills?

Learning more about an employee’s strengths can help managers give reports the opportunity and platform to showcase their skills

Questions about an employee’s current role

Asking performance review questions about an employee’s current position will help you explore what they like (or dislike) about their role. 

This information will help you ensure they get to work on projects they enjoy whenever possible.

Some good examples include:

  1. What tasks do you enjoy doing the most? Why?
  2. What tasks do you enjoy doing the least? Why?
  3. What do you enjoy about working at [company name] the most? 
  4. How do you think your current role is helping you and the company succeed and grow?
  5. What would you change about your role?

Like the examples of weak performance review questions shared before, don’t ask questions that are vague or can be answered with just a word or two:

  • Are you happy with your current position?
  • Do you like your job?

Questions about areas for improvement

A critical function of performance reviews is identifying gaps that may be holding your people back from performing at their full potential. 

This section could trigger someone’s defense mode, as you’ll be asking questions that focus on their misses. To mitigate that, frame your questions so employees feel comfortable discussing what they need help with moving forward.

A few great questions about areas of improvement are:

  1. What were your biggest misses this year?
  2. What caused these misses, and how will you do things differently next time?
  3. What can we do to help you avoid those misses?
  4. Which areas do you want to focus on to grow and develop in the next [period]?
  5. How can we help you grow professionally?

On the other hand, the following questions aren’t ideal because they come off as harsh and accusatory: 

  • Is there anything holding you back from unlocking your full potential?
  • Why did you miss so many deliverables this year? 

Questions about an employee’s future growth

Your people’s growth should be at the top of your priority list. As discussed, performance reviews aren’t only about evaluating past performance — they’re also meant to focus on development, helping employees expand their skill sets and progress in their careers.

It’s critical to make sure your performance review phrases help you understand whether employees are facing challenges that are hindering their professional growth. 

Asking growth-oriented questions will also help you build a career progression framework and understand if someone’s ready for a promotion.

Examples of growth-focused questions include:

  1. What are your professional goals for the upcoming [period]?
  2. What’s the next position you’d like to have? And what skills make you a good fit for that position? 
  3. What professional development opportunities are you looking forward to exploring in the upcoming [period]?
  4. What’s the biggest challenge you’re likely to encounter or are already facing? And how can we support you?
  5. What type of career growth is important to you (e.g., managing a big team; growing as an individual contributor; exploring other areas)? 

The following examples are weaker because they have too many possible answers, making them hard to answer meaningfully. 

  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What are your goals?
Screenshot of an employee self-assessment in the Leapsome platform
Make sure your employees have time to reflect on how they’ve worked on their previous development goals, as well as setting new ones

End of year review questions

An annual review meeting represents a valuable opportunity for managers and employees to step back, reflect, and recalibrate. 

Year review questions should cover concrete accomplishments, goals, and promotion-readiness. But it’s also a good idea to encourage employees and their managers to dive deeper. Asking open-ended questions can help you to really understand their unique experience over the past year — and learn how to make things better. 

 Examples of end of year review questions include:

  • What are you proudest of achieving over the past year? 
  • Looking back over the past year, when did you feel most creatively challenged or intellectually stretched by a project? 
  • How do you feel about our company and team culture this year? How could we improve it? 
  • What lessons have you learned this year, and how have you developed? 
  • How did you feel supported by the company and your colleagues this year? How could we support you more next year?

Get the most out of your performance reviews with Leapsome

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Leapsome AI transforms review feedback into insights and actions

Managers spend over 210 hours on annual performance reviews; individual contributors (employees who are not managers) spend an average of 40

But leadership doesn’t need to dedicate so much time to the administrative part of appraisals. By tapping into a powerful people enablement platform like Leapsome, HR leaders can streamline and simplify the performance review process, helping managers and employees save precious time and deliver meaningful feedback.

Leapsome’s performance review software allows businesses to run impactful leadership and 360° performance reviews that are easy to set up and complete. 

Happy customer sharing his thoughts on Leapsome's Performance Review software

Leapsome’s customizable review templates, automated review cycles, and integrations with competency framework and learning tools streamline the setup process and improve your reviews. AI-powered analytics leverage the power of data to track performance changes, create summaries and actionable steps from review feedback, and help reviewers make their comments more constructive. 

Leapsome saves people leaders countless hours — while providing everything you need to make performance reviews fair, strategic, and effective. 

🚀 Want to simplify the performance review process?

Thousands of teams around the world are happily using Leapsome’s performance review software.

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Written By

Leapsome Team

Written by the team at Leapsome — the all-in-one people enablement platform for driving employee engagement, performance, and learning.
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