Performance review questions to improve employee engagement

Katie Gold

Performance reviews are daunting experiences—for both employees and managers. While they are certainly more intimidating for the employee, it’s up to the manager to effectively run the review to help their direct report flourish both professionally and personally. How do you thoroughly prepare, and what are the right performance review questions to ask? 

Performance reviews are challenging, which is why we’ve outlined some key questions to ask during a performance review, including questions for managers to ask employees and questions for employees to ask managers.

What is a performance review? 

A performance review is a one-on-one meeting between a manager and an employee that provides both parties an opportunity to share valuable feedback regarding each other’s performances. 

While feedback should run both ways, a performance review is the manager’s meeting to lead, as it’s an ideal time to give constructive feedback, discuss the employee’s personal and professional goals, and keep each other accountable.  

While it’s true that many companies only hold official performance reviews at the end of the year, feedback should not be sporadic or limited to a single meeting right before the holidays. Giving your employees continuous feedback is extremely valuable. 

Regular performance reviews in the form of one-on-one meetings foster improved communication, collaboration, and employee engagement, they help identify any problem areas where the employee could use more training, they help resolve office conflicts or potential conflicts, and they increase job satisfaction and team morale. 

Plus, regular feedback makes receiving feedback much less intimidating, so instead of fretting over being disciplined, the employee can focus on actually internalizing the feedback and making it actionable. 

A one-on-one meeting is the foundation of the employee-manager relationship. They allow an employee to connect with their manager in a safe space, enabling both parties to build and maintain rapport and offer consistent feedback to drive continuous improvement. 

📚 Learn more in our Manager’s guide to one-on-one meetings.  

How to prepare performance review questions

The key to conducting a successful performance review is in the preparation. As a manager, it’s important to mentally prepare yourself for the meeting by painting a picture of what a successful meeting looks like. 

The main question to focus on is, “what do you hope to get out of the meeting this time?” Once you have determined your main goal for the meeting, you can begin to set an agenda and create a plan. And that plan starts with analyzing the employee’s performance yourself. 

Objectively, how has the employee performed since the last performance review? Which action items have they completed? Have they accomplished any of the personal or professional goals they discussed with you? What kind of feedback have you provided them in the past? Was it followed? What feedback have they given you in the past? Have you acted upon that feedback? 

It’s also important to determine areas for improvement and prepare constructive feedback. If your advice has not been followed or suggested action items completed, how might you find another way to communicate your message? What are some actionable, concrete steps the employee can take to boost their performance? Would you like to see them speak up more in meetings? Do you want to see them take charge of a project? Do you think they should be allowing their team members to speak up more? 

And remember, this meeting isn’t only about the employee. A performance review must be collaborative in order to be effective. In your direct report’s eyes, how can you improve in your position? What do they need from you? Choose questions that will allow your team member to offer you feedback in a constructive and respectful way. 

Questions to ask during performance reviews

Performance review questions to ask direct reports

What if I offend my direct report? How do I deliver constructive feedback respectfully in a way that maintains or improves our rapport?

Your performance review questions should center around how the employee feels about their overall performance, what they think their strengths are, what you think their strengths are, how happy they are in their current role, where they see themselves in the future, how they feel about the company culture, and how they feel about your employee-manager relationship. 

You don’t have to work in a vacuum. If you don’t know where to begin, here are some effective questions to ask your direct reports during a performance review. 

  1. What accomplishments are you most proud of since our last meeting? 
  2. What key strengths and skills make you effective in your position?
  3. What kind of work inspires you most and drives you to succeed?
  4. What tasks and responsibilities do you enjoy most? Which do you enjoy least?
  5. What would you change about your current role? 
  6. Has the feedback you’ve received been valuable? Did you receive enough of it?
  7. What actions have you taken that you’re less than proud of? What can you do differently to reduce or eliminate these issues moving forward?
  8. What actions have I or your coworkers taken that have helped you perform your work? What actions have been least helpful?
  9. How would you describe your relationship with your coworkers? 
  10. If you were the manager, what would you do differently? 
  11. How do you want to grow professionally? What can I do to help you achieve your professional goals? What are some concrete steps you can take before our next meeting?
  12. What do you see as your biggest challenge moving forward? What steps are you taking to meet that challenge?
  13. What are your ideal working conditions? 
  14. How do you prefer to receive feedback or kudos?

Performance review questions to ask your boss

If you’re an employee and not yet a manager, it’s important to remember that this meeting belongs to you too. It’s important to prepare for your performance review and take an honest accounting of your successes and failures. What projects are you most proud of? What are you least proud of? What would you change about your role? How do you want to grow within your role, and do you want to advance within the company? 

Performance reviews can be intimidating, and if you’re struggling to think of what to speak about, here are some common performance review questions an employee should ask of their manager.

  1. What can I do to help the team succeed? How can I support the team better?
  2. Is there room for growth within the team, department, or company at large?
  3. Am I meeting your expectations?
  4. What do you feel my strengths and weaknesses are?
  5. What specific goals should I work toward in order to improve my performance?
  6. What could I focus more time on? What should I focus less time on?
  7. Are there professional development opportunities open to me?
  8. What do you think is the company’s greatest challenge moving forward?
  9. How are you hoping to grow within the company?
  10. What goals are you currently working toward?
  11. What can I do to make your job easier? 

📚 Learn more: Better one-on-one meetings: Employee’s guide for career growth

Prepare meetings in advance with Charma

Beloved by managers, HR, executives, and ICs alike, Charma is the best practice toolkit for managers to organize, motivate, and engage their teams. Find tools and AI to help you manage agendas for both one-on-one meetings and team meetings, action items, team collaboration, 360 reviews, continuous feedback & recognition, and goals — all in one place.

Check out our resources for articles, guides, and success stories dedicated to running efficient and effective teams. If you have any questions about anything you read or how to utilize Charma, reach out to our team at any time.

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