What to ask employees during the annual performance management review

Despite the rumours, end-of-year reviews are still very much alive and kicking – the modern approach to performance management has not killed off the annual review.

Whilst the performance management process includes one-to-one check-ins to foster an atmosphere of open communication, enhance performance, improve productivity and increase employee morale, the process should also include an end-of-year review, as employees are more motivated by a more formal end-of-year review as this provides structure to the coming year.

This review should be used to collate the regularly documented conversations and updates to review the individual’s performance across the entire year, ultimately to make business decisions about career direction, promotions and potential pay increases.

It can be helpful for managers to follow a structure during the review to ensure that the year’s progress is discussed and reflected upon.

Performance management1. What do you believe to be your biggest achievement during the past 12 months?

This question provides the opportunity to reflect on all objectives set over the course of of the year, their challenges and successes, and encourages the employee to recognise what they have contributed to this. Ideally the employee should be able to back this up with statistics and should be given the opportunity to self-reflect on what they did well in a specific project. This self-reflection means that they should be able to apply this knowledge to future projects.

2. Is there anything you would have done differently?

When asked this, employees can take ownership of their role and accountability for their actions. Upon reflection of the one-to-one check-ins notes, employees should recognise any shortcomings and reflect on what they would have done differently – and why they didn’t do this in the first place.

Their solution could be as simple as reducing the number of processes required, which could make them more productive and require less oversight from the manager.

3. Which aspect of your role do you like most?

When managers understand what their employees relish doing, they can use this as motivation by harnessing their employees’ natural flair for this aspect of their role. In doing so, managers may find similar duties that they may be able to handover to the employee. This leads to a more positive relationship between employees and management, as their manager can understand what drives their employee.

Using the one-to-one check-ins throughout the year, both manager and employee should recognise how the role has altered slightly to make use of the employee’s natural talents.

4. How can we help you with your job?

Again, by encouraging employees to voice their thoughts, a more positive atmosphere is fostered in the organisation. This can also develop managers – it is rare that managers receive feedback on their managerial style, so it can be useful for their team to reflect upon their manager’s interactions with them across the year. Notes from on-to-one check-ins should be reflected upon here – if the employee has suggested certain changes on numerous occasions, it may be that the manager has not have taken ownership of the development of their own managerial style.

5. What are your future ambitions?

To conclude the annual review, managers should ask employees where they see themselves in the future. In doing so, their role and the team structure can be adapted to ensure that there is room for the growth of a talented employee. Whilst managers should have an understanding of how their employees would like to develop thanks to ongoing one-to-one check-ins, it is helpful to align the year’s progress against their future ambitions.


Top tips to enhance the annual review:

  • Setup the review with an estimation of the time it will take. Whilst one-to-one check-ins can be a lot shorter, of around 10 to 20 minutes, an annual review should take between 45 and 60 minutes. This is to allow time for the conversations around the progress of the entire year.
  • Use one-to-one meeting notes to form the structure of the review. One-to-one check-ins should be regular enough that they will form evidence of the employee’s development journey across the year, so should be consulted to review all aspects – both good, and the areas which need a bit more work.
  • Avoid questions that can be answered in one word. Employees often get nervous on the approach to their end-of-year review, seeing it as a negative procedure used to flag up their shortfalls. However, if one-to-one check-ins have been used effectively throughout the year, your employees should recognise the annual review as a follow-on from these and use it as an opportunity to collate thoughts from across the year to provide developmental structure for the coming year.

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