4 Essential Attributes of Performance Review Questions That Work

Performance reviews are extremely time intensive and therefore extremely costly. In fact, at a 500-person company, the cost of a review cycle can reach north of $500,000 in terms of the time employees spend to write their reviews! If you are going to implement such a costly process, it’s important that you make sure it adds a lot of value for your employees.

How do you make sure a performance management is valuable? To start, you need to craft a strong set of questions – where the answers to those questions give your employees the feedback they need to understand how well they are performing. It’s one of those garbage-in, garbage-out scenarios. If you ask poor questions, you will get poor feedback in return. It’s that simple.

If you ask poor questions, you will get poor feedback in return.

That’s a lot of pressure … so how do you make sure you are asking the correct questions, and asking those questions in the correct way? Here are a few tips:

1. Don’t write compound statements. Keep them short and singular.

Compound statements, also known as “double-barreled” questions cause inaccurate answers because they allow for only one answer, while really asking two questions.

Here is an example:
How well does this person exhibit execution and leadership?

How would you evaluate a person based on two completely different things when you only get one answer? You can’t. As a result, this may cause inaccuracies in the attitudes being measured for the question.

2. Write questions that evaluate employees on behaviors that are observable and measurable

The most helpful feedback is based on observable, specific events. When evaluators aim to write in this fashion, the tone of the review tends to be more objective, and less subjective. Subjective feedback runs a few risks.

Employees receiving subjective feedback are more likely to disregard it Click To Tweet

First, employees receiving subjective feedback are more likely to disregard it because the feedback can be inaccurate since it can be based on feeling rather than concrete facts. Second, subjective feedback can sometimes be based on predicting an intention, which usually isn’t very helpful.

3. Consider including a set of questions that evaluate employees based on how well they exhibit the core values of your company

Most successful companies have a rock solid set of core values. One way to really reinforce the fact that core values are extremely important is to evaluate your employees based on how well they exhibit these values. This will clearly signal to them that values aren’t just words put up on a wall.

Here are some examples of how you can phrase these core value questions:

  • How well does this person exhibit [insert core value here]?
  • How well does this person exhibit leadership?
  • How well does this person exhibit teamwork?

4. Identify specific behaviors and requirements for different levels of employees

The skills requirement to succeed in upper management differ from those expected of individual contributors. Because of this, it’s important to setup different questions for different employee levels:

Executives: Focus on vision and strategy, along with capabilities to build strategic alliances within and outside the company. Basic skills are assumed.

Middle Managers: Detailed questions on people skills, team management, and results-oriented execution. Include a few aspirational statements to help identify possible candidates for higher roles.

Individual Contributors: Fundamentals of managing responsibilities and executing on expectations, both individually and as part of a team.

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