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Topics to Discuss in Performance Reviews


Many people hate the annual performance review. 90% of HR professionals think that performance reviews can be inaccurate. However, annual reviews can still be an important part of employee performance management. When performance reviews are executed successfully, they can act as an important reset button for many employees, but they need to be approached better. Managers need to be prepared for their employees’ reviews. Knowing what topics to cover during performance evaluations helps for the conversation to be more productive and efficient.

In this article, we list some topics that can be discussed in performance reviews.

1) Mission and Values

The values of a company can directly affect how employees are performing. Is your company clearly defining company values? If so, do you see your employees’ work reflect those values? One study found that employees that knew their company values were more engaged than those that didn’t. During your performance review, it is a good idea to revisit and reiterate the company mission and values – what they are, why they are important, how the employee can better exemplify them, etc. It can be helpful to use specific examples of the employee’s work that demonstrated (or didn’t demonstrate) these values. It is important to remember that at the end of the day, you want to retain people that align with your company and believe in your company.

2) Competencies

Managers should address the specific competencies that are important in the direct report’s role. Identify the skills that the direct report is performing well, and then discuss what skills or competencies they are lacking and what they can do to improve on these attributes. This will allow employees to understand their strengths and weaknesses, be more successful in their role going forward, and increase their engagement.

3) Objectives

In a performance review, individual goals should be addressed. Man­agers need to remain up-to-date with employ­ee progress in terms of objec­tives. It is also a good idea for managers to discuss organizational goals and how the employee’s individual goals are contributing to organizational strategy. Remember that the employee’s goals should be aligned with the company objectives. This helps everyone ‘row in the same direction’, and increases employee accountability. Having a goal management tool can help keep people accountable and visible (check out Pavestep’s goal management solution).

4) Career development and progression

In a performance review, career development should be discussed. Devel­op­ment is real­ly impor­tant in terms of employ­ee engage­ment. A focus on train­ing and having career devel­op­ment strategies in place has been known to boost employee morale and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty while decreas­ing staff turnover. Organ­i­za­tions ignore per­son­al devel­op­ment at their own cost, as 40% of employ­ees who receive poor train­ing will leave their com­pa­ny with­in the first year. They should also actively involve employees in the discussion, and understand their short-term and long-term professional and personal goals.

5) Past feedback conversations

It is important to review previous feedback conversations and have a summary during the annual reviews. If an employee was working on honing a particular skill, managers should address their progress. Managers should also ensure to ask open-ended questions during the review. Two-sided conversations are key to build trust, but also a productive way to see how managers can better help their direct reports. Some performance review questions include:

  • What enabled you to achieve your goals? Or what stopped you from achieving their goals?
  • What are your biggest strengths? How can we leverage your strengths to the fullest?
  • What are your biggest areas of development? What feedback, training, or mentorship will help you in these areas?

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6) Upward feedback

A performance review is an opportunity for upward feedback. Upward feedback provides the opportunity to discuss how the employee feels about the manager’s performance. Upward review needs to focus on behaviors, similar to regular performance reviews for an employee.

Some possible question regarding upward feedback include:

  • Do you think you are receiving enough recognition for your work? What can I do differently to keep you engaged in your work?
  • What are the biggest areas that I can help you improve your skills? Can you provide some examples of when you felt unsupported by me?
  • Have you been given enough feedback to effectively perform over this cycle?
  • Where would you like more feedback or training to perform your role more effectively or better enjoy your job?

What about compensation and ratings?

Many companies will address compensation and ratings (if applicable) during performance reviews. Compensation and ratings can be sensitive topics. We recommend that if your company wants to focus mainly on feedback and employee development during the performance reviews, you may want to consider discussing compensation and ratings in separate meetings.

If you found this helpful, make sure to check out some of our other resources of performance reviews:

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