.Four Question Employee Review


The 4 Question Employee Review

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How it works

1st - Prepare the Employee

Give the 4 questions to the employee about a week in advance.

Before you give the employee their questions, let them know you want to really hear their thoughts and ask them if they can agree to be open and honest with their thoughts.

In essence, you are asking them for permission to have an open and honest conversation. The psychology is unclear to me, but asking permission to speak freely and setting that expectation for the review will have a positive impact on the conversation.

Let them know you value the importance of thoughtful responses.

It requires a high degree of trust before the employee will be open with the employer. It is usually best to have a conversation about the process and how you will use the information at a time before they get their employee review questions.


When implementing this for the first time, expect the first responses to be light on depth.

This review works best when the employee and employer have built up a level of trust.  When they both believe that the other wants what is best for the company and each other.  When trust is high, both parties feel they can be open and honest without hurting the relationship.

The first time you do this, it is normal for the answers to be lighter in depth. So don't get discouraged.  There is a learning curve on both sides of the conversation.   Over time, trust can continue to build, and as everyone becomes accustomed to the process the conversations will become more substantial.

If, over time, you still get one-sentence responses it usually is an indication they haven’t thought through the question or don’t understand the purpose of the review.



1. In what areas do I perform well?

This first question is really a question regarding whether they know their own strengths. Many in the Human Resources field believe that an employee that is playing to their strengths will be more successful than an employee who is working where they have to overcome weaknesses as a core part of their job.  Another thing this questions answers is if the employee is aware of what they do well. If the employee doesn’t know what they do well then maybe the employee could benefit from a visit about job expectations.

2. In what areas have I improved in the past six to 12 months?

With this question, you are looking for things THEY think they are doing better than they have before. If an employee knows what is expected of them they should know if they have improved. One of the tenants of this method of reviews is to ascertain whether the employer and the employee see things the same way.

3. In what areas can I improve?

Employees must feel comfortable in your leadership style before they will honestly answer this question.  Employees need to feel it is safe for them to answer objectively because if they believe they will be punished; they will not be honest. Are they setting their sights high enough? Everyone, employee and employer alike, can improve something about their job.  This question is about the employee’s goals so watch carefully whether the employee works on these goals.

4. What changes could my supervisor make so that I can succeed or thrive at my work?

This question tells a lot about the makeup of an employee. Do they blame others for their lack of performance or do they take control of their job performance?

If they need more training or additional tools to perform their job you should find it with this question.  However, if an employee  believes that in order to be successful at this job they need much more than you can offer in terms, of equipment, training, compensation etc., the employee may never be satisfied.

If an employee is proactive about their own success, you will see substantive ideas here.  Your best employees will also give you clues with this question on what is making them stay with your company. Essentially it can tell you what it will take to keep your best employees content.

You may need to probe but you may find out if there is conflict between employees or if there are personal issues the employee is facing that are keeping them from doing their job.

2nd - Prepare Yourself

Follow the PCP principle:


Employees need to hear both criticism and praise balanced otherwise it will be overwhelming.

These are the questions you should think about before the employee review.

Ponder which aspects of their job you want them to focus on.  Then, as you are having the conversation with your employee,  be as specific as possible and keep the areas of improvement to no more than three items.  By pondering these questions prior to the review, you can be prepared to carry the conversation forward, even if the employee only gives one sentence answers.


1. In what areas does the employee excel?

The key to answering this question is to give specifics. Give precise examples of when you observed them doing an excellent job. Don’t just tell them “Good Job.” Give specifics on WHY the job was good and HOW their good job is important to the overall goals of the company. New employees especially need to know specifics because they have learned much but may not fully comprehend their full responsibilities.

2. In what areas could the employee improve?

This question is the dreaded criticism that everyone dislikes. The employer dislikes giving it and the employee dislikes receiving it. The key here is only covering the top three things that need improving.

Very few people can make major improvements on a dozen things at once so keep it to three. Cover each item one at a time and after each item ask the employee if they have any comments or questions. For each item, you would want to make sure you understand WHY the employee is struggling in this area. Ask the employee if they see the issue the same way. If there is agreement on what the issue is ask the employee for their ideas on how to improve. The employee will try harder at proving themselves right by trying their own idea so let them try their remedy first. Agree to follow up within a reasonable period and if there isn’t improvement then agree to try your idea.

This method of allowing the employee to set their own improvement plan isn’t applicable to every situation. However, if there is time to let the employee try a reasonable improvement plan, then let them.

3. In what areas has the employee improved in the past six to 12 months?

End the review on a positive note. Look back over goals the employee gave you during the last review. Did the employee show meaningful progress and if so make sure to highlight that success. If the employee showed improvement in other areas not listed but important, make sure to talk about those areas as well. The key here is to talk about substantial items of improvements and leave inconsequential improvement out. A focus on inconsequential improvement will yield inconsequential results. It must be meaningful to you as an employer and the company as a whole


A Final Follow-Up

Give your feedback time to sink in and wait a week before circling back to see if the employee has any questions or additional comments.

Some employees need time to process the information you gave them.  They may have additional questions or want clarification, but will hesitate to ask.  Following up with them a week later, is a great way to tie off the review in a respectful  manner.


Don't forget to document

Keep a brief list of their strengths and what both of you agreed to work on.  This is a great tool to use at thenext review.  You can bring it up to see how much progress, (or lack of progress) has been made.