Do you remember the last time you sat down for a performance review? Did it make you feel motivated, enthusiastic, and equipped with knowledge and insights to perform better than ever? For most employees, performance reviews are anything but that.
Sometimes performance reviews feel like an annual chore, and they might even prompt feelings of anxiety. But for people-centric, innovative companies that want to stay relevant with the times, performance reviews are an excellent tool for employee development and engagement.
To stay performance-driven, your employees need more than just an annual review to effectively meet their goals, stay motivated and engaged, and incorporate feedback into their work. When 95%* of managers say they’re unhappy with the traditional way of doing things (i.e., yearly performance reviews that don’t focus on development), organizations need to shake things up.
In development-focused mid-year reviews (conducted twice a year), employees can bring up roadblocks and get guidance on how to get back on track with their goals — instead of only receiving feedback after problems went too far. They’re also excellent ways for managers to continuously assess internal processes, provide critical feedback, and build engagement.
Here’s a brief comparison of annual performance reviews and mid-year performance reviews:
If your company wants to adopt best practices for assessing performance, this article is for you. Let’s dive into the process of conducting an excellent, development-focused mid-year review.
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8 tips for great mid-year performance reviews
If you’re starting from the ground up, establishing a mid-year review process can seem intimidating. But we’ve researched all the expert best practices out there and selected eight of our best ideas to efficiently conduct mid-year reviews.
1. Establish performance criteria
Vague performance metrics are an employee’s worst nightmare. But establishing standardized criteria to measure performance helps tackle unconscious bias in performance reviews. When you use a reliable scale and your company runs performance review calibrations to rank employee performance, individuals trust the process will produce fair results.
Let’s see a few criteria that would be relevant to many teams:
- Associate (Level 2): Clearly communicates task progress
- Junior Manager (Level 3): Proactively asks questions to get to the root of issues
- Senior Manager I (Level 4): Provides clear structure and timeline for larger projects, breaking them down into manageable smaller tasks
- Lead (Level 6): Clearly communicates expectations and progress to stakeholders across all levels and provides positive and constructive feedback to reports
2. Evaluate employee strengths & areas for improvement
The process of creating a great mid-year evaluation starts long before filling out a report’s appraisal. Detailed knowledge of employee skill sets can help you assign better-suited goals and gauge performance based on relevant traits.
3. Choose the right performance review questions
Asking the right questions can help you treat a review like an ongoing conversation between two people and help you actively listen to your employees. The questions should revolve around the employee’s development goals and how you can help them achieve those goals in the next two quarters.
Things to do while choosing your questions:
- Start questions with what, why, when, where, who, or how — open-ended questions give you detailed responses instead of short yes/no answers.
- Use a scoring scale — we recommend a 5-point scale for reviews. This helps you get quantitative and qualitative data.
The “right” questions give you valuable insight into your report’s performance. Keep reading to check out some example questions to ask in mid-year reviews.
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4. Review past assessment results
Past data is only valuable when you have foresight. Your employees’ past assessments can help you set better-suited standards for your mid-review feedback, but they should only serve as a reference point and not dictate what the employee can achieve.
Reflecting on past reviews helps identify areas in which your reports have made great progress, as well as areas that are stagnant and may require you to check in. Sometimes nudging them in the right direction is all it takes.
5. Provide meaningful feedback
Employees are more likely to excel in a company with a feedback culture that fosters collaboration, transparency, and growth.
To help you build this kind of culture, focus on actionable feedback. Instead of saying, “You should give more ideas,” actionable feedback would look like this:
“We’d all benefit from hearing your perspective, so it would be great if you shared more thoughts at the weekly team meeting. Try noting down your questions and suggestions before the meeting so that you remember to bring them up.”
Offering specific, constructive, and honest feedback can also help leaders become coaches for their teams.
💡Our repertoire of employee feedback examples can help you come up with non-generic, ongoing feedback for each team member!
6. Create an agenda for your development talk
The review process ends when you give your reports tools to support their development — and to do this, you need to have a career development talk with them.
In a 1:1 meeting, it’s common for you and the employee to want to discuss everything under the sun — from career goals to small happenings at work. To keep your mid-year review meeting focused, create a development talk agenda beforehand.
Your development talk meeting agenda should include the following:
- Overview of the last appraisal
- Evaluation and discussion about employee performance
- Feedback to establish development-focused goals for the next period
- Collaboration on future goal setting
- How the goals fit into the employee’s career path
⭐️ Top tip: Remember to discuss the agenda with your employee before the meeting and let them make additions to it. After all, agenda creation should be a collaborative process.
7. Curate a development plan
You’ve assessed your employee’s skills, standardized performance criteria, and given them succinct feedback. Now what?
After discussing your report’s growth in the development talk, you must curate a development plan with them. To help your team perform at their absolute best, you need to go the extra mile and, as a joint effort between manager and report, prepare a plan to help them grow professionally.
🚀 With our career progression framework, you can customize professional development paths by tracking the skills necessary to advance to the next level.
8. Follow up
Following up on a career development talk is an excellent opportunity to show your employees their time is valued and their concerns are heard.
Immediately following a review conversation, restate the key points in an email. This isn’t a next-step plan, but a recap of what you spoke about to show them they’ve been heard.
Later, you can follow up to plan the next steps based on those discussion points. You can encourage your reports to consider their ultimate career goals, and start putting together the skills and experiences they need to get there into an actionable career progression framework.
A 4-step framework to deliver a great mid-year review
Creating detailed and accurate mid-year appraisals that ensure employees stay engaged and enthusiastic about what’s to come requires planning, collaboration, and following up.
This can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! Just follow these four steps to create an excellent mid-year review framework for your employees.
1. Kick off the review cycle & book the mid-year review meeting
⭐️ Leapsome can automate reminders for people to fill out an assessment before a chosen deadline so that everyone can plan accordingly, and HR managers don’t need to nudge anyone individually.
Impromptu review meetings can catch team members off guard, so it’s only fair to give them enough time to prepare for the discussion and determine the agenda beforehand.
But what should you include in your mid-year review meeting agenda? Here are some must-haves:
- An outline of discussion points you’d like to bring up.
- Space to answer employee questions and exchange initial development ideas.
- Documents that will help the appraisal process (like previous evaluations and goal-tracking sheets).
Accessing all these documents in one place can be difficult, but Leapsome offers all this information at a glance.
2. Prepare for the review
Preparing well for your performance reviews shows employees that you’re as invested in their careers as they are.
Here’s a quick set of questions you can ask yourself to see if you’re ready for your mid-year review:
- Do you have access to the employee’s previous appraisals?
- What kind of feedback has been shared with the employee outside of reviews? If your company has a continuous feedback system, that will be easy to track.
- Has your company defined a skills framework for the employee’s role?
- Is your office or remote environment distraction-free?
3. Meet the employee to discuss the feedback and development
Evaluation meetings can be anxiety-inducing for anyone, so make sure your reports feel comfortable when you meet to discuss your feedback and their self-assessment. Employees should leave the mid-year review feedback meeting feeling confident about the upcoming six months.
Here’s a list of things you should discuss within your performance appraisal meeting:
- Biggest achievements in the last two quarters
- Core strengths
- Hurdles in goal fulfillment
- Addressing questions
- Key learnings and development goals
4. Follow up with the employee
Follow up with the team member you reviewed to thank them for their time and remind them about the key points (including development plans) you discussed in your meeting. Whenever possible, list out any action items as a follow-up.
Follow-ups are a great way to wrap up your mid-year review process and turn it into a positive experience — so use this opportunity well.
Engaging example questions to ask in mid-year reviews
Only the right questions will give you meaningful answers. Ask employees open-ended questions to understand how they truly feel about their achievements.
Here are a few examples:
- What do you consider to be your core strengths?
- What are the three biggest challenges you are facing?
- What skills do you have that we can leverage more effectively?
- What are 1-3 of your key learnings and development goals?
- Where do you think your work creates the maximum impact?
- Do you have any recent achievements you’re proud of?
- What are your expectations from this role going forward?
- What support do you need to move forward on your development goals?
⭐️ Our free template with best-practice questions for performance reviews is a great asset for managers conducting assessments!
Mid-year review tips for employees
- Be present throughout the process: Don’t be afraid to take action and get in touch with your manager if you have questions about the mid-year review process. Check in with them before your development talk if needed, add questions to the agenda beforehand, and proactively assess your past evaluations.
- Choose a calm space to fill out your self-assessment: It’s common for employees to undervalue (or exaggerate) their achievements at work. So be honest with yourself when reviewing your accomplishments and areas for improvement.
- Ask for feedback: If your performance or knowledge in a given area is unclear, ask your manager for support and actionable feedback.
Wrapping up the review process
Development-focused mid-year reviews help employees reach their full potential and are great mediums to keep progress on track. By reading our tips and steps to conduct a great mid-year review, you’re already halfway there!
If you’re still unsure about filling out a performance review as a respondent, our playbook on writing performance reviews can help you write appraisals that are consistently transparent, fair, and growth-oriented.
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FAQs about mid-year reviews
What is a mid-year review?
A mid-year review is a biannual review that companies conduct to evaluate staff performance. Mid-year reviews help employees identify knowledge gaps, revisit their development goals, and change course in a timely manner if needed. Through this process, managers give team members actionable feedback that helps them succeed at work.
Why are mid-year reviews important?
Mid-year reviews help employees that are performing well get timely appreciation and recognition for their work. They also make it easier for managers to check in with staff and troubleshoot issues early on.
Because mid-year reviews happen every six months, it’s also easier to reconsider development goals if they’re no longer relevant or need adjustments. These reviews also help employees get actionable feedback on their work and improve overall employee engagement.