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The Ultimate HR Guide to Mid-Year Performance Reviews

An HR cheat sheet for mid-year evaluations, from structure to processes and more.

by Nick Schurk - August 9, 2022

The phrase “performance review” is enough to send employees’ hearts racing, especially since it usually implies they’re undergoing two review processes in a year instead of just an annual review. That’s why it often falls on HR to calm the nerves and show why the mid-year evaluation is such a valuable tool in the workplace. 

If you have mid-year reviews coming up, this guide has your name on it. Use it to navigate each review from start to finish and help everyone get the most out of the process.

Mid-Year Performance Review: Definition and Purpose

Mid-year performance reviews are a companion to the annual review process. Rather than waiting an entire year to check in with your employees on their contributions and progress toward last year’s goals, mid-year reviews cut the time in half. This is a formal process outside of the day-to-day interactions between supervisors and employees that allows conversations to be documented on paper. 

Companies that conduct mid-year performance reviews see a number of benefits:

  • Providing positive and constructive feedback on performance.
  • Discovering inefficiencies or roadblocks that might be limiting an employee’s performance.
  • Adjusting goals that were outlined in the last review.
  • Exchanging ideas between supervisors and employees.
  • Learning more about employees’ own goals, motivations, job satisfaction, and potential conflicts in the workplace.

As a result, HR managers can detect issues earlier and avoid surprises during the annual performance review.

How Should HR Managers Structure the Mid-Year Review Process?

Just like practice is 90% of a sports team’s performance, preparation is 90% of the mid-year review process. HR managers that prioritize structure are more likely to enjoy a smoother experience.

Things you should consider when outlining the review structure include:

  • Overview. Go over the employee’s last review and refer to action items and goals that were assigned. If this is their first review (e.g., a new employee or someone in a new role), refer to their job description and any metrics related to their job.
  • Current Objectives. Discuss whether previous goals are being met or are in progress. If the employee is not meeting certain metrics, look at potential factors that might be affecting their performance. For example, have projects and priorities changed since the last review?
  • Actionable Feedback. The supervisor should provide specific goals and recommendations to help the employee keep moving forward.
  • Employee Feedback. No review is one-sided. Ask the employee for their feedback on their role, management, the organization, and anything else that may affect their ongoing performance.

Questions to Ask During a Performance Review

Conducting performance reviews isn’t about ticking boxes and documenting metrics. Organizations can derive real meaning from these mid-year interactions if they’re intentional about them. This means asking the right questions during the review process to learn more about the employee experience, their contributions, and how management can offer better support to improve the organization as a whole.

Let’s look at some of the key questions that can dive deeper into the employee’s experience:

Job Performance

  • How have things been going since our last check-in?
  • What specific accomplishments are you proud of over the last six months?
  • What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered?
  • How would you rate your own performance on a scale of 1-10?
  • Where do you feel like you excel the most?

Job Satisfaction

  • What do you love most about your role?
  • What are some things that get you excited to come to work each day?
  • What would you want to change about your role?

Opportunities

  • Where do you feel you could improve your performance?
  • What might you need to improve in these areas?
  • Are there any new skills you would like to learn or projects you’d like to work on?
  • How can I better support you?

Personal Goals

  • What goals would you like to set for yourself?
  • Do you see yourself in another role in this company? What can I do to help get you there?

Preparing for a Mid-Year Review Meeting

HR managers prepare for mid-year evaluations in two different ways. First, you need to work with supervisors to ensure they understand the objectives. And second, you need to prepare to review your own direct reports, if any.

In both cases, you’ll want to outline the review process from start to finish. This includes but may not be limited to:

  • Notifying all employees that mid-year performance evaluations are coming up.
  • Setting a date or range of dates for the reviews to take place. 
  • Creating interview templates for supervisors to follow.
  • Providing supervisors with copies of the employees’ previous performance reviews.
  • Training supervisors on best practices for conducting performance reviews.
  • Officially documenting and storing review data. 

This is where HR managers can really impact the mid-year performance evaluation process. Even if you’re not the one interviewing employees and setting their goals, you can help managers accept just how important this process is to the organization’s present and future health. The assistance you give them allows them to feel prepared, confident, and qualified to participate in performance management rather than treating the process as an extra task on their to-do list.

Conducting a Successful Mid-Year Evaluation

When it’s time to conduct your performance reviews, all the preparation you’ve done up to this point should make the interview process run smoothly. You already have an agenda for each interview, and your supervisors understand their roles and how to go about the process. 

Still, putting all of these things into practice can take some creativity and patience. Here are some tips to support thoughtful, effective mid-year performance management.

Remove the Stress

Performance reviews are stressful for employees and supervisors alike. Even employees who are confident in their contributions might feel nervous about discussing their performance with someone who holds their career’s future in their hands. Make it a point to ease any stress before the interview begins by talking about why these reviews are so important. Discuss how they benefit the employee and the company as a whole. Showing you’re there to help can encourage employees to be open and honest in their feedback and be more receptive to critique.

Use Both Qualitative and Quantitative Data

“We sit down with each employee and review their performance using both qualitative and quantitative data,” says Linda Shaffer, Chief People and Operations Officer at Checkr. “This is important to get a well-rounded understanding of each individual’s performance. We also ask for feedback from their teammates, managers, and direct reports. This helps to give us a more comprehensive view of how they are doing.

“One thing that worked well was our use of data. This helped to identify areas where employees needed improvement and allowed us to track their progress. Additionally, our team feedback system allowed us to get a better sense of each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.”

Limit the Focus Areas

Successful reviews aren’t about asking lots of questions and filling out paperwork to show you did the review. It’s about the impact these conversations with employees have on their performance and the company at large. Limit your areas of focus so that the impact of the review is more recognizable during the next review period. This increases engagement from the employee because they have something specific to focus their energy on.

Encourage Discussion

Reviews should always give employees opportunities to participate in the discussion. Supervisors need to be receptive to their employees’ opinions and concerns. For starters, you might learn something you didn’t know about your employee that could explain certain aspects of their performance. Also, employees need to feel heard and respected by their higher-ups. It makes them feel valued and can make them open up more and feel less defensive when receiving constructive feedback.

Give Specific Feedback

Detailed feedback helps an employee see their performance from the supervisor’s perspective. It also gives them a better idea of what they need to do to improve. 

Create Performance Agreements With Team Input

“We’ve taken our own modified approach to the Rockefeller Habits performance management system,” says Datis Mohsenipour of Outback Team Building & Training. “We create half-yearly performance agreements that are driven by the team members, not the leaders. Leaders will share departmental and company-wide targets with their team members and have them drive the creation of the agreement. This creates more buy-in from team members.

We then host our performance agreements in the cloud. We use Smartsheet, which allows leaders to check in on the progress of targets listed in the agreement whenever they want and automate alerts if a project due date is approaching. We set clear definitions for what “exceeding responsibilities” looks like. If employees meet all their expected targets, the “exceeding” targets will determine their eligibility for annual profit-sharing bonuses.

Summarize the Review

During the review, your conversation with employees might be all over the place. Before you end, you should bring all of the pieces of your discussion full circle. Summarize everything you’ve talked about with your employee and create an action plan. Leave them with a clear understanding of their performance and what’s going to be expected of them by the next review period.

Consider Checking In More Frequently

“I prefer not to have the stress and anticipation of a mid-year performance review build up,” says Raina Kumra, Founder of Spicewell. “Instead, I check in regularly with my talent. That way it’s a conversation throughout the year, allowing any issues to be addressed swiftly and fine-tuned when necessary.

“I’d like to implement an employee feedback option, anonymous or not, for them too to express concerns to me when we’re not one on one. Meeting routinely reduces stress on employees and keeps a conversation going between us, allowing for a more productive work flow and fine-tuning.”

Next Steps After the Mid-Year Performance Review

Reviews with no action plan or follow-up are pointless. It’s important to turn observations into action steps to encourage growth and improvement, which will be evaluated during the next review.

Once the review is over, work with supervisors to create a plan based on the results. Document the plan and share it with the employee to set the right expectations.

For example, if you’re challenging a salesperson to go from $150,000 to $200,000 in monthly sales volume, you should create a plan to help them reach that goal. This plan might include increasing the number of phone calls or touchpoints, providing training on a new product, or removing certain duties to free up more time for sales, for example.

Supervisors should also plan to follow up with employees on their action items outside of a formal review process. Discuss how often you will meet with them to check in on things.

Also, consider sending an email summary of the key points of your discussion. This way, the employee will have a copy of what you talked about that they can refer back to.

Free Mid-Year Performance Review Template

Ready to start conducting your mid-year evaluations? Use our free mid-year performance review template to simplify the process. 

Mid-Year Performance Review

Employee Name:

Reviewer Name:

Employee Title:

Reviewer Title:

Goals/Achievements During Review Period

Employee Comments:

Ability to Accomplish Job Objectives

Employee Comments:

Suggested Areas of Improvement

Employee Comments:

Future Goals/Expectations for Next Review

Employee Comments:

Additional Comments

Employee Comments:

Sources:

https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/hr-qa/pages/midyearperformancereviews.aspx

https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/mid-year-review

https://hr.duke.edu/managers/performance-management/duhs/support-resources/mid-year-evaluation-steps

https://lattice.com/library/questions-to-ask-during-a-mid-year-performance-review-for-employees-and-managers

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