Today, many companies opt to deliver more than one performance review per year. Many hold a mid-year review in addition to a year-end review. For hybrid and remote teams, that’s especially important since managers may have less chance to observe employees directly.
In this post, we’ll explain the essentials of conducting a mid-year review, including how to leverage analytics to enhance its value.
Table of Contents
What Is a Mid-Year Review
A mid-year review is a one-on-one evaluation of an employee’s performance. In this discussion, the manager reviews the employee’s success in meeting goals over the past six months.
The mid-year review process includes two main elements:
- Preparation for the review.
- The review conversation (which may last 45 minutes to an hour).
We’ll discuss each of them in a moment. But first, let’s unpack the purpose of the mid-year review.
Why a Mid-Year Review Is Important
Today, many companies are prioritizing ongoing feedback. Do such organizations still need mid-year reviews? Absolutely.
“Especially in companies where ongoing feedback has become the norm, it never hurts to remind managers and employees that midyear is a good time to discuss their goals, performance, and development,” says Blakeley Hartfelder, research consultant at Gartner.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) concurs. “A formal six-month performance appraisal allows for midyear adjustments, preventing surprises at the year-end performance review,” it asserts.
A mid-year review has several key purposes:
- Providing constructive feedback on areas for improvement.
- Recognizing strong work and goals accomplished.
- Eliminating hurdles to goal achievement.
- Rethinking goals when needed.
- Assessing job satisfaction and ways to improve it.
- Providing feedback for the manager and organization.
- Improving employee engagement.
A mid-year review is more than an assessment—it’s a dialogue. While the manager completes a written evaluation beforehand, the review should be a two-way conversation.
Pros and Cons of a Mid-Year Review Schedule
Let’s explore the benefits vs. potential drawbacks of following a biannual review schedule.
A mid-year review often provides more accurate and up-to-date feedback than an annual review. After all, the events being discussed will be fresher in everyone’s mind. Plus, it gives employees a chance to improve before six more months go by.
Further, employee goals must often adapt quickly to changing priorities in today’s workplace. The mid-year review lends a chance for an in-depth review of goals, ensuring they’re current.
In some companies, overworked managers may push back against the idea of holding additional performance reviews. However, holding just one annual review proves less effective and may actually create more work. Gathering data and reflecting on performance for an annual review can prove more taxing.
Most managers will struggle to remember what occurred over such a long period of time.
Some companies feel biannual reviews aren’t enough. Instead, they follow a quarterly review cycle. This can prove highly beneficial, giving employees in-depth feedback four times per year. Now, that’s not exactly an argument against holding mid-year reviews. It just means you might consider holding this type of appraisal more often!
How to Prepare for a Mid-Year Review
Organizations benefit from using a standardized review process. This ensures fairness and makes the process easier for managers.
Tips for HR
HR holds responsibility for making the mid-year review process as fair as possible. Read on for guidance on doing that.
Standardizing the Process
We strongly advise using performance review software to facilitate a smooth and equitable process. This means requiring all managers to use the same rating scale. All managers should also complete reviews in the same timeframe. And they’ll all answer similar questions, as we’ll discuss next.
Asking the Right Mid-Year Review Questions
Select the right questions to answer in your mid-year reviews. These questions will vary depending on an employee’s level, but they should be similar for same-level employees. This will promote equity.
If you’re using performance review software, it will typically generate these questions for you. Your HR department can then modify them as needed.
In the following template, we share examples of questions for the written review.
Mid-Year Review Template
Please rate employees from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest, in the following areas.
Takes initiative to grow new skills 1 2 3 4 5
Collaborates effectively with coworkers 1 2 3 4 5
Meets goals in a timely manner 1 2 3 4 5
Produces a high quality of work 1 2 3 4 5
Takes accountability for mistakes 1 2 3 4 5
Communicates effectively with team 1 2 3 4 5
Manages time wisely 1 2 3 4 5
Handles stress effectively 1 2 3 4 5
Shares helpful feedback regularly 1 2 3 4 5
Listens to others’ feedback and strives to learn from it 1 2 3 4 5
Demonstrates strong enthusiasm for work 1 2 3 4 5
Works to stretch capabilities by applying new skills and knowledge 1 2 3 4 5
What three aspects of performance does this employee most need to improve?
Which existing skill(s) should the employee continue to build on and use more often?
What are the employee’s greatest strengths?
Forbes also shares a template for performance reviews. Their evaluation form includes a helpful self-assessment for employees to complete.
Tips for Managers
To prepare for the review, managers should use good strategies for reflecting on employee performance, as follows.
- Examine job criteria to make sure you’re using the right standards.
- Refer to your last review (and the ones before that). What issues has the employee overcome? What issues persist?
- Look for tangible proof that employees are succeeding or struggling in particular ways. If you use a performance management system, refer to the data it provides. Prepare examples to share. (For instance, has the number of leads brought in by a marketer ceased to grow?)
- Consider whether goals are still appropriate. Have the team or organization’s goals changed?
- Assess the employee’s workload. Does the employee have a reasonable amount of work? Or is their work-life balance declining? Consider what you’ve observed.
Additionally, managers should share tips on how employees can prepare, as we’ll discuss next.
Helping Employees Prepare
By taking these steps, employees will make the review conversation as productive as possible.
- Review your own performance before the formal review. You’ll brand yourself as a self-starter when you proactively assess your performance.
“Try to think of things you have done that have had an impact on the employer that may not have been accomplished without your efforts,” says Anthony DeRosa in The Wall Street Journal. “It can help if you keep a log of your achievements throughout the year that you can draw from to demonstrate your notable contributions. If you have been sharing status reports with your boss regularly, you may go back to them to pull significant items.”
Also refer to past 360 reviews, he advises. Look at areas where you’ve worked to grow based on this peer feedback. Explain the steps you’ve taken to improve.
Review your goals and KPIs as well. Then outline specific benchmarks that demonstrate you’ve achieved them or made substantial progress.
- Bring questions for your manager. Strive to make the experience a positive one for both you and your manager by showing you want genuine feedback. As you sit down to start the review, say something like, “I’m eager to hear your thoughts on how I could strengthen my skill set over the next few months. I’ve completed a self-assessment, but I’m very interested in your feedback on how I’m performing.”
Then, ask questions like these when the opportunity presents itself:
- What should I do more of? Less of?
- How could I better help you to observe my work? (For example, more detailed project updates.)
- Do my goals align with the company’s current goals?
- How can I set myself up for advancement? What opportunities am I best positioned to aim for?
If you’re aiming for a promotion at the end of the year, ask how you can prepare for it over the next six months, says Korn Ferry. Remember that, in many cases, employees must exceed their goals to get promoted.
- Think about your next goals as well. Bring specific ones to the table that will benefit the company in tangible ways.
Best Practices for Conducting a Mid-Year Review
We’ll examine best practices for writing, delivering, and following up from the mid-year review. Following these tips and strategies will help managers get the best possible results from these discussions.
How to Write a Mid-Year Review
Use the following tips and strategies for writing a great mid-year review. As mentioned, using performance review software will help you cover all the bases.
- Take note of achievements and areas for growth. Express how the team and company have benefited from them.
- Observe areas of weakness you’ve noticed. (Refer back to your performance management data to do this.) For instance, does teamwork need to grow stronger? Does the employee struggle with certain types of tasks, like writing clear project updates?
- Consider the root causes of any issues you’ve noticed. Does the employee lack motivation or simply capabilities? Addressing each of those things requires a different strategy.
- Identify priorities they should focus on for the rest of the year.
- Consider how they can deploy new skills in their work. Look for ways to stretch their growth.
Look at your managerial log for details on employees’ successes and growth areas. Keeping an electronic log will allow you to easily refer back to these notes. (A comprehensive performance management system typically offers such tools.) This will help you easily refresh your memory about issues or achievements from over the past six months.
Holding the Mid-Year Review Discussion
During the review discussion, you’ll present the points discussed in your written report. You’ll also ask for employees’ input in these areas. Then, you’ll have a broader conversation focused on the future.
Questions to Ask Employees
Ask several open-ended questions during your mid-year review discussion. They serve as great conversation starters for launching a supportive dialogue.
- What’s going well in your work?
- Where are you coming up against hurdles or roadblocks?
- How can I better help you move past those hurdles?
Then, present your observations in these areas, along with any other key points from your written review. Discuss key reasons for any shortcomings (e.g., lack of interest or motivation vs. need for skill development). If motivation is the issue, discuss ways of improving it.
In some cases, the same strategies will enhance both motivation and skills, like engaging training opportunities. In other cases, employees may feel more engaged by different types of projects or even a new role, as Harvard Business Review notes.
Wondering what type of questions to include in a mid-year review? This template includes 15 questions to ask during mid-year reviews! You can use it as a starting point for your next review.
During the mid-year review conversation, share any concerns about the workload you may have. Do you notice the employee volunteering for numerous projects and then seeming overwhelmed? Discuss better strategies for managing time. Help the employee rebalance major priorities, if necessary.
Goal-Setting During the Mid-Year Review
To help employees craft new goals, find alignment between emerging strengths and team objectives. Do their new skills fill important gaps in team capabilities? Design goals to meet these needs.
Check in with employees about their career goals, too. Are they aiming for a particular promotion? Help them create a plan to build the necessary skills over the next six months.
Goals can involve working style, too, as HBR points out. Do you want an employee to be more self-directed? Discuss what that would look like in practice and how you can support them in getting there.
After the Mid-Year Review
Following the mid-year review, write up a summary of the discussion based on your notes. Share it with the employee to ensure you’re on the same page.
Then hold regular one-on-one feedback conversations to discuss progress. If the employee is eligible for a more immediate promotion, discuss this matter in a follow-up conversation.
Also look for any patterns in engagement (or other dimensions of work) between employees. If managers spot patterns, they should ask themselves where their own leadership needs to improve. HR can examine patterns and help managers address them as well. For instance, if an entire team lacks engagement, the manager probably needs some coaching.
By following these best practices, you’ll get the most from your mid-year reviews. Employees and managers will look forward to these conversations, which allow them to explore topics that are vital to their success.
See firsthand how software will streamline your mid-year review process. Sign up to demo our product.