Welcome to the season that many leaders face with more than a little trepidation: midyear reviews. It’s the point on the calendar that serves as a reminder that the time remaining to deliver desired 2022 results is finite. It’s also the point when managers find themselves working (and worrying) overtime in preparation for conversations with staff to calibrate results and effort — and ensure that everyone is well-poised to support success for the remainder of the year.
Even before the enormous changes ushered in by COVID-19, remote and hybrid working configurations, and the retention crisis facing many organizations, the value of the traditional review ritual was in question. Busy managers were challenged to find the time. And employees reported feeling that the exercise was an administrative necessity to be endured rather than a motivational touchpoint.
Reinventing performance reviews
Today, other factors are conspiring against midyear reviews as well. Evolving philosophies are de-emphasizing formal performance management events in favor of a more iterative, organic process. And more organizations are requiring staff to take vacations in response to unprecedented levels of employee burnout. All of this could understandably cause leaders to declare an end to the midyear review.
But 2022 may be the year that will benefit most from a thoughtful approach to this summertime tradition. It’s specifically because of the extraordinary effort invested on the part of employees (that’s led to burnout), waning levels of satisfaction and engagement, and growing attrition numbers that we need this time to pause and reflect more than ever.
Yet, using the old playbook (that didn’t work all that well for many before) will likely not meet today’s unique conditions and needs. This year offers the perfect opportunity to update the approach — and in the process, to gain greater value from mid-year reviews. Consider these adjustments.
1. Flip the script
Ease your burden and inspire greater ownership by inviting employees to take the lead in preparing for and discussing the review. Offer a structure or set of questions so they can gather their own data and draw their own conclusions. If your organization doesn’t have this in place, consider questions such as:
- What have you accomplished during the first half of this year?
- What achievements are you most proud of?
- What was the positive effect of your achievements on others — including coworkers and customers? On the department? On the organization?
- How have you grown? What have you learned over the past six months?
- What do you want to accomplish between now and the end of the year?
- What will you need (resources, development, support, etc.) to make this happen?
While you’re at it, flip the air-time ratio as well. Make sure that your questions outnumber your statements. Approach the conversation with genuine curiosity and a desire to understand the employee’s experience. Listen deeply to the words and what’s behind and beyond them. And respond with empathy and humanity, balancing grace with accountability.
With a significant portion of the workforce considering resigning, a well-handled midyear review is a powerful opportunity to connect, demonstrate respect and value, and perhaps inspire greater engagement and retention.
2. De-emphasize the document
While the organization needs properly executed paperwork, the form itself does little to help others perform and grow. Don’t make the meeting a tedious walk through of what you both have already shared.
Instead, turn the document review into both parties’ prework. This way, you can use the valuable face time (in person or virtually) to celebrate high points, explore differences and engage in problem-solving and future planning.
3. Unpack the unassuming
Rather than trying to cover six months of performance in an hour, consider identifying one or two specific events and spending your time discussing those in depth. Select examples that the employee may not even remember as significant but that speak to important skills, dimensions of the job or impact.
When you take the time to identify an event, share your detailed observations and highlight the impact. This sends an important message to the employee — both about their value and what you value.
4. Focus forward
Despite the use of the term “review” in its title, a midyear review should spend as much time looking forward as looking back. The purpose of this touchpoint is to position people for enhanced effort, performance, results and success over the next six months. Don’t give it short shrift.
Inquire about what’s anticipated in the months to come. Explore personal and professional goals. Brainstorm possible pitfalls and challenges. Identify development opportunities and ways to address them. Contract for the support that will be required for success. Pivot quickly from looking in the rearview mirror to focusing on the road ahead together.
5. Mobilize what’s motivating
A midyear review is an important opportunity to check in with employees and update your understanding of their ever-evolving internal landscape of personal motivation. While they might have been energized by challenges last year, today it could be something very different. Contribution. Connection. Choice or control. Contentment. When you discover and then mobilize what’s motivating to others, you tap into an unlimited source of energy, creativity and drive that elevates the employee experience and drives second-half business results.
Midyear reviews can feel burdensome. It can be tempting to rationalize skipping them altogether in 2022. But this year — perhaps more than others — employees will benefit mightily from an opportunity to connect, converse and collaboratively plan for the remainder of the year. The investment you make will not just fuel year-end results. It will cement your relationship, enhance ownership and engagement, and lay the foundation for less effortful and more meaningful dialogue in the future.
Learn more about mobilizing motivation in Julie Winkle Giulioni’s new book, Promotions Are So Yesterday. And discover which of these dimensions might be most interesting to you and/or your employees by taking the free online multidimension career self-assessment.