Ahh, summer! The time for a road trip with your car windows down, the warm sun on your face and a cool breeze tangling your hair, playing your favorite song and singing like no one is listening. Sounds like the setup for a perfect day. That is, unless your car stalls unexpectedly, halfway to your exciting destination. Ugh. Now what?
The truth is, if you're like most people, this has already happened to you – and I'm not just talking about becoming stranded on the side of the road. This happens at work all too often.
Mid-year check-ins, just like regular trips to the mechanic to get a tune-up on your vehicle, become unfortunate afterthoughts in our daily lives. And when you neglect the regular maintenance, it can make or break your performance, meaning you won't easily get to where you want to go. Sometimes, you might not make it to your destination at all.
Mid-year check-ins: Your performance tune-up
And it's not just a full performance breakdown you need to be mindful of – not making it to your destination can happen for any number of reasons: Maybe instead of stalling out, you took a wrong turn and you're now completely off course – would you know how to find your way back to the main highway? What if you hit construction and are stuck without an off-ramp or detour in sight?
These are all potential scenarios when it comes to our performance:
- We can get preoccupied with a certain deliverable or make a wrong turn in our goal setting that sidetracks our performance
- Something beyond our control can get in our way and slow down our progress
- Something breaks down and needs to be fixed
A trip to the mechanic can mean a major overhaul to our systems and an even bigger investment to get us back on track, catch up or adjust our expected time of arrival to the end of the line. So what's the solution? It's time for a regularly scheduled performance tune-up.
Mid-year check-ins are the perfect time to assess what's going well with an employee and what areas need improvement. If you think of the year as though December 31 is your road trip destination, that means we've just passed the halfway point on your performance journey. Now, if you haven't completed your mid-year check-in just yet, don't worry – there are ways to jumpstart your stalled mid-year check-ins... even if you're not an expert on performance management maintenance yet.
5 meaningful check-in prompts for a successful mid-year performance conversation
But what if you've never done a mid-year check-in before? Or if you don't know what to say? Here are five prompts that will help you and your people to jumpstart the mid-year check-in process if you're just not sure where to start:
1. Contribution highlights and work priorities achieved to date
Start with your employee's successes! Discuss some of their proudest moments and the biggest impacts they've made so far this year. Make sure they reflect on where they delivered the most value to their team, department or the company over the past several months. Both employees and managers should come prepared to share their insights on key work priorities that impact and involve the employee.
Why is this important?: The mid-year check-in is a great opportunity to reflect on work priorities that had the biggest impact in the first half of the year and then recognize and reward employees for a job well done. Managers and employees should meet regularly for 1:1 conversations, so this should be more of a reflection and celebration of their achievements instead of a surprise. Effective feedback is timely, tailored to the employee, specific and frequent.
2. Ideas about what to focus on next
The mid-year check-in is the perfect time to not only assess the progress and outcomes of current goals, it's also time to set some new goals by brainstorming and discussing ideas about what the employee should focus on next. This could include new projects, campaigns, and initiatives set forth by the organization.
Why is this important?: Getting an employee involved in their own goal setting (even if they have bad ideas), is a great way to engage them in the goal-setting process and get them thinking critically about their own development, company priorities and how their work ties into the big picture.
3. Priorities that will carry over into the next 3-6 months
Not all priorities and goals that the employee is working on will wrap up neatly by the mid-year mark, nor start shortly afterward. There will be areas of focus that will require prioritization into the next 3-6 months. Managers can engage the employee in clarifying and establishing priorities for this timeframe and discuss the necessary action items associated with these priorities so that the employee knows what's expected of them, going forward.
Why is this important?: Discussing ongoing priorities will give both employees and managers a chance to address potential roadblocks or delays that need to be removed, as well as the employee's progress in these critical areas. Employees can take advantage of the mid-year check-in to have an open and honest conversation with their manager about what support they might need in these areas of focus.
4. New priorities that have emerged for the employee, the team and/or the organization
Goal setting and 1:1 coaching conversations aren't "set-it-and-forget-it" performance management activities in an organization that strives to enable their people to bring their best to work every day. New priorities arise constantly, especially in this age of digital transformation, so managers and employees should discuss any important shifts (both internal and external) that will impact the business.
Why is this important?: Employee goals are a huge part of their "performance GPS," mapping out their performance journey in real time, so it's important to ensure that their goals still make sense. Changing course (not to be confused with going off track) is part of the journey. To keep the employee on track, coaching and feedback should be part of the employee's performance and development conversations in regular, ongoing 1:1 meetings with their manager throughout the year, so highlighting any shifts in priorities during their mid-year check-in helps ensure they stay aligned with the organization's vision and goals.
5. Employee development and work interests
It's time for managers to get curious and listen closely to their direct reports to learn more about their direct report's development and work interests. Not sure where to start? Managers can ask employees some key questions that will help direct their critical thinking:
- Is there anything you want to be involved in?
- As you think about your professional progress, what on-the-job experience would be helpful?
- What do you wish you knew more about within your organization that would be helpful in your job?
- What's one thing I'm doing to support you that is working?
- What's one way I could support you more?
- What's one way we could work better together?
Why is this important?: By asking the right questions and then listening to the feedback, managers can uncover the employee's interests, areas for improvement and strengths, and can then prescribe learning and development (L&D) activities that will help to bridge gaps or set the employee on a course for career development. When managers and employees sit down for a two-way dialogue about their performance, development and interests, it can transform the employee's performance and development for a fuller, more engaging experience at work.
Preparation is the key to an effective mid-year check-in
Preparing for a mid-year check-in doesn't have to be a daunting undertaking – it's as simple as coordinating a biannual tune-up on your vehicle. It requires some forethought and preparation, and you do need to conduct regular maintenance throughout the year to clearly map out your journey and avoid stalling or burning out halfway to your destination. Once you've completed your performance tune-up, you're ready to get back on the road and shift your performance into high gear.
So it's the perfect time for both managers and employees learn how to enable mid-year check-in conversations to facilitate better performance discussions. Download the Mid-Year Check-In Conversation Guide for Managers and Employees to get started today!