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How to Approach Mid-Year Performance Reviews
July 7th, 2020
By Kelsey Seeker

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the way we interact with friends, family and coworkers. It has also had a profound impact on the way we work and how we measure our success.

Mid-year performance reviews are a great way to check-in with your manager and highlight how you are progressing toward your goals. Amid this year's uncertainty and ever-changing dynamic, it is more important than ever to have a frank and open dialogue on what's working and what's not. 

Andrea Cook, Celenia Estime and Caroline Hernandez - three HR Advisors from Insperity - share the basics of mid-year performance reviews and how to approach these reviews in the current environment. They give important insight on how to show your wins and what's different about 2020 reviews. 

Basics of Mid-Year Performance Reviews

What would you say is the most important thing to remember when completing performance reviews?

It is important to remember that this is not the only time employee performance should be addressed. Performance reviews are an opportunity to formalize discussions that have already been taking place during the review period and to formally recognize what the employees have done well, and discuss what needs to be done differently. This is also a time to develop initiatives and goals with the employee to continue their professional growth and development within the organization.

How do mid-year reviews traditionally differ from end-of-year reviews? Why are they important?

Mid-year reviews are an opportunity to check and discuss progress made by employees with the goals and metrics established at their yearly review. They are important to keep the employees on track, revisit the goals that were established on their annual review and determine if anything needs to be adjusted to help the employees stay on track with the goals established. 

Should young professionals approach performance year reviews any differently from other employees? If yes, how so? 

No. Any professional, regardless of tenure, should approach performance reviews as an opportunity to inquire and learn how the company measures performance, what they need to do to meet performance expectations and how their professional goals can be aligned with the company goals.

How can young professionals approach mid-year reviews strategically? What should they be intentional about bringing up or sharing? 

While self-appraisals have always had a place in performance evaluation, this year, they are an especially important tool in the performance appraisal process. Given the number of people now working remotely, it is particularly important for employees to communicate their contributions and the way in which their roles have evolved with their managers. The changing circumstances have caused changes not only in the way employees complete a task, but the type of work that is now part of their duties. Employees should highlight these areas and maintain open communication with their manager regarding these changes.


Mid-Year Performance Reviews and COVID

How has COVID-19 shifted company goals and metrics? Has this led them to conduct performance reviews differently and how does this affect employee performance goals?

Employers started the year with one set of goals and have had to make significant adjustments to account for the global impact of business closures, employee layoffs, and general disruptions to operations. The revised Company goals now take into account lost productivity, government regulations with regard to re-opening, and unplanned budgets for making the workplace safe and compliant. These new Company goals must now be translated to individual employee goals. First, senior management is now responsible for developing an overall strategy to meet these goals, and this must disseminate to management and then finally to the individual employee. If the Company has not established new, attainable goals or ways to measure employees, it may be best to complete informal reviews this year.  

Given the current state of the economy and the effects of the pandemic, how are employees approaching their performance reviews differently this year?

In other years, employees would have been remiss if they did not include data and metrics that spoke to the work they have been doing. However, since those goals have had to be completely revamped, employees should include more intangible examples that portray the hard work they have been doing, such as coworker or client accolades, ideas for meeting goals in the future, etc.

Remote work has become a major factor and culture shift for many companies – how does this impact the performance review discussions? 

In a remote work environment, employers should try to follow the same manner of having performance review discussions by way of a telephone call or video meeting, as the best method, to the extent that these resources are available. The goal is to aim for the same connection level as possible. Managers should schedule sufficient time to allow the employee time to read the performance review during the meeting and discuss performance and future goals. If possible, performance review meetings can be scheduled in-person, even during typical or temporary remote work arrangements.

Let's say an employee is coming back from being furloughed or just joined the company, how should they approach reviews given the current state of flux? 

The best practice is for managers to use flexibility and modify performance expectations and goals accordingly. This can include pro-rating certain metrics, goals, and productivity so that the employee is not disadvantaged solely by the time spent on a furlough.  New hires should have performance goals and duties measured based on their job duties, service time and needs of the business. Managers should examine how furloughed time may have impacted an employee’s job duties and goals, and be open to adjustments for the rest of the review period based on current and future business, and inform the employee of any changes.

If a company’s goals are still in a state of uncertainty and new directives have not been finalized, should an employee adjust their goals through the end of 2020? How proactive should they be in shifting their priorities? 

Managers should be proactive in considering and making goal adjustments for their employees based on business changes, particularly if new directives are unable to be finalized. Communication is key, even if the information is not clearly defined or finalized. This helps employees know where things stand, what to expect, and avoid surprises later on. Employees should be made aware of the need to shift job duties and priorities and what to focus on.

If an employee has taken on more responsibilities, when should they discuss additional compensation or an appropriate title change? Should this happen at the end of the year? 

Taking on additional responsibilities does not necessarily trigger a pay increase, incentive pay, or a job title change for all situations. If the increased responsibilities are temporary in nature but require the same skill level and competencies, the employee currently has, a pay increase and title change may not the best way to reward an employee. Employers can consider alternative ways to incentivize or reward employees, such as a lunch, time off, early release, or a gift card to say “thank you” for going the extra mile. Generally, it’s best to allow some time to see how an employee performs after being tasked with additional responsibilities, a higher level of responsibilities and job duties before making pay increases and/or job titles official.

When should an employee provide feedback to their manager during the review process? 

Typically, employees should provide feedback to their manager at any time, and prior to the review process with concerns or questions about how they are performing, how they are tracking with goals, a list of noted accomplishments and goals, completed trainings and accolades they have received. This helps serve as a reminder for the manager on all the work they completed over the year and helps the managers to prepare for their performance review.

Looking ahead, how can young professionals prepare for annual reviews at the end of the year?

To prepare for an annual performance review, young professionals can do the following: 

  • Use regular one-on-one meetings with their managers to discuss projects, work and solicit feedback;
  • Seek guidance and direction – ask if you need help;
  • Keep a record of completed assignments, tasks, projects, and things done well, such as training completions, projects and accolades;
  • Make your manager aware of your work interests and ask for future consideration on special projects or assignment; and
  • Track any productivity standards and have them ready to share.
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