Depending on how the previous six months have gone, the mid-year performance review can trigger lots of emotions — from fear and dread if you didn’t meet your goals, to anticipation and excitement if you met and exceeded them.
But regardless of how you feel about this biannual process, experts say the mid-year review is something we all need to embrace.
“Ideally, this is an opportunity for you to move forward in the company, and a [chance] to talk about everything you’ve been doing, highlight your accomplishments, and make sure you feel heard and valued,” said Cynthia Orduña, a California-based career coach. “This process ensures that the company is invested in you just as you’re invested in the company.”
To do it right, however, the mid-year performance review requires advance, thoughtful preparation — and not just distractedly ticking off a few boxes on an evaluation worksheet and cramming a day or two before that one-on-one with your manager.
“Preparation for the mid-year review begins at the last review date,” said Sam Tanios, CEO of Human Elements Consulting.
Here are four tips to help you prepare for your next mid-year evaluation so you can walk into your boss’s office with confidence.
1. Go beyond the numbers.
You’ll want to review your previous evaluation to document your strengths and weaknesses, and dive into the metrics to determine whether you’re on pace to meet your goals or still have some work to do. While you’re at it, Cole Baker-Bagwell, founder of Cool Audrey, a North Carolina-based mindfulness consultancy for businesses, advised asking yourself the following questions: Who? What? and Why?
- In the past six months, who have you served, connected with, and inspired?
- Why do those efforts matter to the company, its culture, and its work?
- What did your contributions mean for the collective?
The answers to these questions can help spark a dialogue with your supervisor that goes beyond the norm of win rates and leads.
“Now you’re changing it into more of a conversation rather than just a presentation around numbers,” Baker-Bagwell said. “I know revenue and market share are important, but we can assume that if people are showing up for work [guided by these principles], the revenue is going to come, the partnerships are going to come, and the market share is going to be developed, too.”
2. Bring your questions.
As your manager articulates their mid-year performance review comments, listen to their feedback, but also be ready with questions about the best way to move forward.
“If you’re not sure what something means or they’re telling you that they’d like to see more of something, it’s incumbent upon you to say to your supervisor, ‘Please take me through this, so I understand exactly what your expectations are,’” Tanios said.
Goals, for example, may need to be adjusted because of changes in business strategy or pivots within a department. “A year is a really long time,” said Tim Toterhi, founder of Plotline Leadership, a North Carolina-based career coaching business. “It’s an important time to check in with the manager and ask, ‘Are we still on the same path?’”
Leaving the meeting with a go-forward plan also is critical, so goals or performance can be adjusted to meet your manager's expectations. Toterhi suggested that employees think about how they would be rated if they had to rate themselves before they walk into the review.
“If it’s less than great, then an employee should ask, ‘What do I need to do to be on target to hit greatness?’” he said. “It sets you up for success.”
3. Be ready to talk about any weaknesses.
If things haven’t been going well for you, the mid-year review isn’t the time to gloss over your less-than-stellar performance.
“[If you] know you’re going to get a bad review, the first thing you need to do is take accountability and responsibility,” said Tanios. “Coming up with excuses or [saying you] shouldn’t be responsible for [something] is not what anybody wants here.”
Employees should come prepared with a plan to resolve any failings — whether it’s finding a mentor, taking a class, or seeking help from their supervisor when things go awry next time. Managers may bring a performance improvement plan of their own to guide next steps.
Dana Case, director of operations at online filing services company MyCorporation.com, said setbacks can happen for a variety of reasons: projects fail, pandemics occur, or an employee just has a tough half year.
“If you’re not meeting your goals, maybe we can reevaluate and if, out of three, you can hit one or there’s one to focus on, we can go from there,” Case said. “It makes you feel better as an employee, and as a person, to not only show your leaders that you’re in it and trying, but that you’re also able to succeed.”
4. Make preparation part of your routine.
While there is plenty of preparation to do in the weeks and days leading up to your mid-year review, it’s also a smart idea to always be thinking about your job performance throughout the year. Here are three things you can do year-round to be ready for your next evaluation.
- Get real-time feedback. As you complete projects or make a presentation, ask managers for their thoughts when you wrap up the task. “A lot of people forget all the good work they’ve done throughout the year,” Toterhi said. “Ask for feedback in real time.”
- Always be documenting. Orduña recommended that employees keep a career journal to document successes and kind words from colleagues or clients. “Ideally, employees should always be documenting what they're doing in their role, what they're doing outside of their role, any projects they've taken on, and success metrics and achievements,” she said.
- Toot your own horn. Singing your own praises doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but it’s important to do it even if you have to overcome some degree of discomfort. Occasionally asking your supervisor for their tips to boost your performance or showing your interest in professional development goals can present opportunities to talk about your accomplishments. Sharing positive feedback you received with your manager after a client thanks you for your help on a complicated project is a more direct option. “That is a great way of tooting your own horn and not being a jerk about it,” Tanios said.
As you prepare for your mid-year review, your extra work to not only focus on your performance during the past six months, but also the unique skills that you bring to the company as an individual, will pay off, Baker-Bagwell said. That human component is just as important as the metrics.
“If you’ve thought about only the questions they want answered, only the numbers, that is only going to reflect one dimension of self,” she said. “Anytime we have an opportunity to create conversations around those deeper and more meaningful dimensions, that’s what’s going to change the business we do together.”