It could be said that performance appraisals suffer from a bit of an image problem.
Managers find the process overly metrics-driven, and often struggle to give a rounded view of their employees’ development. On the flip side, employees don’t trust managers to make truly unbiased judgements.
It’s why regular check-ins and feedback are vital to every effective goal-setting process. But when you’re only checking in on goals on a yearly basis, then the feedback isn’t specific or timely enough to improve employee performance, much less evaluate progress on goals effectively.
So what’s the alternative?
Enter the mid-year performance appraisal. In contrast to the annual appraisal process, the mid-year performance evaluation allows managers and employees to check in on goals in a more informal way.
When combined with annual appraisals and regular check-ins, they’re an important pillar of performance management strategy that help you reflect on goal progress, proactively course-correct performance, and keep everyone aligned to year-end targets.
How to Evaluate Goals During a Mid-Year Performance Appraisal
A 2022 study on employees' perceptions of fairness in performance appraisals shows that when appraisals are combined with effective goal-setting, it increases trust in a fair process, in turn increasing employees’ motivation in hitting new targets. Plus, we found that employees actually want more feedback, not less.
When evaluating goal progress during the mid-year appraisal, it’s important to ask questions that help guide your employees to reflect on the work they’ve done over the last six months. Ask questions that guide reflection on what’s going well, what could be better, and if they need more support.
Try these key questions to help you evaluate goal progress:
- What specific accomplishments are you proud of over the last six months?
- What challenges have you faced in working towards your goals over the last six months?
- Are you on track to achieve your goals? Are there any you need more support on?
- How have you grown or developed your skills since setting your goals?
- Are you experiencing any roadblocks or challenges in meeting your goals?
Metrics for Measuring Employee Performance
There’s an old rule of thumb that “what gets measured gets managed” — and it’s the same philosophy when it comes to understanding how your employees are meeting performance targets.
Measuring employee performance goal progress will fall into either quantitative or qualitative metrics.
Quantitative data refers to the numerical performance data you collect. It includes:
- Sales or financial targets
- Tasks completed
- Customer satisfaction score
- Percentage of Key Performance Indicators met
Qualitative data is descriptive data that isn’t quantifiable. It includes:
- Feedback from peers and team members
- Employee engagement
- Customer feedback
- Employee wellbeing and mental health
You need both for a rounded view of your employee’s performance.
“When evaluating progress, managers should consider both quantitative and qualitative data,” advises Linda Shaffer, Chief People and Operations Officer at Checkr. “On the quantitative side, metrics such as sales numbers, project completion rates, and customer satisfaction scores can give a good indication of whether an employee is meeting their goals.
“Qualitative data can also be helpful in assessing progress beyond looking at numbers. [It] can inform managers about an employee's leadership, creativity, and problem-solving skills, [which] are difficult to measure quantitatively and often go unnoticed. This data is also helpful in identifying areas of improvement for employees and can help shape the employee's goals for the remainder of the year.”
“Humans are complex...There are myriad factors that may cause employees to miss their goals. Have a conversation with them to understand the root of the issue.”
Knowing When It’s Time to Adjust Employee Goals
Once you’ve got the performance metrics in place, you’ll have key insight on how close your employee is to hitting their goals, and any stumbling blocks that could be holding them back.
If your employee has accomplished all of their goals — great! The mid-year appraisal is the perfect time to co-create a whole new set of performance goals that help your employees feel challenged and keep engagement high.
If your employee is struggling to meet goals, then you can use the mid-year appraisal to refocus challenging targets or provide support.
“If an employee is consistently not meeting their goals, it may be time to adjust the goals themselves,” explained Shaffer. “Additionally, if company priorities have changed, it may no longer make sense for the employee to focus on the same thing.
“Humans are complex,” she added. “Work is complex. There are myriad factors that may cause employees to miss their goals. These can be a motivation issue, an issue within the workplace, or a deficit in their skill or abilities.
“The solution requires a collaborative effort from both the employee and the manager. If a manager finds an employee struggling, it is important to have a conversation with them to understand the root of the issue and develop a plan together.”
3 Best Practice Tips for Effective Mid-Year Appraisals
1. Encourage employee self-evaluation.
Mid-year performance appraisals are as much a time for self-reflection as they are for goal check-ins. Encourage your employees to consider the last six months and give themselves some honest feedback on how they’ve performed in line with their goals.
To guide this self-assessment process, check out our handy performance appraisal template that managers and employees can fill in and review together.
2. Leave space for holistic development goals.
Your employees don’t exist solely to hit KPIs — they also have career aspirations beyond strategic targets. Neglecting these can have serious consequences for your performance and retention.
Running regular developmental reviews is an essential part of encouraging long-term professional development, but you can also make time to check in on progress during the mid-year appraisal.
“It's important to set goals for employee development — sometimes called ‘soft skills’ — because how employees show up and contribute to the company culture should be as important as their technical outcomes,” explains Shanna Hocking, Principal Consultant at Hocking Leadership. “In setting clear, specific goals for employee development — together with the employee — managers show they value performance holistically.
“Ask them about what learning they have done on their own, and how they have incorporated this learning into their daily work,” Shanna suggests. “Ask them for examples of how they have seen changes as a result of their efforts or if they have received positive feedback from others.”
3. Open a two-way dialogue to surface support needs.
The best mid-year performance reviews are a two-way conversation that promotes trust and transparency. It’s a great time for managers to ask their direct reports, ‘What can I do to improve as your manager?’
“Sometimes, employees need additional help to achieve their goals,” notes Shaffer. “Many employees may be unwilling to share issues and difficulties that serve as barriers to success. By asking this question, the manager can identify these challenges and help to find solutions.
“Some may need flexible working arrangements, access to training or development opportunities and tools, or simply more regular check-ins from their manager. Without digging deep into their personal issues, managers can still offer them the help they need.”
“The most engaged and productive employees [feel] a sense of purpose in their work. If an employee does not find their job meaningful, it will likely impact their performance.”
Mid-Year Performance Appraisals Help Employees Look Forward to Future Goals
When combined with regular one-to-ones and annual performance appraisals, mid-year appraisals are a great way to reflect on performance, surface employee feedback, and proactively address any stumbling blocks preventing your employees from performing at their best.
But appraisals are as much an opportunity to look back as to look forward. As you lead performance reviews with your team, use this opportunity to dig into your employees’ sense of purpose at work.
Shaffer suggests asking questions that dig into how meaningful your employees find their roles, their motivation, and what job aspects they would eliminate if they could.
“We know from research that the most engaged and productive employees are those who feel a sense of purpose in their work,” says Shaffer. “If an employee does not find their job meaningful, it will likely impact their performance.”
Lattice helps teams align company goals with employee performance seamlessly. To learn more about how Lattice tools can make a difference in your performance management strategies, request a demo.