Keep Mid-Year Check-ins Simple & Targeted with a Few Quick Tips & an Easy Conversation Equation
It's about that time, Folks...time for mid-year check-ins. We've puttered half-way through another year, and in an interesting environment, no less. We've been at work in the coronaverse for almost five months. Performance discussions will be interesting this year for sure. Get a jump on those discussions with an informal check-in to catch up on performance so far this year, re-align on goals for the remainder of the year and center on any development needs.
If your organization includes a mid-year check-in in the performance management process already, fantastic. This is an opportunity for you to share helpful guidance with leaders to make the most of the conversation. If there's not a formal call for a mid-year conversation in the existing process, it's always a good idea to encourage leaders to have those conversations with their employees. It's a simple topic to add to a regularly scheduled one-on-one session, and I'll give you a conversation equation below to make the discussion an effective one.
In this article, we are sharing pro tips for leaders along with a couple of pro tips for talent development professionals.
Pro Tips for Leaders
Let's start with tips for the leaders:
1) Focus on the key message that you need to share with your employee. The key, short message. I think of it in terms of the story of their year so far. What have they nailed, not nailed so much and where can they focus differently or keep doing that's working? Tweets are what, 280 characters now? I challenge you to sum up the key message for your employee into a tweetable statement. Yes, it can be done. I do it every quarter with my team.
The benefit of a tweetable summary? Two things: 1) you have to get really crisp on the feedback and direction you have for someone. 2) The Employee knows exactly where they stand. Tweetable messages are concise and clear. No need to be harsh in your quick summary. Remember, direct & kind is the goal.
If you struggle with that concept, try it on yourself. What one or two things did you and your team accomplish the first half of the year that you are really proud of? Make a quick note. What behaviors or skills have you been working on? Did you make forward progress? Make a note. What about something that didn't go well in the first half? Something you wished you'd done differently? Make a note. What resonates with those three notes. Did your opportunities overwhelm the cool stuff you and the team accomplished? That needs to be in your summary. Or maybe your team closed the gap on a super value-added project. You're proud of the team and yourself for supporting them across the finish line. That's the summary. It's the mini-story you want to share with your boss. Find those threads with your peeps, too. They need to know what their summary is along with the chance to course correct any behaviors or skills before the end of the year.
2) The mid-year check-in (or really any performance conversation) does not need to be complicated. I recommend this conversation equation every time:
+ What's working well
+ What's not working so well
+ Priorities for the second half of the year
Head over to the Free Resources page to download the Conversation Equation quick form.
3) One final recommendation I'll make to leaders is to cap off a mid-year chat with a check-in on development priorities. It doesn’t need to be a full development conversation. You should absolutely have those. For mid-year, I recommend a quick check-in on the progress of any development plans, if you've set those with folks. That gives you the chance to redirect attention to closing development gaps in the second half of the year. Time has a way of getting away from us, so I like to do a quick check on development priorities while we still have runway to make time for a class, mentoring relationship, you get the idea. Now, a caveat here is that if an employee on the team isn't meeting performance expectations, I do not recommend a development discussion, unless it's to determine a role that's better suited. Development and special projects are not kind for someone not meeting performance expectations. Help them meet expectations consistently first.
Pro Tips for Talent Development Professionals
Yes, of course, I have thoughts for you too, Talent Folk:
1) Mid-year is an excellent opportunity to look for trends in performance. Look for employees who are struggling in this new environment. For those of you supporting a small shop, look for employees who have consistently missed deadlines or key deliverables. For those supporting larger teams, review recent talent planning discussions for employees trending downward and skim for performance notes captured in your talent system that might indicate a warning.
The goal here is to get in front of performance issues before the end of the year, coaching leaders on having a transparent conversation with their employees while there is still time to course correct. I believe talent development is all about the conversations between leaders and their employees. You can read about my soapbox here. Employees need to hear clearly how they're doing, and mid-year is a perfect time to check-in.
2) The first half of the year brought unexpected challenges and new priorities. While yes, we have had more than our share of challenges in 2020, every year brings unexpected changes and new areas of focus. The plans we made in January rarely look like the plans we need now. Mid-year is a perfect time to review development trends. Do you still need to address new leader on-boarding, or is setting expectations for teams a higher priority due to shifts in the current work place and new ways of working? In my book, shifting your priorities to best support the talent needs for your customers is the right business solution. It keeps you targeted and sharp.
In short, mid-year check-ins: we should do them. Spread the word with your leaders. They haven't missed the window. Really, anytime is a great time to check-in with employees if your goal is performance support.
Finally, if you're seeking thoughts on performance management and where to take it in the future, I've got a few resources for you:
Here's a guide with direction on how to make the most of the talent trifecta - performance management, talent planning and succession planning.
A colleague and I also shared background on our approach at Southwest on this Nine to Thrive HR podcast with HCI.
Talent Folk, your action is to make time for some trend analysis over the next month. Get in front of any performance issues. Leaders, there's no better time than now to have a performance check-in with your team members. There won't be a time when your schedule is clear or you have an open project window. Talent conversations are a key leadership task and if your employees don't hear that they aren't meeting the mark, that's on you. So, download the conversation equation quick form and get to it.
Let me know how it goes and how I can help. Your success is my goal.