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What Should Managers and Employees Even Talk About in Mid-Year Check-Ins?

Jodi Bartsch

For the past several years, the buzz around the HR world has been about the state of the annual performance review. It's no secret that a once-a-year meeting to go over performance metrics, goal progress, shifting priorities and insight into the kind of support employees need to be successful their roles is not enough - communication needs to be more frequent.

Jumping straight from annual reviews to weekly 1:1 meetings between employees and managers can be a bit of a leap, but mid-year check-ins are a great place to start! Not to be confused with mid-year appraisals, mid-year check-ins provide managers and employees with an opportunity to reorganize and reorient, or just to ensure that the course that they're on is what's best for the individual, the team, and the organization.

The blueprint for a great mid-year check-in isn't always apparent, so we're going to help set you up for success.

Before Anything Else: Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Prior to the mid-year check-in, both the manager and the employee need to prepare. Establish an agenda, and base your preparation around that. After all, there's an entire half-years' worth of things to talk about, and they might not all come to mind if you just sit down and talk "on-the-fly." Some great ways to jog your memory:

Look at goals and find out how they're progressing.

Go through the last six months of your calendar to see what you've been up to.

Keep a running to-do list? Take a look at the items you've checked off in the last six months.

Use project management tools like Asana, Trello or Wrike? Go through your task history!

Look at the notes from your previous review or check-in. What did and didn't you take action on?

When all else fails, clean up your inbox! Go through the last six months email (or instant messaging) to see what's been taking up your time.

But what should employees and managers even talk about in these meetings? Well, it's all about sharing both the employee's and the manager's perspective on the following things.

Employee Performance

A focus on how the employee has been performing should be at the core of the mid-year check-in. Managers and employees should discuss what significant contributions the employee has made, how their goals are progressing by identifying milestones that have been hit, and what behaviors are leading to great outcomes.

If the employee can provide hard facts and figures, that's ideal. After all, that which gets measured, gets managed. These are especially important in comparing employee performance to the most recent check-in, another key step to this part of the discussion. Identifying trends in performance not only help the employee find the right focus, it helps managers identify high-potential employees, guide development goals, and isolate areas where they might provide the employee with support.

Career Progression and Development

Every manager should aspire to be a great career agent for their employees, and the mid-year check-in is a fantastic opportunity to make sure employees feel supported in their career progression.

Managers can ask the employee questions around what they'd like to be more involved in, what new skills they want to develop, what existing skills they want to use more, or even simply where they want to be one, three, five and ten years from now. These discussions show that the manager and organization care about the employee's career, which should, in turn, lead to greater employee retention. After all, great internal talent mobility is one of the most underrated recruiting strategies around!

Day-to-Day Work Priorities

Another part of this discussion should be on a more tactical level. What projects are taking up the bulk on the employee's time? What are they focusing on that may be taking focus away from something else? Are day-to-day tasks getting in the way of completing bigger projects?

Wrap Things up

This is going to sound a little too simple to be useful, but it's a surprisingly powerful practice. When wrapping up the discussion, both the manager and the employee record their two biggest takeaways from the meeting were. This step is crucial. Conversations can go in a lot of different directions, so it's a great idea to finish up by boiling things down to their most important elements. It will help the manager set expectations about the second half of the year and will help the employee direct their focus in the right areas.

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