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performance reviews

Mid-Year Reviews: Tips for Productive Performance Conversations


Mid-year reviews are meant to be informal, two-way conversations on progress. The employee and manager/supervisor each present a personal perspective on past achievements and lay out a plan for the future.

A successful mid-year conversation is one where the employee leaves feeling more engaged, motivated and acknowledged.

Some tips for a successful mid-year conversation are:

Establish a positive environment

  • Ignore smartphones, email and text messages. As a manager, if an emergency arises and you can’t give the employee your undivided attention, cancel the meeting and rebook;
  • Both should pay attention to the seating arrangements. The atmosphere should encourage two-way conversation;
  • Be alert for emotional triggers; and
  • Keep an open mind. Relax, breathe and maintain eye contact. The manager can thank the employee for coming to the meeting. Both should listen attentively. Say that you will be taking notes so that you can follow up on matters that are important to both of you.

Achieve productive focus and tone

  • State your positive intentions. The manager should stress that this process is about giving the employee direction, guidance and support to meet or exceed performance expectations;
  • The manager can encourage the employee to make suggestions, and explain that it is their role as a manager to help employees succeed; and
  • Focus on the performance, not on the person.

Discuss progress

  • The manager should ask the employee to share their opinion about how well they are doing overall. How does the employee judge their own performance? Where does the employee think they could improve?;
  • As a manager, link the employee’s performance to performance indicators for the work objectives and behavioural indicators for core competencies:
    • Describe progress thoroughly. As a manager, if you agree with the employee’s assessment of achievements, reinforce their importance to the work of the team. Using specific examples, compliment employees who have performed well and stress the positive effect of their performance on others;
    • If you feel the employee has overlooked any achievements, mention them and explain why they matter;
    • Using specific examples, communicate clearly and honestly to employees about how they need to improve; and
    • If an employee identifies accomplishments that you don’t agree with, ask why they see these areas as accomplishments.

Relate individual performance to team objectives

  • As a manager, explain how the work of others depends on the employee’s work: “We count on you to…”; and
  • Focus on the team and its business goals. Outline the challenges you see for the team and the adjustments to be made to key priorities. The manager can ask the employee how they can contribute.

Collaborate with employees who need improvement to meet performance expectations

  • The manager should state facts to support their observations when an employee’s performance needs improvement. Performance issues should be described in specific terms and explained what effect they had. For example, “The report you developed last month was delivered a week after it was due. This delayed getting important information to the Director that she needed for a briefing note.”;
  • As the manager, allow the employee to respond and listen carefully to the explanation. More may be learnt about the issue, so that both will know what needs to change and why; and
  • The manager can ask how they can help the employee improve.

Help employees maintain good performance to bring them to the next level

  • If work is on track, managers can discuss changes to work objectives or learning activities that could keep the employee motivated or help further develop core competencies and technical or functional capabilities;
  • Managers can discuss how they can work together with the employee to address the issues they identified;
  • If the manager recommends an action plan, they should explain how it will help reduce performance concerns. The manager should schedule a follow-up meeting to develop the action plan (or review the action plan if one has already been created); and
  • The manager should review the learning and development plan. Update the status of each of the learning activities and determine whether they are still relevant. Should any of the planned activities be replaced, or new activities discussed? What might those be?

Wrap up the conversation

  • Both can summarize what they’ve heard;
  • Managers can ask their employees:
    • As your manager or supervisor, what do I do that you find effective and supportive?; and
    • Is there anything you would like me to do differently? How would this affect you?
  • Come to a common understanding of the next steps each of you will take. These include:
    • Documenting the conversation in the employee’s updated performance agreement; and
    • Documenting follow-up actions in the performance agreement.

With files from Treasury Board

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