Performance appraisal "season" is over. Employees have their goals for the upcoming year. Time to breathe a sigh of relief? Nope. Now it's time for managers to work with employees and make sure their goals are accomplished.
A very effective way to help employees accomplish their goals is to conduct a mid-cycle performance meeting. Think of this as a short meeting with one purpose: to make sure that employees are on track to achieve their goals. It's not a mid-cycle performance review.
The two possible outcomes of the mid-cycle performance meeting
Managers will encounter two potential outcomes from the mid-cycle performance meeting: either the employee is on track to achieve their goals or the employee isn't on track. Here is a little more context into each scenario:
1. The employee is on track.
Just because an employee is progressing well, doesn't mean the conversation shouldn't happen. The conversation has other opportunities to benefit the entire organization.
Find out how the employee is doing. This is a perfect time to discuss with the employee how they're handling their workload - both in terms of making sure the employee isn't stressed out and overwhelmed but, also to see if they have some proven strategies that can help others. If several employees have the same goal and one employee has a better, faster, cheaper way of accomplishing it, why wait to find out?
Recognize the employee's progress. Let the employee know that they are doing a good job and give them the confidence to continue their hard work toward the goal. This can also be an opportunity to set a stretch goal for the employee.
2. The employee isn't on track.
In this scenario, it's better to have this conversation early and give employees an opportunity to get back on track. Don't wait to learn that the goal wasn't met.
After discussing progress and challenges with the employee, it may make sense to modify the goal. If an employee isn't on track to accomplish their goals, it might not be their fault. It's possible organizational goals have changed or market conditions don't make the goal realistic. Instead of letting an employee wonder about their goals, have a conversation about how the work they've done to date can benefit the company.
If this is a situation where the employee has lost their way in accomplishing their goal, it's time to coach the employee and get them back on track. Managers should work with the employee to develop a detailed action plan that the employee can complete.
Preparing for the mid-cycle performance meeting
Prior to scheduling a mid-cycle performance meeting, managers need to do some homework and prepare. First, talk with human resources about the best way to document this type of meeting. HR will be able to advise managers on how to use their performance management system to record this meeting so employees can benefit from the outcomes.
Next, managers need to start getting some sense of where employees currently are with their goals. Depending upon the type of goals that have been set, some of this might be observable. In other cases, it might involve a conversation with the employee (which is next.)
In scheduling the meeting, let employees know that to help them accomplish their goals, a mid-cycle meeting will be scheduled. It's great to do this weeks or months in advance, so employees don't accidentally view this a "micromanagement" move. If a manager has never done this before, let employees know it's new and that management will be looking for employee feedback to see if the process is valuable.
Getting the most value out of performance check-ins
On the day of the meeting, remind employees this isn't their performance review. It's a meeting to make sure employees are successful with their goals. The purpose is to confirm goals, set stretch goals, modify goals, and possibly reallocate resources.
Managers that add this piece to their performance process should work with HR to evaluate the effectiveness of the meetings. Determine if the meetings are helping employees reach their goals. It's possible that organizations will see an increase in the number of stretch goals set and accomplished as a result. Employee feedback regarding the process can help to confirm timing - so the meetings are happening when they can benefit the most.
Proper goal management makes employees successful, which ultimately makes the company successful. Conducting a mid-cycle performance conversation keeps everyone focused to accomplish their goals.