Questions to Get the Most out of Your Midyear Review

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Midyear and annual performance reviews have become more formalized processes in recent years.

On the surface, that may seem positive, and it is: You can be reasonably confident a review will occur, and you can be reasonably confident the process will be similar to that of your peers.

But regular reviews also present this question: How should employees approach them? They are, after all, two-way conversations even if their format does not always appear as such.

Ask the right questions

Three professionals with executive recruitment giant Korn Ferry tackled various aspects of this question recently, offering guidance worth considering. In their view, it all starts with ensuring employees are asking the right questions of their managers. How important are these questions? “The questions you ask could be career defining and could make the midyear review meaningful,” Korn Ferry’s practice manager for chief human resource officer (CHRO) states.

That’s mighty important, but what are those questions employees should be asking?

Four questions

Four specific ones are vital to ensuring an effective and hopefully positive review:  

   1.) “How can I give you more visibility into my performance?”

   2.) “What am I doing that you would like to see more of or less of?”

   3.) “Are my goals still aligned with the company’s business goals?” and

   4.) “What am I not doing well enough?”

Actionable improvement

These four questions help steer a performance review in a productive direction not just for a manager but also for the employee. Perhaps most important, they leave an employee with tangible and actionable go-forward guidance that best ensures continual improvement.

Visibility in remote environments

The first question—that of visibility–is especially important today given the ongoing trend toward full remote or hybrid remote environments. In the traditional office work environment, it could be reasonably assumed that a manager would have such visibility.

Today, that assumption no longer can be taken for granted.  Korn Ferry’s global lead for optimizing people costs observes that “if you’re working remotely on a hybrid schedule, you should ask how you can best provide opportunities for your manager to observe your work.”

Provide opportunities to your manager to get visibility

One idea, this Korn Ferry global lead proposes: “Perhaps your manager would like to attend a meeting with colleagues or a client.” The idea behind the question, not formally stated, is this: Do not assume your manager has full visibility into the magnitude or quality of your work. Afford him or her opportunity to see it, which starts with this important question regarding enhanced visibility. How can they best see it, and especially how can they see it when they are not, as once was the case, necessarily physically proximate.

What is Helpful and appreciated?

The second question: “What am I doing that you would like to see more or less of?” is also an especially important one because such a question focuses a manager at least partly on the aspects of an employee’s work that are helpful and appreciated. It also steers the conversation away from more subjective assessments and onto tangible acts that can guide an employee in their post-review endeavors.

Less of what?

The second part of the question—what would you like to see less of?– is equally valuable because it provides a manager an opportunity to reveal those efforts that might seem valuable to the employee but are not necessarily to the manager.

What can I do better?

This part of the question is inherently a euphemistic substitution to the traditional review question: “What can I do better?” By substituting it with the question of what a manager would like to see more or less of, an employee ensures they leave a review with an appreciation of work undertakings and tasks that are and are not valued by their supervising manager.

This, in turn, becomes actionable for an employee, affording him or her a better sense of what do more of in the months to come—and what, even if it seemed important to the employee, to do less of if it is revealed to be of limited or no value in the eyes of their respective manager.

Fit in the larger organizational objectives

These and other questions are important ones for employees, helping ensure they leave reviews with objective direction and a better sense of how they fit into the larger strategic organizational objectives in the eyes of their supervising manager.

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