emPerform Goal Tree


As part of emPerform’s latest release is new enterprise goal management capabilities, including a company goal tree. We developed this feature for organizations that have established good practices of setting and tracking goals and KPIs with team members but need an easier way to segment larger company and department objectives into clear and actionable tasks.

For companies who still need to define a goal management strategy in their organizations or for HR teams who are revisiting how goals are set and tracked, this post will explore everything about Goal Trees and how and why they should be used.


What is a Company Goal Tree?

A goal tree is a visual representation of a company’s goals and objectives, organized hierarchically – like branches and leaves on a tree. A goal tree is a tool to break down larger, overarching goals into smaller, more specific, actionable steps and tasks. Each tree branch represents a sub-goal that supports the achievement of the higher-level goal.

The goal tree visualizes the relationships between different goals and the steps required to achieve them. It helps to prioritize and allocate resources effectively, improve communication and collaboration, and measure and track progress toward goals.


When Should You Use Goal Trees?

A goal tree can be helpful for organizations who are looking to better:

  • Define and align organizational goals: A goal tree helps break down overarching company goals into smaller, more specific, actionable goals and tasks, helping employees achieve actionable steps while staying connected to the broader objectives.
  • Prioritize and allocate resources: By visualizing the relationships between goals, a goal tree can help a company prioritize and allocate resources effectively.
  • Improve communication and collaboration: A goal tree can serve as a shared visual representation of the company’s goals and objectives, improving communication and collaboration across departments and teams.
  • Measure and track progress: A goal tree provides a clear and structured framework for tracking progress towards company goals, making it easier to identify areas where adjustments may be needed and helping leaders to ‘rollup’ the progress of larger objectives.


How is a Goal Tree Created?

A goal tree is typically created by first defining the overarching company goals and then breaking them down into smaller sub-goals until the desired level of specificity is reached. Supervisors and leaders can also establish and break-down department, team, and individual goals. The tree is then reviewed and updated regularly to reflect changes in the organization and team’s priorities and progress.


SMART Goals vs. Goal Trees:

Many HR teams struggle to get managers and employees to set and track effective SMART goals. Thinking about a goal tree might seem unattainable, so why should you use one over the other? It depends on the context and the specific needs of a company. Both “SMART” goals and formal goal trees have their benefits and limitations.

SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) are a simple and widely-used tool for setting and tracking goals. They provide a clear and concise way to define goals and assess progress.

A formal goal tree, on the other hand, provides a more comprehensive and structured approach to goal-setting and decision-making. It helps to break down larger goals into smaller, more manageable steps and provides a visual representation of the relationships between goals.

There is no ‘right’ answer, and they are also not mutually exclusive. In some cases, a combination of both may be the best approach. For example, a company could use SMART goals to define specific objectives within a broader goal tree framework. The choice between the two ultimately depends on the company’s goals, the complexity of its organizational structure, and its available resources.


Can Small Companies Use Goal Trees?

Yes, small companies can use goal trees as a tool for setting and achieving their goals. In fact, goal trees can be particularly useful for small companies, as they provide a simple and straightforward way to organize and prioritize goals and to ensure that everyone is working towards common objectives.

By breaking down larger goals into smaller, more manageable steps, a goal tree can help small companies allocate their limited resources effectively and track their progress toward their goals. Additionally, a goal tree can provide a clear framework for decision-making.

It is important to note that while a goal tree can be a useful tool, there are other effective ways for small companies to set and achieve their goals.


What Are the Benefits of Proper Goal Alignment?

Regardless of what tools or processes you use to establish clarity in roles and alignment in tasks, it will undoubtedly pay off. Research has shown that companies who invest in a proper goal alignment strategy, not just a goal tree, tend to experience several benefits, including:

  • Increased motivation and engagement: When employees understand and are aligned with the company’s goals, they are more likely to be motivated and engaged in their work.
  • Improved performance: Proper goal alignment leads to better decision-making and resource allocation, resulting in improved performance and better outcomes.
  • Enhanced collaboration and communication: A clear and shared understanding of goals can help to improve communication and collaboration across departments and teams.
  • Better risk management: By setting specific and achievable goals, companies can better manage risk and avoid over-extending themselves.
  • Increased innovation: When everyone works towards common goals, there is increased motivation and collaboration to develop new and innovative solutions.
  • Better decision-making: A clear and shared understanding of goals and priorities can lead to better decision-making and more effective resource allocation.

However, it is important to note that simply investing in a goal alignment strategy or employing a goal tree is not enough. Organizations must also regularly review and adjust their goals as needed and ensure that employees have the resources and support they need to achieve them.

Goal trees are a great way to take something as critical as organizational goals and break-them down for action. But while a goal tree can be a useful tool, it is not the only way for organizations to set and achieve their goals. The key is to find a goal-setting method that works best for the company and to regularly review and adjust the goals as needed.


Start aligning goals and seeing results with emPerform.

We cannot overstate the importance of employee engagement. High engagement can reduce turnover, increase efficiency and productivity, improve client retention, and lead to higher company profitability. Overall, having highly engaged employees makes a business easier to manage and enables leaders to focus on high-value tasks and activities.   

The sad reality is that in today’s job market, only a tiny fraction of employees consider themselves “highly engaged.” A Gallup report found that 54% of workers in the US are actually “not engaged”, meaning they are psychologically unattached to their work and company. These employees ‘put time, but not energy or passion, into their work, typically show up to work and contribute the minimum effort required and are often on the lookout for better employment opportunities.’[i] Organizations cannot afford the cost of disengaged staff, from high turnover rates to poor-performing employees, lost productivity, and dissatisfaction spreading to colleagues. 

Employee Engagement Directly Impacts Performance

If you consider the many components of engagement, it is easy to see how levels of engagement correlate with output and performance. Generally, highly engaged employees: 

  • Get regular recognition for their contributions and achievements
  • Have clarity in their role and responsibilities
  • Have the tools, training, and resources needed to do their job
  • Have opportunities to develop professionally 
  • Have competent and reliable team members and leadership groups to rely on for success and inspiration
  • Are heard and have a voice on their team and in the organization
  • Have a manager and leaders who care about their wellbeing and career success
  • Have a sense of purpose, respect, and belonging on their team and in the organization

With all this said, it is not surprising that many organizations are taking steps to re-engage with their employees by seeking regular input through employee engagement surveys. 

Engagement surveys are a great tool for gauging how motivated and engaged employees are with their work and environment and to measure the overall relationship between employees and organizations. They are also an excellent tool for uncovering trends or blind spots that might not be obvious to HR or leaders and giving employees a voice and active role in their development. 

Whether you are looking to get started with engagement surveys or would like to revamp your existing measures of engagement, it is essential to include the right questions in your surveys so you can get the most impact and insight out of them. Here are our top 25 engagement survey questions to ask. 

Top 25 Employee Engagement Survey Questions to Ask 

We recommend keeping engagement surveys concise. Choose the top 10-15 questions to ask employees that are most relevant to the areas of engagement you would like to assess. Shorter surveys will encourage employees to give thoughtful and thorough responses that can reveal insight. 

 Overall Engagement 

1. Do you feel proud to be a part of this organization?

2. How likely are you to recommend this organization to your peers?

3. Do you feel empowered at work and in your role?

Career Development & Compensation

4. Do you have a clear understanding of your career path at the organization? Do you feel you can reach your full potential here?

5. How would you rate your overall work-life balance?

6. Are you satisfied with the compensation package you are currently receiving, including benefits, compensation, or perks?

 Work Environment & Well-Being

7. Do you feel comfortable and supported when contributing ideas and opinions to your team or department?

8. Do you feel that your team environment is transparent?

9. Do you feel mutual respect in the workplace?

10. Do you believe that you have the resources you need to feel comfortable in the workplace (this could include work materials, mental health resources, or food and beverage facilities)?

11. Do you feel that our organization’s work environment is motivational?

12. Are you satisfied with our organization’s measures to achieve diversity and inclusivity? 

 Feedback & Team Environment

13. Are you comfortable asking for assistance when you don’t have the resources to meet your goals?

14. When you face a problem, do you trust that your managers effectively listen to your needs?

15. How would you describe your relationship with your colleagues?

16. Are you comfortable giving and receiving feedback to your team leader and members?

 Management & Leadership 

17. Do you support the approach taken by leaders to reach corporate objectives?

18. Do you feel aligned with the company goals and broader objectives?

19. Do you feel executives enable a positive work environment or culture in our organization?


20. Do you feel that you receive enough recognition for your work?

21. Are given adequate recognition for your contributions to both individual and team projects?

22. When was the last time you felt strong recognition for either hard work or a successful outcome in the workplace?

 Professional/Career Development

23. Do you believe this organization is a good place to develop your career?

24. What new skills would you like to develop, or what responsibilities would you like to take on?

25. Do you believe there are enough learning opportunities offered to you. If not, how can our organization help in your development?

Tips for Executing Excellent Engagement Surveys

When crafting employee engagement surveys, there are a few key factors to consider in the development process[ii].

1) Use surveys as a learning tool for your organization’s leadership teams. The results should be taken seriously, carry value, and be used to identify issues and resolve barriers to success. 

2) Treat all collected feedback with discretion. Maintaining the confidentiality of employee’s feedback will encourage them to participate actively and with honesty. They should not be held ‘against’ employees in any way. 

3) Employee engagement surveys can lead to new methods of evaluating performance. Use the results of engagement surveys to direct your organization in its decision-making processes or to construct a performance management program that allows for more recognition, more collaborative career planning, or better goal clarity and alignment. 

4) Follow through. If you go down the path of assessing engagement, your leadership team should be united and committed to following through on the results and using the surveys as a means of accountability and change. Employees want to be heard, but more than that, they want to know their voices have weight and will affect change. 

When employees are engaged, they often go that extra mile to meet their personal and professional goals and are more likely to infect others with a higher standard of performance and output. Over time, your organization will be able to hire, engage and develop a strong team of highly engaged and motivated employees who will give you an immense competitive advantage. 

emPerform makes it easy to collect the organizational data you need for decision-making and to identify and develop highly engaged teams. Included in emPerform is a survey tool to create and launch an unlimited number of surveys, including engagement surveys, pulse surveys, satisfaction surveys, and more.

Learn how emPerform’s full-featured performance management solution can help your organization strengthen employee engagement, retain top talent, and provide your organization with a competitive advantage in today’s talent market. 

[i] Harter, J. (2021, June 25). Historic drop in employee engagement follows record rise. Gallup.com. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/313313/historic-drop-employee-engagement-follows-record-rise.aspx.

[ii] Craig, W. (2018, September 18). Benefits of Measuring Employee Engagement. Forbes.com. https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamcraig/2018/09/18/8-benefits-of-measuring-employee-engagement/?sh=1fa3404a7c55

Managing a Remote Workforce

2020 has been a watershed year on many fronts. COVID-19 has normalized what once was considered a minority practice — remote working. Companies have become FROGS (Fully Remote Organizations), which brought a steep learning curve that exacerbated previously existing management flaws, especially in performance reviews.

In a recent State of the Industry Research study conducted by hr.research and hr.com, polls confirm that yes, performance management is happening remotely, and yes, companies and managers need to adapt new skills for managing it effectively.

  • More than half (55%) of HR professionals believe more performance management discussions are happening remotely due to COVID-19.
  • More than two-fifths of employees (44%) say their managers need new skills to manage employees remotely.
  • Performance management conversations between managers and employees are expanding to include more than just traditional PM concepts. For example, two-fifths say more conversations are involving health and well-being.

A performance review is a keystone activity that can motivate talent by identifying opportunities for development, coaching excellence, and facilitating fairness in bonuses and promotions. Unfortunately, certain biases have always clouded performance reviews and performance management, and it seems as though their ramifications amplify in a remote team setting. You can’t see your employees and hence don’t have data to make an entirely objective evaluation. If you haven’t properly instilled a way to track and manage data remotely, then data is not accessible for you to make decisions in fairness. Furthermore, not addressing implicit biases (all of us have it just because we are humans!) will put a damper on the employee’s confidence in themselves, the management, and the company.

This article will look at five common performance management biases that can be amplified when managing a remote workforce and how managers can mitigate and tackle these biases before they fracture productivity and morale.

#1 -Recency Bias:

This is a type of cognitive bias when you easily recall and place too much emphasis on the employee’s most recent work rather than considering their performance throughout the entire year. This sets the stage for a distorted view of the employee’s actual overall performance — magnifying their strengths or shortcomings, both of which aren’t true to reality.

Recency bias leads to the employee either feeling overvalued or undervalued for their work. It’s particularly harsh for those who genuinely worked hard in the first and second quarters but faltered a little towards the end of the year due to circumstances outside their control (we are trudging through a pandemic, for example). And it will reward the employees who cleaned up their act just because they knew the performance review was coming up soon. As a manager, you don’t want to reward inconsistent bursts of effort or severely reprimand strong talent who perform well throughout the year but whose productivity suffered a little in the end.

Quick fix: Humans are forgetful. It’s natural and it’s all part of our short and long term memory! With recency bias lurking around, it’s easy for performance reviews to become nothing more than a memory game. The best way to counteract this is to keep track of staff performance through the weeks, months, and quarters with detailed journals and notes on performance. Yes, it’s time-consuming, but it makes a world of difference when it comes to showing you the big picture of where your employee failed or shined.

You can also choose to enhance annual reviews with more frequent check-ins and feedback.  This way, your team will have more opportunities to reflect and discuss achievements and opportunities in the moment, instead of waiting for months and hoping everyone remembers. Remote working is new to many and getting team members to a place where they produce the same productivity output will take time, so set your expectations accordingly.

These are challenging times. Even the most resilient employees have faced moments of uncertainty and existential dread. Providing frequent feedback gives managers the opportunity to check-in on staff often, see where they’re at, and keep them focused.

#2 -Primacy Bias:

Primacy bias is also known as anchoring bias. It’s another cognitive bias that encourages managers to consider partial information to form an overall evaluation. In primacy bias, the managers form negative or positive opinions about an employee exclusively based on their performance on the first few projects, or most frequently, first impressions. For example, a manager just hired a new employee after an online interview. The new hire is located in a different country and can’t respond to emails immediately on their start day Monday morning. Different time zones are at play here, but the manager has already formed an employee’s opinion and labeled his late-response as procrastination.

This event is likely to tarnish all future interactions with that employee, and it will culminate in a jaded review at the end of the year. Even if the employee is one of the strongest performers throughout the company, that first impression will cloud the manager’s view of the employee. This  is another example as to why they say “first impressions matter”.

Quick fix: Just like with recency bias, the best way to rectify this is to collect various data after each project throughout the year. This way, in the end, your evaluation will be based on comprehensive facts instead of finicky perceptions or subtle manipulations in Such as the classic, “let me buy you a cup of coffee, boss!”. For many managers, this may involve scheduling dedicated time to meet with employees and ask them about their accomplishments.

#3 -Distance Bias:

Distance bias refers to the brain’s tendency to favor people or events that are closer to us. This is a massive problem for remote teams or hybrid teams that have remote employees peppered in. Out of sight is considered out of mind. Amidst the pandemic, with office shut-downs being implemented widely to flatten the COVID-19 curve and to keep the workers healthy, it’s near impossible to keep employees always in sight.

Distance bias translates to inaccurate evaluations that differ based on locations — in-office employees are valued more than the geographically dispersed worker. Remotely, this may come into play if a manager happens to be grouped into many meetings and/or projects with some employees and not others. This also applies to events.

Quick fix: Take it upon yourself to consistently check-in with your remote employees. Create a personal connection with each of them over weekly virtual meetings and make space for informal conversation before formal meetings. When figuring out who to assign a project to, consider all of your options. Don’t just give an assignment to an employee because they’re closest to you. Also, be proactive about inviting remote workers into meetings and leverage the power of virtual whiteboards to encourage everyone to participate. Again, record information along the way, so when the annual review rolls around, you’ll have several data points to obtain a clear end-to-end view of an employee’s contribution to judge their performance. Remember, this shift to remote work means that you, along with every other manager, will have to adapt and learn new skills to effectively lead. Prioritizing time for check-ins is one of those non-negotiable adaptions.

#4 -Similarity Bias:

We tend to like what resembles us —  ‘mini-me’s.’ This springs our natural tendency to categorize others based on different variables. For example, if we are religious, we will look favorably upon those who are equally devout or share the same values. In the same vein, employees may be grouped based on gender, skin color, where they’re from, their likes, dislikes, working habits etc. If they don’t seem like “one of us,” their evaluation suffers.

Often managers don’t realize they’re being biased to specific traits. When a male manager pays more attention to other male employees, he might be doing it unconsciously. The “othered” group will have to work extra hard to keep the manager’s attention and not be looked upon as underperformers. Working remotely, managers may unconsciously pay favor to employees with similar remote work patterns and habits (turns camera on/off, is online early, is comfortable using technology etc.) which may cloud a manager’s gauge on productivity and performance.

Quick fix: One way to avoid unleashing similarity bias is to find at least one common ground with each employee you’re about to review. Maybe you both binge-watched the same Netflix show over the weekend or have been working out to keep the pandemic blues away. Once you find the common thread, that employee is part of your in-group. Then you can shift your focus on their achievements over the year.

Doing the “finding common-ground”  activity frequently, not just around the time of annual review, encourages the entire remote workforce to follow suit and see each other as part of the same umbrella that shares the same goals, regardless of what one might look like or where they’re located. This is critical to keep a dispersed team unified. During a time of remote work, this means that during regular check-ins you should carve-out time to check in with their team on a more personal level. It will not detract from performance-related discussions and will only help to strengthen bonds. More companies and managers are adjusting their leadership style to ensure they are monitoring not only the performance health of employees, but also their well-being.

#5 – Leniency Bias:

No one wants to be the cause of pain for someone else. Not managers either. This is why the leniency bias exists. When a manager is predisposed to be lenient to all employees or a specific employee during rating, it results in obscured, inflated, and incorrect feedback. There are several reasons why this occurs beyond the apparent possibility of an existing relationship between the manager and the employee.

Other reasons might arise from an internal motivation to score everyone higher because the manager wants to make it seem like they have a great team with excellent ratings. Or a manager might think that rating an under-performer higher will boost their confidence and encourage them to work harder. Or they want the team to like them and are unable to give anything other than stellar feedback. Managers may also rate higher during this time of systematic uncertainty to avoid any further stress to them and employees. COVID-19 has certainly forced companies and leaders to manage with empathy and flexibility and if unchecked, this will also result in managers rating their inaccurately.

Quick fix: Unfair ratings make top performers feel underappreciated and block underperformers from identifying areas of improvement. One way to mitigate this is to ensure you set and continually re-evaluate employees’ goals. They should be realistic and achievable and be prepared to adjust as needed. This way you will be in complete alignment with your employee as to what is expected and won’t be tempted to over-rate. It is important that managers be given enough discretion to show empathy and flexibility with their team, while also being able to balance what is needed from employees in their role and for the company. This also means that at a company-level, leadership should evaluate company goals and be prepared to adjust and cascade those updates down to managers and employees. Expecting all teams and employees to meet the goals set in 2019 is not realistic in 2020, remember to adjust accordingly.

Final Thoughts

Even post-pandemic, remote working will hold a strong presence among the workforce of most organizations. Businesses of all sizes should take the time to eliminate or at least diminish the likelihood of  bias creeping into and compromising performance reviews’ efficacy. This activity is single-handedly the best tool for personal and professional growth.

The distance can bring teams even closer. Get to know your team better one-on-one and keep tabs on their output after each accomplishment or project. Data never lies. Make that your anchor instead of first impressions or one-in-a-blue moon outstanding performance. And, provide feedback throughout the year, so you don’t burden your brain with remembering and tackling a year’s worth of insights. You also give the remote employee to look forward to evaluations — because they’re immediately useful, instead of an intimidating once-in-a-year episode.

Modern Performance Management Software for Today’s Workforce

emPerform offers a complete, scalable and affordable solution for re-tooling and modernizing your company’s approach to performance management. Move your reviews online and engage your workforce in year-round goals tracking, better performance discussions, and ongoing feedback.

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Giving feedback isn’t easy! However, it’s something managers must do to keep employees engaged and informed. Failing to provide feedback or allowing bias to creep into the process are equally concerning and may result in disengagement, loss of productivity, and cultural rifts. Today, we’ll discuss how to give feedback, outline the common struggles and risks of giving bad feedback, and discuss how managers can learn to deliver effective, honest, fair, and impactful feedback that motivates and drives results.


Tips on How to Give Fair and Impactful Feedback

Here are a few essential tips to consider when providing feedback.


1.     Provide feedback immediately

Giving feedback is an integral part of any professional relationship. It helps keep everyone on the same page and working towards the same goal. However, it’s also vital to ensure that your feedback is constructive and helpful, and that requires an immediate response. Waiting too long after the fact or allowing several issues to stack up over time can confuse and overwhelm. Immediate feedback helps prevent misunderstandings and relieves the frustration managers might feel around addressing an uncomfortable situation.


2.     Focus on the action, not the person

Focusing on the action or behavior—rather than the person—can be a difficult distinction to make, but it’s an important one. For example, if an employee makes a mistake, it’s easy to criticize in a way that makes the person feel like they are less than.

In personalizing your response, you put the individual on the defensive and make them feel bad about themselves. Instead, try to focus on the action. For example, you could say something like, “I noticed that you didn’t proof your work before turning it in. Next time, could you please take a few extra minutes to review your work before handing it in?” This kind of feedback is specific and objective. It doesn’t make the person feel bad about themselves, but it does encourage them to change their behavior in the future.


3.     Make the exchange mutual

Addressing the need to change can be difficult. Making the conversation a mutual endeavor is a way to achieve the results you want without causing undue stress to either party. Focus on why you need to have the conversation and what the impacts of the desired change will be. State your positive intentions in providing the feedback and connect it to the employee’s positive motivations.

For example, you know that your employee wants to be viewed as a capable and helpful part of the team. Perhaps you can express your concern that the person’s performance makes it difficult for others to see them in that light.

Keep in mind also that a mutual discussion requires some listening on your part. Perhaps you should lead by asking the individual to tell you their perspective. You may gain valuable insight into why the behavior happened in the first place—which might force you to adapt your response.


4.     There’s a time and place for feedback

Feedback is a critical part of any professional relationship. It allows us to assess our performance, identify areas for improvement, and build strong and productive partnerships. However, feedback also needs to be delivered in a way that is respectful, constructive, and founded on trust.

If you cannot offer feedback in the moment, choose your time and place carefully. Think about times when the individual will be most receptive to the exchange and try to avoid moments like just before a meeting or when they’re about to leave for the weekend. Context is critical if you want what you say to penetrate. If you require a more formal setting, do it early in the day at the start of the work week, so they have a chance to put your suggestions into action.


5.     Contextualize the problem

There are times when bias creeps into performance review scenarios and results in an unfair situation assessment. For example, you may have a female employee working from home, and you feel she is not collaborating adequately with her team. Ask yourself first how you feel about their work and contribution in general—and then think about whether you would think differently about the situation if she was in the office every day. It’s easy to disregard employees you don’t see all the time. Perhaps she needs to adapt her schedule to engage with in-office staff more. Don’t immediately assume the problem lies with her.

This is just one example, but it covers two types of bias: gender and proximity. It also shows how difficult bias can be to recognize. Other aspects of bias include racism, ageism, affinity bias (preference for people who are more like ourselves), and attribution bias (the misconception that women are less competent than men).

Contextualizing the problem before you give feedback means tying the issue to specific business goals without the influence of conscious or unconscious bias.


6.     Focus on the future

As a manager, one of your most important jobs is to elevate your employees. Actionable feedback is a way to accomplish this and will almost always improve performance. Feedback often focuses on events that happened in the past. While the core issue likely happened before your conversation took place, the future is where the change will happen—so that’s what you need to focus on.

Spend less time talking about the event itself than you do about the improvements you want to see. You can’t do much about what’s already happened, but you can shape how things move forward. With a positive outlook, a clear and actionable plan, and an honest, two-way dialogue, much can be accomplished.


Final Thoughts

When providing feedback, we should always be clear, direct, and specific. Above all, we must strive to be fair. To maximize the impact of feedback, managers must remain objective, be aware of hidden biases, and allow employees to provide their own perspectives. Feedback isn’t always easy to give, but we all improve with practice.

Tools to Help Managers Become Performance Coaches

emPerform is a complete performance management platform that includes an entire toolset designed to help align, develop, engage & retain valuable talent, including online reviews, ongoing feedback, coaching assistant tools, peer feedback and more.

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PIP Results

How to Create Effective Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) That Drive Success

At one point or another, every manager is going to have an underperforming employee. Whether they aren’t meeting job requirements or is consistently exhibiting behaviors that are not in line with company expectations, the manager will reach a point where it is clear that the situation needs to change. When an employee is not performing well or reaching their full potential, it is not just the manager and employee who suffer. The whole team and company can eventually feel the knock-on effects of these behaviors – the overall result is frustration, wasted time, and demotivated people.

Firing an employee might seem to be the logical course of action at this point; however, we urge HR and Managers to consider another approach: formal performance improvement plans (PIPs).  The process of identifying root causes of poor performance, outlining clear expectations for improvement, and giving the employee a chance to remedy shortcomings, could not only save time and costs related to termination and re-hiring, it creates a culture of performance accountability for employees and their managers.

This sounds great, but not every employee finds it easy to take criticism — but that doesn’t mean they don’t welcome their reviews. Employees want to develop and grow into their roles, but 53% of employees report that reviews don’t make them work any harder.

The majority of employees believe that their reviews are inaccurate, leading them to dismiss the findings altogether. Through a performance improvement plan (PIP), organizations can find ways to give positive encouragement to struggling employees, while helping them develop their experience and skillsets in a way that aligns with their goals.

What are the benefits of a performance improvement plan?

A performance improvement plan shows the employee that the organization understands their current challenges and long-term goals and will take an active role in supporting them. Employees are more likely to be engaged and productive if they understand what the organization expects. PIP’s outline in detail any issues or behaviors that are causing problems, corrective actions to take to improve, and what meetings and resources will be available to offer support.

Performance improvement plans aren’t only designed for those who are falling short of their current requirements, but also for those who are currently feeling unfulfilled in their roles. Improvement plans can be used to increase employee mobility, allowing them to transition into higher-level roles or move laterally into roles that they feel they are better suited for. All of this creates a better trained, more talented workforce.

When should you implement a performance improvement plan?

Performance improvement plans are most useful if an employee is struggling. Whether their work productivity has decreased or they have started taking more time off, many managers can identify an employee who has become disengaged from their work. As mentioned before, PIPs should be implemented when there is a clear trend in poor performance and positive change and improvement are needed. The goal of a PIP should not be to document performance so that you can easily fire (although PIPs can serve as useful records), rather as an opportunity for the employee to right the ship.

Open lines of communication are important with PIPs and the ultimate goal should always be to find a satisfying solution for the organization and the employee. Managers need to reach out to employees to see what they need to deliver the work they are capable of.

How can you improve the effectiveness of a performance improvement plan?

  • Listen to your employee and allow them to respond to any of your points. The PIP is a collaborative process. Employees become disengaged when they feel they are misunderstood or when they feel as though they aren’t being met halfway.
  • Pare down to the cause of any issues at work. Does the employee feel as though they don’t have a future with the organization? Are they ready for a more challenging role? Or are they dealing with personal issues outside of the spectrum of the business? Issues should be specific and supported with examples to ensure the employee understands the opportunities and changes needed.
  • Focus on the positive aspects of the employee’s relationship with the company. Emphasize their valuable attributes and work with them to find ways to improve on these positives, rather than harping on the negatives.
  • Give them a clear path. Employees need to understand their goals and the actions to take to meet expectations of performance and behavior. The more precise their goals are, the easier they will be to obtain. Vague goals can feel confusing or frustrating and can make employees feel as though they are spinning their wheels.
  • Regularly review employee progress. Track the employee’s performance and touch base with them at regular intervals to keep them motivated. Employees will appreciate being given a chance to talk about any concerns they’ve developed and have access to support and resources to execute the plan. We suggest formal 30-60-90 day meetings with frequent informal check-ins in between. All encounters should be focused on progress and the employee should be allowed to comment on improvements and ask questions or for clarification.

Of course, just as a PIP needs to be rewarding, there also need to be clear consequences outlined for a failure to meet goals. The PIP establishes an agreed-on plan between the employee and the organization regarding the best way to improve their results. If the employee breaks this contract, there should be a transparent set of circumstances. These should be outlined at the beginning of the PIP process and employees should confirm that they understand.

What can go wrong?

Having a development conversation isn’t easy for anyone, and if a manager says it’s easy, they are either lying or not doing it correctly! Even though good managers will find a way to deliver the message with respect, caring, and noticeable concern and support, employees might feel defensive and put off. This is why the conversation is awkward. In order for PIPs to be effective, the conversation has to happen and managers need to be prepared to face the music alongside their employees.

We recommend a few ways to ease the potential sting of PIP’s:

  • Document behaviors and accounts of performance: This is the easiest way to take any vagueness out of the conversation. It is much easier for managers to comment on actual behaviors and examples than to make unclear statements.
  • Make sure it is a trend in performance: Although even top performers should be striving for ongoing development, most employees will see a formal PIP as a substantial event. Managers should be certain that poor performance or undesirable behaviors are actual trends, instead of being anomalies that we all can experience from time to time, otherwise, you risk damaging your relationship with the employee and demotivating them.
  • Keep it focused on performance: managers should avoid personal attacks on employees. PIPs should always be centred on results and performance instead of motives driving those items.

Performance improvement plans can be the formal process for helping managers deal with poor performance, but it also promotes a culture of accountability within the company. By creating encouraging, effective performance improvement plans, organizations can improve their outcomes and retain the best employees. Ultimately, this will lead to a high-performing pool of talented and focused individuals.

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Quiet quitting emperform


In 2021, ‘The Great Resignation’ dominated HR news feeds, highlighting the growing rate of employee turnover across North America. The Great Resignation can still be felt, with many organizations in all industries struggling to recruit and retain good talent. But, in 2022, a new buzzword is getting the spotlight: ‘Quiet Quitting.’ But what is it, why does it matter, and what can HR and leaders do to prevent their top talent from disengaging?


What is Quiet Quitting?

Despite what the term implies, ‘quiet quitting’ doesn’t involve employees handing in their resignation letters. Instead, this term refers to workers who are no longer willing to go above and beyond in their roles and will only put forward the work and hours for which they are paid.  

It comes down to employees not wanting to continually put more energy into their work without apparent personal gain. 


Should Companies Care about Quiet Quitting?

Yes! Organizations are successful because of people. But not just regular people – having high-performing and engaged talent at every level within the organization is a priority in all sectors. A McKinsey study estimates that high performers are 400% more productive than average ones. Organizations don’t want these people to back off. They rely on their top talent to be motivated and spread passion throughout their teams. Organizations and HR leaders should be very invested in identifying, retaining & engaging their top talent as they carry the teams during peaks and valleys. 


Peeling the Onion – Work & Rewards

Two main elements of quiet quitting are what’s deemed ‘extra’ work and what’s valued as a ‘reward.’


What is Extra Work?

Companies and HR have always tried hard to invest in properly defining job descriptions, setting KPIs, and measuring ‘work.’ However, despite this, SMART goals are still either not defined or poorly defined for many employees. ‘What does my day look like?’ is a common question asked in the recruiting process. Employees want to know what they should be doing and what success looks like. Similarly, employees want to know that what they are asked to do is reasonable and can be accomplished within the time set out and with the available resources.

At the same time, studies show that high-performing employees might not actually work ‘extra time’ but instead have great habits that make them highly productive and can squeeze more out of every hour. According to Forbes, high-performing people take breaks and seek clarity before working, all habits that lead to balance and working efficiently. But still, even high-performing employees are quietly quitting, and these are the people that companies must keep an eye on.


Many factors are causing even high-performing employees to be and feel ‘overworked’: 

  • Working from home due to COVID has blurred the lines between work and personal time, making it harder to feel ‘disconnected’ from a job
  • Many teams and industries are stretched due to various factors, leading to more work being put on existing team members
  • Bad leadership creates blind spots in actual work and responsibilities being handed down to teams
  • Poorly defined job goals make interpreting expectations subjective and makes it difficult for employees to get support when their days are overrun
  • Any change in company structure can lead to extra work being put on key team members during the transition
  • People are tired – the last few years have been stressful for everyone, and people are feeling the effects
  • Unbalanced workloads among co-workers without rewards discourages staff from continually stepping up when needed

It is up to leaders and HR to ensure that employees understand their jobs and what is/is not expected in terms of extra work or time. It is also critical that all companies set boundaries and standards for time off, balance, and well-being and ensure these are enforced from the top. This all sounds great, but on the heels of the ‘great resignation’, many teams are stretched and find themselves working more hours to make up the gaps. If direct managers and HR do not have a handle on the work being put on staff, or if managers are struggling to get work done within a reasonable time frame, the ‘hustle’ trickles down and leaves staff feeling overworked with no end in sight.


Working ‘Extra’ vs. Being ‘Engaged’

We can’t talk about working ‘extra’ without talking about employee engagement. 

Employee engagement has always been a hot topic in HR. How do companies make and keep employees excited about their role and company success so they can give it their all every day for the cause or step in when needed to fill the gaps? Gallup research poll indicates that only 34% of US employees are fully engaged in their roles. This number is small, and although it would be impossible for any company to aim for a 100% engagement rate, HR should strive to create a culture of maximum engagement. Engaged staff are the ones who step in to get things done, don’t turn down projects or assignments, and are relied on to move the company forward. But just because employees are engaged, it doesn’t mean they will stay that way. If too much work is placed on a team member without support or benefits, even the most engaged staff will choose their time and self-value over any company. 

Quitting quietly doesn’t mean an employee was never engaged in their job – but it does mean that now, they are not. 


What is a ‘Reward’

The second part of quiet quitting is the lack of perceived benefit or reward for continually putting forward extra work. What constitutes a benefit or reward is different for every person. 

Some examples of rewards include any or a combination of:

  • Financial incentives 
  • Formal and informal recognition 
  • Time off and flexibility in schedules
  • Autonomy and involvement in decision-making 
  • Development opportunities & mentoring 
  • Subscriptions, gifts, and swag
  • A simple ‘thank you’

If employees are always putting in extra effort and time, at some point, they will look to see what they are getting out of it. Companies and HR have to work with employees and managers to identify what motivates and drives individuals and either deliver these benefits when earned or ensure a consistent and fair rewards policy is in place and used to adequately compensate the high performers who give more to the company. 


Is Quiet Quitting New?

The rejection of the ‘hustle culture’ and wanting fair work-life balance isn’t new. Employees have been demanding proper work-life balance and fair compensation for many years. Quiet quitting is a resurgence of this cry, felt by many staff members who want to do their best but are tired of always giving more to companies or leaders who don’t give back. Quiet quitting isn’t a trend for a new generation who only want to give the bare minimum in their roles. This trend highlights an entire workforce who wants a fair work/life balance, a feeling of achievement, and a sense that what they do matters, and are demanding to be rewarded fairly for their contributions. Employees who set too many boundaries will continue to limit their opportunities within any firm or organization. This trend shines a light on employees who want to dive into their roles and be successful together but don’t want to be taken advantage of or overlooked. 


What Can Companies and HR Do?

The good news is that companies and HR are hopefully already tackling the fundamentals that are leading to staff quietly quitting: 

  • Ensure jobs are clearly defined with realistic goals, and measurable KPI’s – and employees are held accountable for results and rewarded for extra work
  • Review compensation and benefits packages to ensure staff members feel fairly rewarded for contributions and rewards are aligned with performance 
  • Make sure managers have the training and skills to delegate and monitor the workloads of their teams and the support and resources to deliver on team expectations 
  • Develop effective engagement strategies and tactics that will give employees a voice in shaping culture and providing feedback
  • Review talent acquisition and hiring policies to ensure culture and work expectations are aligned at the gate
  • Ensure your talent and performance programs allow for the accurate and timely review of performance and output (so top-performing and engaged staff are easily identified and actively retained and under-performing team members are managed before they affect engagement)

Overall, quiet quitting is not new, but it is making headlines and causing your high-performing staff to question if they too feel they are being properly rewarded for extra work. Now is the time for companies to focus on their valuable team members and make the changes needed to avoid any employee staying quiet about something as important as disengaging. 

Align, Develop & Retain Top Talent with emPerform

emPerform includes the tools needed to identify and engage high performing teams. With online reviews, year-round goal tracking, ongoing feedback, pulse surveys & complete merit & bonus management – you can create a performance program that drives engagement & results. 

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If you find your performance review process spooky, lifeless, or downright terrifying, here are some tips for reviving it!

  1. The more heads the better: A simple way to inject some life into performance reviews is to involve multiple perspectives and voices. 360° reviews and surveys are a great way to do that and give employees & managers a well-rounded view of performance.
  2. Chain goals to company success: Employees are more likely to be motivated about their goals if there is a direct link between their output and company success. Empower your workforce with effective goal management and ‘reap’ the rewards.
  3. Keep it simple: Limit reviews to a handful of relevant criteria. There is nothing that turns employees into zombies faster than seeing a giant list of generic competencies that they have to rate. Instead, create review forms that evaluate employees on skills and tasks related to their job! That way it’s all treats – no tricks.
  4. Keep it going! Unlike Halloween, performance management shouldn’t be a once-a-year event. Don’t lose the momentum of the performance discussions and reviews. Engage employees & managers with timely and ongoing feedback and encourage them to update the status of goals and development items frequently.

To learn more how emPerform can help eliminate the fear of reviews and awaken performance management, contact us today!

Happy Halloween from emPerform!

Be sure to check out these frightfully helpful resources:

Start, Stop, Keep Going - Feedback DeliveryThere has certainly been a lot of change in the world of performance management over the last few years. Companies are shifting to more regular development discussions, organizations are revising their rating and rewards processes, and employees are demanding feedback transparency in job expectations and measures of success.

More Feedback = Greater Success

These changes are happening quickly, and more studies are showing that companies that invest in performance management are experiencing a direct impact on their bottom line. Employees who receive regular feedback are shown to be more engaged and productive and less likely to leave. Companies who monitor performance and potential are having an easier time planning for leadership gaps and developing future talent, and managers who make themselves accountable for providing clear objectives and more in-the-moment feedback are experiencing greater team success.

But at the end of the day, performance management comes down to direct communication between employees and their managers, coaches, leaders, and the company. No matter how HR defines measures of success, the front-line of your company’s performance management strategy will be the delivery of feedback from your managers.

Giving Feedback is Easy – Giving Effective Feedback is Tough

We frequently consult with companies and HR on how to better train and equip managers with the skills needed to deliver good and balanced feedback. We have written several articles and numerous blogs on the topic. We have even built-in tools and resources within emPerform to help managers give better feedback – but feedback still remains a challenge for many managers. Giving good and effective feedback is simply tough for anyone.

One of the most effective ways to guide managers in giving clear, constructive and honest feedback is the START, STOP, KEEP-GOING framework. Its simplicity is what makes it so beautiful, and practically, it is one of the best tools we have used internally, and that our clients have used to frame feedback across the organization.


We don’t have an official definition, nor can we trace where it originated, but we first learned about it in Mark Effron’s book ‘One Page Talent Management’. It is used across many disciplines from performance management, to project assessments and even agile/scrum discussions. It is an easy action-oriented retrospective exercise designed to acknowledge success and propose plans for improvement. It is sometimes called START, STOP, CONTINUE, or DO MORE, DO NOT CHANGE, DO LESS. In regards to performance management and employee development, this framework:

  • Gives employees and managers the opportunity to review how they are doing and identify improvements they can implement in the future.
  • Makes it easier for managers to clarify issues and reach a consensus with the employee on shared priorities.
  • Is action-orientated and provides momentum and energy for the employee.
  • Empowers managers to continuously improve the way they lead, and employees to improve the way they work.
  • Gives employees balanced feedback – the good, the bad, and the great.

This framework can be used when a manager sits down to complete reviews, conduct check-in meetings, or is regrouping with employees, and can apply to discussions around overall performance, select goals or projects, and even behaviors. It can also be used to provide a framework for 360° peer evaluators.

Here’s how it’s done:


What should the employee begin doing or do more? This aspect of the framework allows the manager to look ahead and identify activities that their employee will do, should do more, or should start doing in the coming future. This section can also identify behaviors that should be developed and increased to help the employee succeed. This might also include goals or tasks that are coming or are ready to begin. It is a great way to set the stage for something new and discuss what resources are available to help the employee excel.


What should the employee stop doing? This aspect of the framework looks backward and allows the manager to outline behaviors or actions that did not work or did not contribute to success for the employee or company. This might also include goals and tasks that have been canceled. This is the more critical feedback that is nicely sandwiched in the middle. Managers should outline clear examples and accounts of why things didn’t work and be prepared to discuss with the employee.


What should the employee keep doing? Identifies behaviors or actions that worked and that contributed to the employee’s success or goal attainment. These elements should be continued and developed to leverage their success. This is an opportunity to acknowledge success and reinforce behavior.

Where should you use the START, STOP, KEEP-GOING framework?

The beauty of these comment boxes is that it can frame smaller discussions, like weekly check-ins, or larger more in-depth discussions related to goals and development. Many of our clients include these 3 comment boxes alongside competencies, and some even use these as the questions asked to peer-reviewers in lieu of having 360° reviewers provide a ‘rating’ on behaviors. The important thing is that this tool is used anywhere where managers (or anyone in a potion to provide feedback) might struggle to provide balanced input that looks backward and forward, and also acknowledged achievements.

Words of caution:

Watch for Repetition

The framework itself is very simple but it can be tempting to re-frame and repeat the same points in multiple sections. For instance: “Start: sending emails to the entire team  Stop: Forgetting to send emails to the entire team.” Managers should re-read their points to ensure there isn’t overlap because this often happens without intending to do so.

Beware of Bias:

No framework can guard against bias. Managers will still struggle to accurately populate each box unless they pay attention and document behaviors, accounts and results. The best way to deliver feedback and explain the ‘why’ of the input is to support it with specific examples. We encourage managers to keep detailed notes and records of performance on an ongoing basis, so they can reference key points and use when they are outlining the START, STOP, KEEP GOING.

Overall, if you are looking for a simple but highly effective way to ensure your company’s talent is getting balanced, action-oriented feedback, the START, STOP KEEP-GOING framework is a fantastic option. Not only is it very clear and easy to follow, but it also sets the stage for highly effective feedback conversations and performance discussions between managers and employees. Who would have thought that three little comment boxes would be one of the best performance management tools we have seen?

Want to see how emPerform users are using START, STOP, KEEP-GOING in performance reviews and employee check-ins?

Contact us to book a demo of emPerform.

Performance Feedback Software Screenshot

As a vendor of performance management software for the last 20 years, we speak with dozens of HR Pro’s every day to discuss their performance review pains and challenges. No matter how it’s worded, we have found that ALL headaches are caused by deficiencies in one of 3 categories – the 3 main P’s of performance management: Purpose, People and Process.

These vital aspects that comprise your performance management strategy can make or break this business process for your entire company, and spoil it for years to come. The good news is there just might be an easier fix than you think. We often see great processes and forms, but the content or intent is missing, or the right approach, but something as small as a poorly worded rating scale, or vague list of competencies turns users off entirely.

Whether you are looking to update and modernize your appraisal forms and methods, want to rebuild your performance strategy completely, or are just curious as to what aspects of evaluations you could be optimizing, this post is for you.

Addressing the 3 P’s of Performance Management: Purpose, People & Process


One of the biggest challenges we see with rolling out a successful performance management strategy throughout an organization is the disconnect between the plan and what the organization is looking to gain from it. Legacy processes often leave HR and your workforce questioning if they are simply going through the motions and doing it just to do it. Time is money for businesses, and for every minute spent on performance management tasks and activities should ultimately equate to value for the business and everyone involved.

When designing or re-designing your performance management plan, take a step back and ask ‘What’s the purpose?’

  • What perceived value do you want your employees and managers to extract at every stage? What’s in it for them?
  • What value should the business expect and what will be the performance indicators?
  • What key metrics are you looking to collect and analyze for decision-making?
  • What content should be included in your forms or system? Goals? Values? Development Plans? Skills? Etc.
  • What regulations or regulatory bodies (if applicable) are in place (like accreditation requirements or union standards) that might dictate some of the format?
  • What cultural or organizational values or drivers should be incorporated into the design and why?
  • What bottlenecks or issues are you looking to diagnose or overcome with a new strategy?

Narrowing your company’s performance management ‘purpose’ will help when designing or updating your strategy and content and this will ensure the value is not only easy to convey but will also be perceived by all involved.


Performance management starts and ends with people. Period. Who is involved, how much they are involved, and why they are involved can make a giant difference as to whether or not employees and managers get on board and stay on board for their own benefit. HR might have a vision of a long-term performance management strategy in mind or in place, but unless people are considered and factored in, it will remain an unrealized pipe-dream. Here are some important ‘People’ aspects that should be considered:

Get Support from the Top

Company leaders should not only support HR’s performance management vision and processes, but they should also outwardly champion it. Like any other company initiative, process, or expectation, leadership buy-in is key to ensuring your well-oiled performance management engine keeps running. In his Harvard Business Review article entitled, ‘The Hard Side of Change’, author Harold L. Sirkin notes that if employees don’t see that the company’s leadership is backing a project, they’re unlikely to change. Involve your company’s leadership team in the performance management planning. Give them a say in how the process will work and share useful metrics that will fuel their ability to lead the company. Ensure expectations are clear on their follow-through and commitment and reinforce regularly.

Ask Employee to Self-Assess

If you don’t already involve employees in the process, we recommend doing just that! Giving employees a voice and chance to share their perspectives shifts the onus away from managers and onto employees to participate in a more balanced two-way conversation. Having employees self-assess also lets managers gauge the employee’s thoughts and stance prior to any meetings. We recommend letting employees update their goals in real-time, allow them to comment on achievements and development needs, and allow them to rate their own competencies and skills and provide examples to support their self-ratings.

Involve More Voices with 360° Feedback

The effect of an employee’s day-to-day performance isn’t restricted to the confines of the employee-manager relationship – so why should reviews be? Employees often work with multiple managers or teams to accomplish their goals. Reviews that incorporate manager-only input risk leaving out a giant piece of the performance-picture. When you think of the people who should be involved in the process, think beyond managers and second-level supervisors, to company-wide multi-rater peer input. This can be in the form of informal feedback in the form of an email, a survey, or if you want to get really sophisticated, allowing employees and managers to request formal 360° input on their competencies and/or goals. The idea is to create a culture where employees know that their daily behaviors and actions are being recognized by managers and factored into their evaluation. As an added bonus, input from others helps managers provide more accurate reviews and much better comments as they often uncover observations they would have missed!

Train Your Workforce on Providing Effective Feedback

Most often, getting the right people involved is only the first hurdle – you also have to make sure they are equipped with the tools to ensure they are effective participants. Even the best performance review process can be ruined in the eyes of employees if managers aren’t providing the right feedback or if 360° reviewers aren’t focusing on behaviors over opinions. We recommend communicating with your workforce on the purpose behind feedback and sharing tips and expectations for what the feedback should focus on and when it should be given. Here are some great resources to help with training staff to master the art of feedback.


The last ‘P’ relates to ‘Process’ and how the performance management process works and looks at any stage of the year or cycle. There is no question that traditional once-a-year appraisals are nowhere near enough to give employees the input they need to develop, or to ensure organizational performance goals stay on track from day-to-day. Many organizations are redesigning their process to incorporate more check-ins and touch-points for managers and employees so that their process is more of an ongoing conversation about goals progress and employee feedback. This sounds great and makes sense in theory but the reality is that every organization should design their own processes that factor in their unique circumstances and needs.

How a company’s performance management process should work depends on the previous two ‘P’s Purpose & People, and two other main factors:

  1. What your organization currently has in place for performance management
  2. Your company’s culture

Let’s discuss a very common scenario: If a company has a tenured workforce of managers that are used to an annual 25 minute appraisals every January, it is almost impossible to introduce formal monthly or even quarterly check-ins without some backlash. We suggest that clients plan a transition strategy from where they are now to where they would like to be and ensure its workforce knows the trajectory and what will be expected of them. For companies looking to evolve from annual appraisals to a more continuous performance management process, we suggest phasing it in gradually. Start with a mid-year check-in along with informal feedback and performance journals, then move to quarterly and then monthly reviews.

For companies who operate around long-term projects, annual appraisals might not even make sense, and instead, a company might choose ad-hoc project evaluations with 30-60-90 day check-ins for new hires.

For new companies or those growing quickly with feedback-hungry millennial and gen-z employees, a swift tear down and build-up of a completely new and ongoing performance management process might be the best strategy and welcomed by all with open arms.

Similarly, larger or more complex organizations might need several processes to meet the needs of individual locations or divisions. The point is that your company’s process should reflect your company and its goals and not reflect what might be used in other organizations.

Employee Performance Management Software - emPerform Screenshot Book Your Demo



Mid-Year Performance Review Meetings

As the year’s half-way mark passes, many companies with formal performance evaluation processes will be launching or in the midst of completing mid-year performance reviews and meetings. Even if your company does not conduct formal mid-year reviews, we encourage managers to take it upon themselves to establish a set time when they can devote their attention to employees in order to recharge and regroup for the second half of the year.


The mid-year review meeting is an excellent opportunity to formally sit down with employees and:

  • review goals and accomplishments to ensure everything is on track;
  • check-in on the general status of employees and how they are doing in their roles;
  • learn from employees on what is/isn’t working and what support or resources they need to deliver on expectations;
  • provide feedback on achievements and coaching for development;
  • communicate and plan for any changes in the company, team, roles or objectives that will affect the second half of the year.

But HOW managers approach mid-year review meetings can make or break everything. Just going through the motions and ‘winging it’ is not enough to ensure employees are on track and receiving the proper feedback and support they need to succeed.

4 Steps to Rocking the Mid-Year Performance Review Meeting: Book, Prepare, Meet & Follow Up.

1.      Book:

 Bad managers: never book mid-year meetings themselves – they wait for HR or the employee to ask or skips them altogether.

Most managers: book meetings a few days in advance and provide little information about the meeting goals.

Great managers: are consistent with their check-ins and formal mid-year meetings and provide employees with meeting objectives and ample time to prepare.

How to rock this step:

  • Book the mid-year review meeting at least a week in advance with a formal meeting invitation. The employee should understand that this is more formal than a water-cooler check-in or weekly touch-point.
  • Communicate the purpose of the meeting so the employee understands the objectives of the meeting and can prepare.
  • If the employee is being asked to self-assess prior to the meeting, ensure they have access to do so and ample time.
  • Book a quiet room with plenty of cushion in your calendar so the employee knows they will be getting your undivided attention. We often suggest that managers having the meeting somewhere other than your office or where you would typically meet.

2.      Prepare:

 Bad managers: step into a meeting and ‘wing-it’.

Most managers: take 15-20 minutes before the meeting to skim goals and make mental notes.

Great managers: understand the importance of showing the employee that they are as invested in their success as they are. Great managers start preparing a week in advance by collecting peer input, gathering all notes, doing a detailed review of job goals and responsibilities, and planning discussion points to structure the meeting in a positive yet constructive manner.

What great managers do to prepare before a mid-year review meeting:

  • Review the employee’s performance goals and job responsibilities and are prepared to ask questions to spark discussion about progress and what is needed from the employee to deliver on these expectations.
  • Review any comments or status ratings the employee has provided in the formal mid-year review form (if applicable).
  • Examine any performance notes, feedback, or check-in meeting logs to identify trends. Be prepared to provide positive input on milestones reached and observations taken, as well as constructive coaching tips on ways to grow and improve.
  • If you are using 360 peer feedback, ensure any relevant parties have had a chance to submit their input and you have taken the time to review and identify any trends, strengths, and opportunities that should be communicated to the employee.
  • Make a preliminary determination of the extent the employee is performing or achieving/not achieving expectations and what course of action will be taken to either maintain momentum or to improve the situation.
  • Determine any opportunities for development or training, when it should be pursued, and how this would affect the employee’s short and long-term schedule.
  • Plan to discuss any new company or departmental/team changes that might affect the employee’s performance goals and plans.
  • Take a moment to self-reflect and determine if there are any behaviours or methods that might be facilitating or impeding the employee’s progress.
  • Create a rough outline of the meeting talking points and set goals for the discussion items you would like to get through. Plan for employee silence and what you might say to keep the conversation moving.

3.   Meet

Bad managers: spend the meeting doing most of the talking or discussing items unrelated to the employee or their role. Use the meeting as an opportunity to ‘surprise’ the employee with points on what they could be doing better.

Most managers: spend the meeting doing most of the talking, providing good feedback and/or constructive criticism however losing the direction of the meeting to the point that key discussion points are missed or rushed.

Great managers: are prepared to solicit employee input, keep an eye on the time, and allow for a good mixture of acknowledgement and coaching. Great managers understand that employees should leave the meeting armed with what they need to deliver on expectations while also feeling refreshed and motivated to face the next 6 months.

Tips for executing a great mid-year review meeting:

  • Ensure you meet somewhere quiet, with no distractions, and any phones or devices are turned off. The employee should know they have your undivided attention.
  • Quickly re-iterate the purpose of the meeting and your expected agenda so the employee is reminded of what will be discussed.
  • Ask the employee to start the conversation with a recap of the last 6 months. Their comments will be very telling and should steer the rest of the discussion.
  • If you have prepared a plan, great! Follow your talking points and goals for:
    • confirming any key points from self-assessment comments (if applicable)
    • acknowledging any positive observations or behaviours, using examples or feedback received from others
    • discussing causes and solutions for any issues in performance or delivery and ask the employee if they understand expectations and what is needed for them to improve
    • reviewing the progress of goals and development items
    • communicating any company, departmental or team changes that might impact their roles or objectives.
    • adding or editing any new goals or development items
    • discussing any career-related goals and progress
  • Keep employees talking by using leading statements like ‘tell me more…’ (read a great post here for ways to keep the conversation going)
  • Outline any follow-up activities needed after the meeting and set time and work parameters around them if possible so the employee knows what will happen.
  • Remind the employee that you are available outside any formal meeting to discuss progress at any time.

4.   Follow Up

Bad managers: never follow up after the meeting or deliver on promises made.

Most managers: do not follow up after the meeting and deliver on promises if and when they can.

Great managers: understand that employees are waiting for confirmation of items discussed and follow up promptly after the meeting.

Here’s how great managers communicate after the mid-year review meeting:

  • Send an email after the mid-year review meeting to outline any key points, items to confirm (including dates on when the employee can expect to hear) and an outline of any promises or changes and when they will take effect.
  • Deliver on any promises made or communicate the status to the employee.
  • Record any key meeting notes or action-items for easy recall. (If your company is using an automated performance management system, these items would be delivered to the employee automatically after the manager closes the mid-year review meeting.)
  • Schedule any other follow up discussions needed.

Overall, the formal mid-year review meeting is a great time to give employees your full attention, discuss any ups and downs and plan for what’s next. Mid-year meetings should not replace ongoing feedback and informal check-ins, but they are a great way to formally re-group so employees are equipped with the motivation and support needed to succeed.

Want help rocking mid-year review meetings?

Explore emPerform’s easy & complete performance management software with tools like journaling, feedback, task alerts, goal tracking, and 100% automated meeting reminders.

Ready to make a change?

Contact us to see how we can help you transform performance management to better align, develop, engage & retain a world-class workforce.


Mid-Year Evaluation Steps: Duke Human Resources. https://hr.duke.edu/managers/performance-management/duhs/support-resources/mid-year-evaluation-steps

 Inc.com How to Make the Most of Mid-Year Reviews By: Tanya Hall https://www.inc.com/tanya-hall/how-to-make-the-most-of-mid-year-reviews.html

 Forbes.com It’s Performance Evaluation Time: Three Steps for Preparing Your Mid-Year Review By: Caroline Ceniza-Levine  https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinecenizalevine/2015/05/11/its-performance-evaluation-time-three-steps-for-preparing-your-mid-year-review/#6fb4ed8d676b