Modern performance management goes beyond the occasional performance review. Today’s organizations ensure managers and direct reports meet regularly to discuss priorities, challenges, and how the employee can improve their approach to work. Check-in meetings are usually conducted weekly but can occur every two weeks or monthly, depending on the role.
A check-in shouldn’t just be a quick recap of what the employee is working on. That isn’t a productive conversation since the manager assigned the employee’s tasks and is working closely with them every day.
A check-in should instead focus on everything impacting the employee’s job performance. They should feel comfortable sharing any challenges they’re facing or ideas they have for accomplishing their objectives. And the manager should share feedback that will help the employee get even better at what they do.
These types of conversations are expected in an employee-manager check-in. Managers aren’t surprised when the employee mentions a problem they’re facing and employees aren’t caught off guard by feedback. It’s the perfect forum to have a candid discussion about performance.
Why are employee check-in meetings important?
It can be challenging to implement organizational-wide check-in meetings. While some managers are happy to meet with direct reports, others are busy and struggle to schedule meetings for everyone they oversee. Some managers try to consolidate check-ins into a weekly team meeting but those get-togethers serve a different purpose.
Employee check-ins provide the opportunity to have a continuous, long-term conversation about performance. Managers ensure their direct reports are focused on the right tasks and giving their best effort. Now let’s explore how these conversations benefit employees and the organization at large.
Employees want frequent feedback
It’s easy to assume people don’t want to be told how to do their jobs. But the truth is, employees want feedback from their manager—and they don’t want to wait until a formal performance review to get it.
Even the most confident professional might stop and wonder if they’re doing everything they can to succeed at work. It’s natural for people who care about their jobs to think, “Am I helping my team and employer succeed?” “Does the work I do matter?” “Am I growing and on track to accomplish my career goals?”
According to Harvard Business Review, 72% of employees said they thought their performance would improve through corrective feedback from their manager. Managers can put an employee’s mind at ease and help them reach their full potential, simply by taking the time to meet and share feedback.
Check-in meetings boost employee engagement
Engagement is unlocked when employees are happy, productive, and, of course, motivated.
It’s easy to try to motivate employees with high pay, bonuses, or even fear of being reprimanded. However, that approach has diminishing returns. Employees will only work hard for short spurts and they’ll rarely feel compelled to go above and beyond.
Continuous productivity is achieved through intrinsic motivation—or doing a job that results in personal fulfillment. Employees want to feel like their work matters and is appreciated by their employer. A LinkedIn survey found that 69% of employees said they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognized.
In addition to frequent feedback, managers can use check-in meetings to acknowledge what the employee is doing well. The combination of praise and coaching helps team members see that their manager cares about the work they do, increasing their motivation, productivity, and job satisfaction all at once.
Employee check-ins build toward better performance reviews
From an organizational perspective, regular check-ins improve performance management. Managers already know where their direct reports are striving to improve, making it easy to complete an accurate performance review that resonates with the employee.
According to HR.com, 89% of HR professionals believe frequent performance conversations are more effective than yearly or biyearly performance reviews. Many of the disadvantages of formal employee evaluations can be resolved through regular performance check-ins. Let’s explore how check-ins build toward better performance reviews:
- Managers document performance over time – Managers can note the main takeaways from each check-in meeting. When it comes time to complete a formal review, they’ll have a detailed record to consult.
- Employees are prepared for their performance review – Employees usually dislike performance reviews because they don’t know what to expect. However, they’ll have a good idea of what they’re going to hear after months of check-in conversations.
- Employees are already striving to improve – Employees go into their performance review already working on improving in the right areas. The meeting isn’t a retrospective of what they should have done better but rather an opportunity to discuss the progress they’re making.
- The performance review conversation is more productive – Since there is no need to recap the previous review period, the conversation can focus on the future. The manager can set new goals for the employee and discuss a strategy for how they’ll accomplish them in the coming months.
When conducted correctly, regular performance check-ins benefit everyone involved. Employees get the feedback they want, managers ensure they’re focused on relevant tasks, and performance improves across the workforce.
Employee check-in tips for managers
It’s up to managers to ensure check-ins happen for every direct report and focus on all things performance. They’re responsible for setting the meetings and guiding the conversation in the right direction. Here are a few tips that will help managers conduct effective employee check-ins.
Schedule recurring meetings
Consistency is key when it comes to getting the most out of employee check-ins. They must occur on a set schedule since one meeting builds on the last, creating an on-going dialogue about performance.
The simple act of scheduling recurring meetings on both the employee and manager’s calendars ensures check-ins don’t fall off the radar. Even if things get hectic, both parties are committed to getting together. The manager can ask if the challenges the employee was facing are being resolved and discover if performance is improving based on their recent feedback.
Give the right feedback
Some managers are easy-going and don’t like giving much feedback. And others are too tough on employees and feel like they always need to be coaching.
As we’ve mentioned throughout this blog post, employees want both praise and feedback. They crave validation that they’re doing their job well and also want to learn where they can improve. The employee check-in meeting provides the perfect opportunity for managers to step back and provide a fair assessment of the employee’s recent job performance.
That said, it’s important managers be empathetic and consider everything that is impacting the employee’s ability to do their job. Listen to their concerns and help them overcome the issues they’re facing while also providing the feedback they need to hear.
Help the employee grow
Since the purpose of check-ins is to create an on-going dialogue, employees should gradually progress from one meeting to the next. They should leave a meeting ready to incorporate the feedback they received into their work.
Revisit the main takeaways from previous meetings in each check-in to determine if the employee is acting accordingly. Discover if their performance is improving and they’re growing as a professional.
Be sure to document the topics covered in each check-in so you know where to pick up in the next meeting. The goal is to look back after a few months and see that the employee has made significant progress.
Keep it private
Employee check-ins should always be one-on-one meetings. Weekly team meetings are great for discussing collaborative initiatives and giving public praise for a job well done.
However, it’s not appropriate to be critical of an employee around their colleagues. And naturally, employees might not feel comfortable voicing their concerns in a group setting. Those conversations need to happen in a closed-door meeting.
Even though it can be challenging to find time to meet individually with every direct report, an effective check-in meeting is well worth the time. The employee will leave motivated to do great work and appreciate that their manager made the effort to help them improve.
Prepare employees for their check-in meeting
While managers are tasked with leading check-in meetings, the employee needs to come prepared to discuss what is on their mind. Asking them to answer the three questions below will reveal how they’re feeling about their performance and overall job satisfaction.
How successful was your week? What worked? What didn’t? Please elaborate.
Start with a question that gives the employee the opportunity to share the accomplishments they’re proud of, as well as any struggles they’re facing. Their manager can acknowledge their great work while also learning what problems need to be fixed.
To what degree do you feel empowered to do your job? Please elaborate.
Now go deeper with a question that gets to the heart of intrinsic motivation. The employee gets to share if they feel they’re trusted to act on their great ideas. The manager will learn if they need to allow the employee to work with less restriction or give feedback that will help them prepare for more responsibility.
Do you feel like your work is making a meaningful impact? Please elaborate
Finally, discover if the employee is fulfilled by the work they’re doing. The entire workforce should contribute to the organization’s success so make sure each person is seeing the fruits of their labor. Similar to the last question, this one also helps gauge intrinsic motivation.
Employees should answer these questions before every check-in meeting with their manager. Download our free employee check-in template that employees can fill out prior to their one-on-one.
Employees can also answer these questions in Trakstar Engagement. Responses are shared with their manager in the performance management solution and saved on their employee profile, creating a detailed record of every check-in meeting. Request a live demo to learn more about Trakstar!