When managers meet with their employees more, they get a better picture of their experience at work.
This includes performance, career growth and development, and even employee engagement. Performance check-ins give managers the data they need to coach employees in the moment, instead of evaluating the past.
Employee performance check-ins help:
- Employees understand their contributions and impact
- Managers provide regular feedback that aligns with team performance
- Leaders build a competitive workforce by aligning employee and business success
Performance check-ins shouldn't only measure performance. When approached with the right mindset, check-ins can fuel employee and business success.
What are employee performance check-ins?
Traditional employee performance reviews happen once a year and assess past performance. But modern performance management programs encourage a continuous strategy of progress and growth. Enter employee performance check-ins.
Employee performance check-ins are conversations between a manager and their employees. The purpose of these meetings is for participants to give and receive performance feedback.
Managers use these meetings to discuss topics that impact the employee experience. Depending on needs of your employees, check-ins may review:
- Career growth and development
- Recognition and feeling valued
- Goals and role alignment
- Job performance
- Organizational feedback
- Relationships and manager effectiveness
- Work-life balance
How to conduct performance check-ins with your employees
To get the most out of your performance check-ins, people leaders need to set clear expectations. When both parties know what to expect they can better prepare. Before your first performance check-in be sure you’ve figured out the logistics.
Here’s how to conduct meaningful performance check-ins with your employees.
1. Choose the right cadence
Performance check-ins are continuous conversations. They can happen quarterly, monthly, or even weekly. Frequent meetings allow managers to act as coaches to help employees succeed. To impact your employees’ performance, start by building a consistent cadence.
Workplace experts recommend conducting at least monthly employee performance check-ins to help managers:
- Stay up-to-date on performance progress
- Ensure alignment on individual and team goals
- Celebrate successes and support failures
- Build open, trusting relationships
Depending on the makeup of your teams, quarterly cadences might be more appropriate. This frequency still allows employees to adjust and complete quarterly or annual goals. But weekly check-ins can help managers understand daily progress and updates.
2. Pick a location
Changing up your scenery for performance check-ins can improve your discussion. Unlike performance reviews, check-ins allow for more free-flowing (and sometimes personal) conversation. Going to lunch or grabbing coffee with an employee for a check-in can help set the tone for the discussion.
3. Set your intention
Regular one-on-one meetings help managers reduce bias when evaluating performance. Annual appraisals don't reflect real-time examples of performance or progress. This can impact the way that managers gauge an employee’s opportunities to improve.
Employee performance check-in best practices
Performance check-ins are simple to understand, but they can be difficult to execute. Follow these tips for implementing an engaging performance conversation.
Build a shared agenda
Want to know the best way to make employees active participants in their performance at work? Create a shared agenda. When employees can contribute discussion topics, they will be more receptive to feedback. And when managers know what employees want to discuss, they can come prepared to coach vs. lecture.
A shared agenda equals shared ownership. This helps both parties:
- Collaborate in advance
- Bring relevant content to the table
- Improve the discussion for future success
The right agenda will ensure your meeting covers all aspects of the employee experience. If you don’t know where to start, leverage a one-on-one meeting template. The GOOD (Goals, Obstacles, Opportunities, and Decisions) template ensures managers and employees spend equal time identifying pain points and working together to solve those issues going forward.
Ask the right performance check-in questions
Once you’ve built your agenda, you’ll want to take time to prepare for the conversation. Check-ins allow for more agile conversation. Topics can range from career growth and development to recognition preferences, based on your employees’ needs.
But this limitless flexibility can feel daunting to managers. That's why it's important to ask the right questions.
Performance check-in questions
Here are 10 performance check-in questions to guide meaningful conversation:
- Which of your strengths are under-utilized in your current role?
- What roadblocks or bottlenecks are keeping you from accomplishing your work?
- What resources and tools could help you perform your job better?
- What can I do to help you be more effective and engaged?
- How does your job benefit or connect to our company mission?
- How does this job align with your future career goals?
- Which of your skills would you like to develop further with coaching or training?
- What more are you wanting in your career right now?
- What type of work or accomplishments do you most want to receive recognition?
- What accomplishment are you most proud of so far this year/quarter?
Be specific and honest
Selecting the right questions to guide your conversation is only the first step. Before your next performance check-in, make sure you know what feedback you want to share. Come prepared with examples to support your feedback. It can be difficult to accept and activate feedback without a shared understanding.
Approach each conversation with honesty. It’s always best to say what you mean, and mean what you say. These conversations should help your employees grow and overcome challenges. Adopt a growth mindset—one where everyone has potential to get better.
As time passes, the context of your check-ins can become less clear. Note taking—whether hand-written or through an online tool—helps build accountability. Documenting your conversations reduces bias and incorporates critical feedback into your performance appraisals.
But taking notes for the sake of documentation isn’t valuable. Meeting more means more conversations to keep track of. By taking notes, you can develop an archive of previous check-in history. This will help you paint a more complete picture of employee performance over time.
Meeting notes should keep track of:
- Topics discussed
- Opportunities to explore
- Actionable next steps
Good notes give employees a clear understanding of your discussion and what they can do next to improve their performance.
Collaborate on next steps
A good rule of thumb for any meeting is to never leave without setting next steps. Even if the next step is to touch base before your next check-in, taking note of actions or decisions encourages progress and ownership.
In some cases, performance check-ins may lead to bigger personal goals. In that case, your action items might include setting individual or team goals. Make sure these align with organizational goals. This ensures employees understand how their contributions impact the success of your organization.
Follow up between check-ins
If your performance check-ins happen less throughout the year, it can be even more important to follow up between meetings. Touching base helps motivate employees to achieve their goals. It also allows for managers to check in on the progress of agreed upon action items.
The sooner you uncover potential roadblocks the better you can help them stay on a path to success. And the more you interact, the more you can encourage and celebrate your teams.
5 benefits of employee performance check-ins
There's an inextricable link between engagement and performance. Engaged employees are better positioned to perform their best. But driving engagement and motivation at work can be difficult. That’s where continuous performance conversations come into play.
Performance check-ins give managers the opportunity to provide critical performance feedback. When used well, this feedback can boost employee engagement, performance, and retention.
In fact, research by Quantum Workplace found distinct correlations between frequent performance feedback and employee engagement. When employees receive regular, critical feedback from their manager they are:
- Two times more likely to be highly engaged
- Two times more likely to say they will be working at their current company in the next year
It might seem like performance check-ins benefit employees the most. But, managers can also reap the benefits of continuous conversations.
Improving engagement and retention in your organization are critical elements to business success. Here are 5 other benefits of conducting employee performance check-ins in your organization.
1. Build stronger employee-manager relationships
Between annual performance reviews and daily status updates, managers can miss a lot. Large in part because so much happens in a year. As employees enter different phases of life, managers can help their teams navigate new territories.
Continuous performance check-ins are great for making incremental growth in the employee-manager relationships. And checking in more gives employees the opportunity to connect with their managers on a more personal and human level.
To ensure your check-ins foster great relationships at work, be present and be kind. Set an example by taking an active role in these conversations:
- Listen to gain understanding
- Probe deeper with the right questions
- Keep your phone, email, and Slack closed
Critical feedback can be hard to receive. Your performance feedback should come from a place of caring. Be considerate with your delivery in these conversations.
2. Uncover areas for opportunity before they impact performance
Both employees and managers are responsible for performance improvement. But meeting once a year to talk about performance can feel discouraging to employees and disrupting to managers.
Employees won't feel supported or driven to stay at the organization if they only have once chance to:
- Ask for help
- Share their point of view
- Make adjustments
If managers don’t understand what their employees need to succeed, they won’t be effective in driving team goals or business outcomes.
Frequent performance check-ins allow managers to show their strengths as subject matter experts. Instead of asking for status updates, managers can mentor their employees and provide expert advice.
And when employees can discuss their performance more, managers can respond to real-time issues. They can even give individuals the chance to course correct. Small adjustments can make a big difference in the outcome of individual and team goals.
3. Align individual and team goals to business outcomes
Engaged employees understand how they contribute to business success. Which is why it's important to discuss employee goals outside of annual performance reviews.
Make sure your performance check-ins leave space for employees to ask questions. Doing so helps them gain understanding around the “why” behind their goals. Goals with a clear purpose:
- Provide clarity to achieve success
- Builds alignment to team and business goals
- Sets expectations for evaluating performance
Check-in meetings are also a great time to celebrate accomplishments—big or small. Recognition is a known driver of employee engagement. It's also correlated with high performance and business success. Leverage check-ins to show your appreciation on an intimate and individual level.
4. Encourage reflection to create a plan for success
If your check-ins only discuss employee performance, you’re missing the mark. In 2020, only 38% of exiting employees said they saw career growth and development opportunities for themselves at work. This suggests that employees who see a future at an organization are more likely to stay, and those who don’t will leave.
Performance check-ins are perfect for understanding what employees want and need—now and in the future. Clear career growth and professional development opportunities:
- Drive engagement and performance
- Help employees gain new skills
- Improve their ability to impact company goals
When setting or revising goals be sure to collect 360 feedback. Compiling a variety of perspectives can help you gain a more comprehensive view of an employee’s performance. This feedback can help you determine their likelihood of retention and success.
Reflecting on past performance conversations helps employees and managers drive future success. Dig in to notes or action items from previous discussions to see how employees have grown and improved. Uncover what barriers got in the way, and where they can focus to continue achieving their goals.
5. Provide valuable insight to make smarter, data-driven decisions
Employee engagement surveys help organizations see the big picture of engagement. But survey data is often confidential and aggregated, making it hard for leaders to make a meaningful impact. Performance conversations provide leaders with invaluable context. This context helps leaders understand what’s impacting employee engagement, performance, and retention.
Knowing what’s detracting from employee success should empower you to act. But acting isn't always enough. Show your commitment to act and communicate what you’re doing to improve. When you do, employees will be more motivated to help your organization grow and succeed.
Invest time in understanding employees’ perceptions of work, team, and organizational engagement. Pair these insights with the context your employees provide and you'll be well on your way to making smarter business decisions.
As your business changes, your employees will need continuous support from their managers. Managers play an important role in ensuring employees stay engaged and perform at their highest potential. Employee performance check-ins are a great tool for managers and employees. Give these meetings a try to overcome obstacles, become a better coach, and drive individual, team, and business success.