A busy manager’s checklist for perfect employee check-ins

2 June 2021 by Catalyst

Whether you call them employee performance check-ins, sit-downs or one on one meetings, frequent conversations with staff have a powerful effect on employee experience management and productivity.

Continuous check-ins allow managers to provide employees with punctual feedback on their performance, keep employees engaged and align the organisation’s objectives with employee goals.

But what’s the perfect template for employee performance check-ins? Follow the checklist below to adopt an approach that fits your style of continuous performance management:

  • Structuring performance check-ins
  • How to prepare before each meeting
  • Breaking the ice & guiding the discussion
  • What to do after every check-in

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Structuring employee performance check-ins

Rolling out continuous check-ins requires planning and communication with your team:

Find a central tool

Using a purpose-built tool for performance reviews, goal-tracking, feedback and taking notes to manage performance check-ins can really help to structure the process. This is a must-have for OKR, project or action-oriented conversations that will later influence formal performance reviews. (We recommend an enterprise performance management system like Totara Perform.)

Decide on the frequency of your performance check-ins

For those practicing a more agile performance management process, check-ins often occur on a weekly, biweekly or monthly basis.

Confirm the duration of each check-in

Check-ins should not be too demanding on anyone’s time, 15-30 mins are enough for an informal two-way conversation about weekly/monthly progress.

Plan the structure of your performance check-in

How will you decide the topic of each meeting? Will you ask employees to sum up their week, or will you follow up on action items that you noted in previous weeks? You don’t need a rigid system behind each check-in, but having an agile system in mind will aid your performance and employee engagement strategy.

Preparing for each check-in

The last thing you want to do is scramble to find something to talk about and appear unprepared when meeting an employee. Take a few minutes to set an agenda and prepare for the meeting.

While this isn’t always necessary because your previous conversations and topics will carry over, going over your previous notes in your performance management system will make each check-in go smoother.

You can also be better prepared for each performance check-in by:

  • Scanning your inbox or collaborative workplace tools for messages from the employee
  • Reviewing the employee’s current list of priorities and projects
  • Making a note to share positive or constructive feedback for certain deliverables

Steering the conversation during the check-in

Regular performance check-ins should be open and relaxed

One of the many benefits of continuous performance check-ins is the simplicity and flexibility for both managers and employees. Fortunately, each conversation doesn’t need to mimic a military status report demanding updates on every single deliverable.

Instead, focus on making employees comfortable. You can do this by leading with a short summary of your week or by asking the following open-ended questions:

  • How has your week/month been?
  • What have you been working on so far?
  • Is there anything that you need more help with?

Once you’ve broken the ice, choose one or multiple agendas to discuss. This includes:

  • Goal and deliverable updates
  • Positive/constructive feedback on certain projects
  • Acknowledging progress they’ve made
  • Sharing feedback from senior management
  • Asking them about their training and learning progress
  • Notifying them of company updates and changes
  • Asking for their ideas and input on upcoming projects
  • Discussing their career development and goals
  • Reviewing their work priorities and ensuring they’re working on the right tasks

Before the meeting ends, summarise any important points and action items discussed.

This gives you a chance to ensure that employees have their priorities aligned for the upcoming month/week. It also gives you both a final chance to jot down notes, confirm deadlines and ask any final questions.

After the check-in

One of the major challenges when it comes to performance check-ins with employees is that very often, the goals, outcomes or discussion points are never mentioned again as soon as the conversation is over.

Ensure that these conversations and agreed actions are captured in your performance management system . Systems such as Totara Perform ensure that no matter what your performance management process looks like, you can keep track of everything from informal check-ins to the annual review, and everything in between.

This means that you have a record of what was discussed and any expectations and any important points raised, and you can even link performance goals to learning activities, competencies, 360-degree feedback and more to support your workplace productivity.

Ready for your best performance management year yet?

Request the free guide from our LMS technology partner,  Totara Learning,  to find out how to improve your performance management processes, from check-ins to 360 degree feedback and that all-important annual appraisal.