Check-in Before They Check Out

Posted on 03/17/2021 5:42 pm  /   March 2021

Has this ever happened to you? You went about your day and realized you had food stuck in your teeth the entire time and no one ever told you. Kind of embarrassing and deflating.

Imagine if that were the case for an entire year—how would you feel? You’d probably be wondering why no one said anything to you!

I used this example in a training presentation with managers on the concept of regular employee check-ins and how they tie into continuous performance management.

Yes, someone walking around with food stuck in their teeth for an entire year is a bit ridiculous, but we can equate it to what happens when managers only give feedback to their team members once a year. There has been a trend in doing away with the annual review; however, that does not fit all company cultures, and not all are there yet.

Implementing regular check-ins or one-on-ones with employees is a step in the right direction and can help avoid the food-stuck-in-teeth metaphor. People want real-time feedback—not be told months later about their shortcomings, with no opportunity to improve or make changes if needed.

Regular check-ins can achieve a variety of things: increased engagement, development of employees and managers keeping a pulse on their team, to name a few. Here are some key elements and best practices to follow in order to make them effective.

  1. Logistics: Pick a conducive time for both parties and set a recurring calendar invite. A private setting with minimal to no distractions is important for showing that managers value the dedicated time with the team member. The frequency of the meeting is also key. Practice makes perfect, and this goes for one-on-ones, too. Consistently having these meetings will make them easier and become a normal way of working with the team. Experiment with a frequency to find what is best—weekly, bi-weekly, etc.
  2. Agenda: Having an agenda helps guide the conversation and define any action items or follow-up needed. By empowering employees to set the agenda and bring discussion points, managers will keep abreast of what’s going on in their team members’ worlds, and it’s one less thing they have to do themselves. Some examples of agenda items may include catch-up items from the previous meeting, new challenges or obstacles to problem-solve and any company updates or initiatives. Performance feedback should be a standing item—celebrate any successes and address issues as they arise.
  3. Documentation: Keeping notes in an accessible place where both the manager and the employee can refer to them promotes accountability. If the company does still have annual reviews, it can also ease some of that process by providing a refresher on past performance. This helps avoid recency bias when completing those reviews.

If managers keep these factors in mind, they will be on their way to establishing a productive and sustainable approach to guiding and coaching their direct reports. These best practices help create the right environment for managers to build better relationships with their team members.

When employees know what to expect out of a regular meeting with their manager—whether it’s corrective feedback, praise or just talking about future goals—they have less anxiety and it increases trust. Letting employees know about the metaphorical food in their teeth makes things better for both parties in the long run.

Nicki McCallister
Human Resource Generalist
Core & Main