As many of us know, check-ins are weekly one-on-one meetings between managers and direct reports that focus on progress made on work such as projects and assigned tasks.
What not so many of us know is that holding regular check-ins helps increase employee engagement, productivity and reduces employee turnover, which is great for the organisation.
As the world battles the Covid-19 pandemic, holding regular check-ins has become all the more important for managers because they are not meeting their direct reports face-to-face as frequently as they used to.
This playbook is intended to be a guide/refresher for these weekly meetings.
MuchSkills’ perspective on employee engagement is guided by the findings of global analytics company Gallup that has 80+ years of data collection experience as well as 35 million global respondents in its employee engagement database, making it a global leader in the employee engagement movement.
According to Gallup, engaged employees are those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to work and their workplace. Engaged employees are invested in their workplace, want it to succeed and will even go the extra mile for it. Disengaged employees, on the other hand, do the bare minimum it takes to get by.
Only 10% of employed Western Europeans are engaged at work. 33% of US employees are engaged, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report.
The greater the employee engagement, the better the business outcomes. Business units in the top quartile of Gallup’s global employee engagement database, for instance, are 17% more productive and21% more profitable than those in the bottom quartile.
Gallup’s research has consistently found that organizations that enable employees to do what they do best, will increase employee engagement, productivity, and profitability. On the other hand, when employees find their skills or interests do not match their roles, they struggle to succeed and stay motivated.
The engagement levels of millennial employees rise if their manager holds regular meetings with them.
It is difficult to find a universally-agreed upon definition for the term “check-in”, but here’s one: A check-in can be defined as:
Weekly one-on-one meetings between managers and direct reports that focus on progress made on projects and assigned tasks. Check-ins give managers the opportunity to assess whether their direct reports are on the right track, and, if they are not, give them feedback on how they can change direction. Regular check-ins help managers stay in the loop, alerting them to potential problems at an early stage so that they can step in to course correct before things go out of control.
Experts say the frequency and duration of check-ins depends on how experienced the direct reports are. A more inexperienced employee might need an hourly check-in every week while it may be sufficient to check in with a more skilled employee once in two weeks.
Check-ins are essentially one-on-one meetings. But they are different from the 1:1 meetings held between managers and direct reports for the express purpose of supporting their personal and professional development.
Both, however, are forms of continuous performance management, which several global companies are adopting while phasing out annual performance appraisals that have been criticised for focusing on the past rather than the future.
Below, we try to unpack how exactly these two meetings differ.
It’s a quick weekly meeting where the manager or team leader checks in with team members about progress made on a given task or project – a kind of a status report on how things are going. Managers may then give their direct report feedback on how they can tackle project-related challenges or how they can make progress with regard to the project’s objectives.
In short: Check-ins are less about the worker and more about the work.
It gives them the opportunity to talk to their managers about their ideas, problems, their career trajectory or even their intentions of improving their skills or skill sets. It is aimed at helping build trust between the manager and the direct report. These in-depth meetings should be held at least once every quarter to help managers to understand what drives their direct reports and how they want to grow professionally.
You can view MuchSkills’ playbook on quarterly one-on-one meetings here.
We really liked this perspective on the difference between check-ins and performance -related one-on-ones on the website wideangle.com. It says:
Managers enter check-ins with an “update me on your progress” mentality. On the other hand, they put aside their ego to enter one-on-ones with a “servant leadership mentality”.
Having said that, the rules aren’t written in stone. If you have the time or if it is relevant, an employee’s personal and professional growth can also be addressed in check-ins. As experienced managers would know, the final call is obviously yours.
Your interactions must be honest and respectful.
To get a deeper understanding of what employee engagement is really about, managers may also find it worthwhile to reflect on Gallup’s Q12. These are the 12 core questions Gallup developed to measure the most important elements of employee engagement in organizations. Gallup picked these specific questions after decades of writing, testing and refining hundreds of questions because they helped measure employee engagement most effectively.
One way managers can use these questions is to ask themselves: ‘If members of my team took this survey today how would they fare?’
The questions have been divided into four types — or levels — of employees’ performance development needs:
When managers hold regular weekly or biweekly one-on-one meetings along with in-depth quarterly meetings, they will gain insights about the whole gamut of needs in the engagement hierarchy illustrated above – from individual needs to teamwork needs – which will help them build stronger and more engaged teams.