Employee check-ins are an essential tool for increased productivity, retention and meeting business goals. When things get busy, checking-in with your employees can take a backseat. But that’s a mistake.
If you’re not applying some basic and helpful structure to employee check-ins, you might find yourself experiencing what I have dubbed the “Hallway Ambush.” Hallway Ambushes are when you are stopped while you are walking down the hallway, on your way to a meeting, to have important, spontaneous conversations, or have a line of employees outside your door wanting to talk without warning … or, these days, you receive video calls or chat requests to connect with you on delicate topics. There are always legitimate fires to put out, and as a leader, your job is to support your employees and help to remove obstacles.
But if you feel like you’re chronically having to stop what you are doing to address employee requests to chat, then you’re probably not creating enough structure for check-ins.
As a HR consultancy focused on small businesses, we want you to encourage you to make those check-ins the priority they deserve to be. In this short article, we’ll share simple ways to host check-ins that you—and your employees—will find helpful.
HOW TO HOST BETTER EMPLOYEE CHECK-INS
- Don’t Wing It.
I know you’re probably gifted in talking off the cuff. But employee check-ins are a lousy medium for testing your improvisation abilities. Even if your check-in with an employee is 5 minutes, identify in advance the purpose of the check-in. In other words, what do you hope to accomplish together with your team member? By setting a clear and simple intention, you’ll make the check-in more impactful for both you and your employee.
- Script the Key Messages.
What are the key points you want to get across? We find leaders do better at check-ins or performance discussions when they take time to write down what messages they want to convey during a conversation.
This seems obvious, but unfortunately, many leaders don’t take time to prioritize and script the key things to convey during the discussion. I remember a time when a VP needed to meet with an employee to discuss termination. The employee had their own questions and took over the conversation, and because that leader was caught off guard and didn’t prepare and script his points in advance, the discussion went sideways—and the employee left the room not knowing he was being terminated!
That’s an extreme example of being unprepared to deliver an important message, of course. But it’s worth sharing. Take a few minutes to script the key message.
- Be an Active Listener.
While we encourage you to have a clear agenda and message points for your check-in, it’s also essential to be an active listener during the check-in. Some employees are shy, or not comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings, even in a casual check-in environment. Pay attention to what you’re hearing from your employee. Active listening implies you are not just “waiting to talk”, and are ensuring they are feeling heard. We promise: active listening leads to better conversations and better outcomes.
- Prepare an Opening and a Closing.
Conversations have a beginning, middle and an end. If your employee check-in is sensitive in nature, or “crucial” in the topics you want to address, then prepare in advance how you want to open the door to that conversation. And remember: good check-ins have closure. Plan how you want to bridge the check-in closure to what should happen next. Do you expect your employee to follow through on new tasks? Will you have a process or data you follow to check on their progress? Then communicate these expectations, and gain agreement at the end of the check-in.
- Host Structured Check Ins AND Organic Check-Ins
When we consult with our small business clients, we encourage them to have structured one on one check-ins with their employees (scheduled and expected), and organic check-ins. Organic check-ins are those times when you reach out to an employee just to see how they’re doing. There’s no agenda, other than your sincere desire to find out how your employee is doing and feeling. As Maya Angelou said, We forget what people say, but we remember how they make us feel. Checking in on a team member who is going through a tough life situation could mean the world to that person.
We’re all re-learning how to engage our team members in this new work environment. But one thing hasn’t changed: your team wants you to take an authentic interest in their lives. Actively listen and engage with your team members. Take notes. Cultivate deeper and more meaningful work relationships. We promise you: your team members will feel seen and heard, and you’ll have a more engaged and productive team.
As an HR consultancy serving small businesses with 50 employees or less, we know that running a small business has its own unique challenges. There never seems to be enough of anything like financial resources or employee talent. I hope you found this article helpful. And if you want counsel and support, we’re just call away at 804-715-1920 or Contact Inspiring HR to arrange a conversation!