employee check ins

How to Conduct Effective Employee Check Ins: A Checklist for Managers

In our blog and with our clients, we frequently address the importance of employee ‘check-ins’ or one-on-one meetings. Regardless of the term used – be it progress meetings, sit-downs, or other names – enhancing the frequency and quality of these performance conversations remains a top priority for most companies nowadays.

Various approaches exist across different companies regarding these check-ins – some enforce weekly check-ins for their employees, while others schedule them on an as-needed basis. Some companies require managers to conduct meetings after each project, and others set up formal check-ins periodically throughout the year. Despite the frequency differences, the fundamental purpose of these conversations remains constant: fostering open communication channels between managers and employees to effectively engage and manage performance.

The more employees and managers can communicate, the better they will be able to work together to accomplish goals, develop skills, and give/receive feedback. Although check-ins should appear relatively casual to employees, managers should follow a loose structure to ensure this time spent remains valuable and drives action.

We thought it would be handy to prepare a checklist of discussion points and conversation-starters that managers could use to make the most of check-ins with employees…


Conducting Effective 1-2-1 Meetings

Before the meeting: Prepare

Nothing is worse than going into a meeting with a manager that comes off as uninvested or unprepared. Take a couple of minutes to prepare before the meeting. Managers should easily access and skim past meeting notes and performance if they are using a central location or tool for goal tracking, feedback, and/or journal/meeting notes.

  • Review any notes taken during the last meeting to get up to speed on any planned deliverables.
  • Review the employee’s list of goals and projects to see if there are any due or running off course.
  • Make a note of important department or company changes that should be discussed.
  • Review any feedback sent/received to identify any discussion points.
  • Unplug from other activities so the employee knows they have your complete focus.


During the Meeting: Possible Discussion Points

The advantage of regular check-ins with employees is that managers need not unleash a deluge of information in every meeting. They can instead pinpoint particular goals, projects, or coaching aspects to concentrate on during each session. Additionally, employees may take the lead in the conversation and direct the focus, which is even more beneficial.

In general, managers and employees should prioritise discussion topics depending on deadlines and progress. The content of these discussions will vary from one meeting to another.

Example Employee Review Points:

  • Get the Conversation Flowing
    • Use conversation starters to engage the employee in conversation
    • Use open-ended questions to keep them talking
    • Let the employee steer the conversation but make sure you discuss any essential messages
  • Goal/Project Updates
    • Discuss the status of short-term goals and long-term projects
    • Adjust/update existing goals with the employee
    • Discuss any challenges or lessons learned
    • Offer coaching and/or assistance for any issues
    • Discuss if any other priorities might affect the goal progress
    • Ensure all goals are still on track
    • Acknowledge any milestones or accomplishments
    • Discuss/confirm any new goals for the employee
  • Recent Accomplishments
    • Acknowledge recent accomplishments and provide feedback
    • Ask the employee for any recent accomplishments
  • Status of Training/Learning
    • Discuss any training items due/in progress
    • Ask the employee if there are any training requests
    • Ask if the employee feels they are getting enough feedback
    • Ask if the employee is learning from peers/mentors or if they would like to
    • Recommend training items to improve skills and further career
    • Discuss how training is/should be executed
  • Company or Team Updates/News
    • Discuss any vital company/team updates or news
    • Confirm any action items needed
  • Employee Ideas/Requests for change
    • Ask the employee for any ideas/input
    • Discuss any areas needing change (company, team, project etc.)
    • Ask the employee if your management style is effective for them and get suggestions for change
    • Discuss any overall roadblocks or distractions that might be affecting the employee
  • Employee Career Development
    • Discuss employee’s career goals
    • Discuss how you can work together to achieve their career goals
    • Discuss opportunities and career paths for the employee
    • Set clear expectations for any lateral/upward movement
  • Plan for the Week/Month/Quarter
    • Review the priorities for the short and long term


Conversation Starters: Continue the Chat

Some employees are more reluctant to speak up, but this doesn’t mean that a manager should do the bulk of the talking. There are simple ways to get the employee to engage and keep talking during the meeting.

Remember, this meeting is about them. The more they contribute to the conversation the better.

Here are some open-ended questions to get employees talking:

  • Tell me about your week/month – what’s it been like?
  • Tell me about what you’ve been working on.
  • Where do you think I can be most helpful?
  • Are you on track to meet the deadline?
  • What areas are ahead of schedule?
  • What questions do you have about this area of responsibility or project?
  • How are you going to approach this?
  • What have you learned about this area of responsibility or project?
  • What didn’t go as you had hoped? Why?
  • What can you/we do differently next time?
  • What suggestions do you have?

Here are some tried and true conversation starters to keep employees talking:

“Go on…..”

“Tell me more…”

“Why do you say that..”

“How do you mean…”

“Can you give me an example…”

“What else…”


At the End of the Meeting: Summary points

Before the employee leaves the meeting, spend a few moments summarising the key discussion points. This will help remind employees of any action items and reinforce any acknowledgment or coaching tips provided. Ask the employee if anything was missed and remind them of when the next meeting will be.


After the Meeting: Document the Details

This small step is significant and often skipped over, but it can make a big difference. Take 2-5 minutes after each meeting to record key discussion points, action items or feedback. This will help kick-start the next meeting and serve as a useful log when managers need to review performance trends. Keep these notes in a centralised location. A performance feedback and journaling tool like emPerform tag can serve this purpose nicely.

We polled our clients and found that managers who made 1-2 notes about each employee per month shaved 50% of the time off of entering year-end comments during the annual review – that is because they aren’t sitting trying to remember key milestones or trends in behaviour.


Self-Reflecting After a Meeting

Take a few moments after each meeting to evaluate how you did. Even the best managers should strive to improve their communication and meeting skills.

  • Did you talk too much/not enough?
  • Did you actively listen?
  • Did you ask questions?
  • Did you acknowledge the employee’s feelings?
  • Did you paraphrase essential items to confirm understanding?
  • Did you provide practical coaching tips?
  • Were you distracted in the meeting?
  • Do you feel the meeting was valuable?
  • Did you discuss all the critical points?
  • What could you do to improve the next meeting?

In essence, regular check-ins with employees are imperative to ensure clarity, offer coaching, and provide the necessary support for employees to thrive. Though finding time in the day can be a challenge for many managers, these check-ins are time well-invested and will yield benefits in the long run for the manager, the employee, the team, and the company.


Align, Develop & Retain Top Talent with emPerform

By following these tips, you can create a workplace where employees are motivated and engaged, which will lead to improved retention. Plus, by using emPerform, you can streamline your employee performance management and boost employee motivation and retention.

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