What are performance check-ins and what questions should you ask?

Often referred to as continuous performance management, employee‘ check-ins’ are a series of regular conversations between managers and employees about work, progress and goals that are on-going throughout the year. Many high-performing organisations have already realised the benefits of this continuous approach to performance management and have moved away from traditional annual appraisals.

Illustration of a hands holding up the words 'check in'

Looking at the stats, it’s easy to see why. A recent Gallup survey found employees were more likely to be motivated to do outstanding work and to be engaged at work when receiving weekly rather than annual feedback, and SHRM, the Society for Human Resources, found that 90% don’t believe annual appraisals provide accurate information.

So, if you’re planning to move towards this more agile approach to performance management, there are a few rules of thumb you should keep in mind when planning your check-in questions:

  • Remember the purpose of your conversation, and ensure questions are relevant
  • Keep questions open-ended. Asking questions that require a simple yes/no response will restrict the conversation.
  • Make sure your questions are clear and concise. Ambiguous questions will prompt ambiguous answers.

The quality of check-in conversations depends on the questions you ask, how you ask them and how you respond; and the way the check-in meetings are conducted can be the difference between effective leaders and frustrating managers.

Of course, performance check-in questions need to be informed and relevant to the individual, their responsibilities and position in the organisation. But to get you started, here are some typical questions you could include that focus on three key areas: building a rapport, short-term goals/priorities and long-term goals/priorities.

Building a rapport

Even when part of a structured approach to performance management, check-ins work best when the tone is informal and supportive. Employees shouldn’t feel like they’re being judged. They’re an opportunity for managers to build and maintain a productive relationship with employees, so asking a few questions that aren’t directly about work or performance can help relax the tone of the conversation:

  1. How are you?
  2. Did you have a good weekend?
  3. Did you enjoy/get to do… reference something they told you they were planning to do in their free time in a previous meeting.

Short-term goals/priorities

These questions focus on the here and now. Because check-ins happen regularly (weekly, fortnightly, monthly), it’s important to assess what’s happened since your last conversation, and any new challenges that have arisen since then:

  1. What have you been working on since your last check-in?
  2. Did you achieve your goals?
  3. Were there any blockers?
  4. Is there anything I can do to help?
  5. What are your goals for the next check-in?
  6. Are you happy that you can achieve them?
  7. Would you benefit from additional support/training?
  8. Are you finding anything difficult or stressful?

Long-term goals/priorities

Long-term planning is vital to employee engagement and retention and to the future health of the organisation, so it’s important that managers understand the motivation and ambitions of the people that report to them, and how they match the wider organisational strategy. While you won’t want to ask these questions at every check-in, it is important that they are discussed on a regular basis and the information shared internally, so it can be used to influence wider discussions about development and career progressions.

  1. How do you see your career with our organisation developing?
  2. Do you have specific goals you’d like to achieve in the next year, two years, longer?
  3. What are you doing to help achieve your goals?
  4. How do you think the organisation could help you achieve those goals?
  5. What can I do to help support your development?

Your check-ins will only be as good as the questions you ask, the quality of the conversation and how well you follow up. However, with the check-ins by their nature frequent, goals-led and relying on informed discussions and effective actions, it’s essential to have an appropriate technology platform in place. Without one, it’s almost impossible to keep track of what has been discussed or agreed, or to support the quality of conversations that is needed to make continuous performance reviews effective.

Cezanne HR’s integrated performance management module includes flexible, easy-to-use features that help you and your employees get the most from continuous performance reviews and check-ins. With flexibility at its core, it provides a collaborative online forum where employees and managers can easily and securely request feedback, record check-in conversations, propose goals and track outcomes. Interested in getting more from performance management? Find out more about how Cezanne HR can help you here: https://cezannehr.com/hr-systems/performance-management-system/

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