Effective management depends on the leader’s skills – the person has to build a good working relationship with their team members. Feedback and recognition are crucial to achieving good results, with 69% of employees willing to work harder if they feel recognized. Thankfully, a manager can use a check-in meeting.
For more information on conducting check-in meetings, read on! This guide will take you through every important detail.
What is a check-in meeting?
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During a check-in meeting, a leader – a manager, team project lead, etc. – meets with either the entire team or one-on-one with a specific employee to receive updates on current tasks, offer guidance and help, and build a healthy working relationship. The meeting usually takes 30-60 minutes and occurs regularly – daily, once per week, or every two weeks.
Why is a check-in meeting important?
There are several reasons to conduct regular check-in meetings:
- Monitoring progress – Team check-in meetings allow you to check how employees do with the tasks, identify and remove progress blockers, and ensure everyone is on the same page and everything goes smoothly.
- Relationship building – These talks are also an excellent opportunity to get to know the employees better and build relationships with them. Remember, we’re all human – we generally work better with people we like and respect, which makes building relationships and good team dynamics essential. Check-in meetings are also a great occasion to initiate discussions about career development.
- Boosting communication skills – Regular check-ins are good for improving your communication skills which are essential for good employee engagement and general business effectiveness.
- Saving time – Check-in meetings are relatively short and can save you time in the long run by keeping everyone on the same page and helping you avoid mistakes.
- Offering a helping hand – Depending on the company's size, check-in meetings are sometimes the only chance a team member has to talk with their manager regularly. It can be an occasion for them to vent stress and mention issues. A leader, on the other hand, can show approval for the employee’s work.
Check-in meetings can sometimes be confused with other types of recurring conversations. What makes them unique?
Check-in meetings vs. one-on-ones
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Many organizations use the terms “check-in meeting” and “one-on-one meeting” interchangeably – to put things simply, a “check-in” between just two people (and not an entire team) is often called a “one-on-one.” However, it’s worth pointing out that specific details and definitions depend on the company.
How do check-ins differ from performance reviews? Which of these conversations is more important for the company and the employee?
Why are check-ins more important than performance reviews?
The main difference between a performance review and a check-in meeting is that the former focuses on reviewing the employee’s progress in a given period and their plans for career development. Day-to-day tasks are less important, though you can still talk about them to provide context and examples.
Check-ins work the other way around – they concentrate on current activities but still consider the broader career context. In most cases, this makes them more frequent than performance reviews. You could argue they’re more important – they help you solve day-to-day problems and focus on activities that shape the outcomes of the monthly/quarterly/yearly reviews you’ll conduct later.
Now that you know the differences between check-ins and performance reviews, let’s focus on check-in questions for meetings.
Check-in questions for meetings you can use
Here are some examples of one-on-one and team check-in questions you can ask:
- What are you working on right now?
- What concerns do you have about the project?
- Do you need help with anything?
- What do you need from me as your manager/team leader?
- Is there anything we should change, stop doing, or not do at all?
- How is your workload right now?
- Do you need any help with how your team works?
- What takes up most of your time?
- Which of your tasks is the most problematic?
- How does your current work align with your career goals?
- How do you feel about the remote work you’re doing?
- Do you feel good about our team?
- Are you happy with the collaboration with other teams?
- What’s something that made you laugh while working?
- How in sync are you with our overall strategy?
- How is your work-life balance right now?
- What team-building activities would you like us to organize?
Team meeting check-in questions aren’t everything, however. A good check-in meeting must have a proper structure with several critical phases and elements.
Check-in meeting: Key stages
Here are four essential elements – or topics of discussion – your check-in meetings shouldn’t neglect.
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Getting a casual conversation flowing before you move on to more important topics is a good idea (unless you have a big agenda and need more time). Icebreakers – such as fun check-in questions and small talk – are the best way to do that.
For example, you can ask the employees about their recent achievements, things they’re excited about, or even weekend plans.
Status updates on current projects
The central part of one-on-one meetings is usually discussing current projects and their state of completion. Ask about problems and blockers, review performance, and ascertain essential details such as time, budget, etc.
You can also look at numbers and metrics – operating on hard data is always helpful, and regular meetings will allow you to track progress in detail.
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The next check-in meeting step is about outlining the plans for the future and planning details with employees.
The most important thing to do here is review roles and responsibilities within the group and the employees’ current task load. Consider all angles when you assign tasks – for example, if one employee has more clients than usual and can’t find time for other tasks, consider giving them to a different person or asking them to take on some of the clients.
After you assign tasks, ask people how they feel about them and the planned workflow. Would they like to change anything? Adjust plans accordingly, if possible.
The bigger picture
To complete a check-in meeting, you also need to consider the bigger picture – discuss the employees’ plans for the future, career development, and needs in this department. Asking these questions is crucial to your company’s overarching strategy because it’ll significantly impact employee engagement.
Check-in meeting: Best practices
Here are six things you can – and should – do to optimize your check-in meetings and get the most out of them.
Establish a meeting agenda and stick to it
One thing that’ll undoubtedly help you during a team meeting – any meeting, really, including a check-in – is a clear agenda. It’s always easier to do things with a solid plan; unorganized meetings become pretty chaotic, especially when conducted online instead of face-to-face (distributed teams are quite common in the post-Covid-19 age).
Also, when you write the agenda, tell people precisely why you asked them to attend a meeting and what you expect to be its outcome.
Decide on frequency
The frequency of check-in meetings will depend on your company's structure, the nature of the project, and even the characteristics of the employee. Generally, it’s a good idea to conduct check-ins at least once a week, though some managers prefer meeting with their remote team members less or more often – for example, twice a month, twice a week, or daily.
If you meet with your people frequently, you’ll likely want to make short conversations and focus on day-to-day issues and tasks, whereas weekly meetings can be longer and breach different topics. If you prefer the former approach, make sure to occasionally find time for more career-oriented talks and building a relationship with your team.
Choose a convenient time
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Of course, you need to conduct check-in meetings at a convenient time. Try to choose a day and hour when the employee doesn’t have too many urgent tasks so they can approach the conversation without haste and with the right mindset. Also, inform team members beforehand when the next meeting will occur.
Document the main points and end with a clear takeaway
Finish each meeting with a clear takeaway so everyone understands what you expect of them. After all, you meet with people to clarify things and outline the tasks and goals. Outside of extraordinary circumstances (a sudden change in the company or strategy, external factors that create confusion, etc.), a meeting that creates more questions than answers doesn’t serve its purpose and is simply a waste of time.
You can document the main points and send them to the team members after a meeting to prevent misunderstanding.
Include everyone and act as a mediator
In the case of team meetings, you should always make sure every person feels included and understood. When conflicts arise, mediate and try to smooth things out.
Ask for feedback
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Finally, check-ins are an excellent opportunity for constructive feedback on your leadership performance. Ask people about your work and analyze their responses and attitude to improve your skills.
Check-in meetings: Potential problems
There aren’t too many problems you might run into when conducting check-in meetings, but you should keep a few things in mind:
- Unclear agenda – a meeting with an unclear agenda or even without one won’t go well. Ensure everyone knows what you’ll discuss and stick to it.
- Irregularity – irregular check-ins won’t offer good results. You can fix this problem quickly by setting up reminders in an HRM system or a performance review tool.
- No takeaways – every meeting should end with clear takeaways. Otherwise, people might feel they’ve wasted their time.
- No positive feedback – when offering feedback to your team members, acknowledge what they’ve excelled at and tasks they’ve done well. Focusing too much on the negative can dishearten and demotivate employees.
Check-in meetings: Measuring success and value
To understand how well you did with your check-in meetings and what they truly offer your company – you need to be able to measure their value.
We suggest you launch a survey and ask your employees directly. Here are some questions you can use:
- How valuable are our check-in meetings from 1-10 to you?
- In what way are they beneficial to you?
- Do the check-in meetings get you closer to a goal? How?
- Do the check-in meetings help you better understand your day-to-day tasks? How?
- What mistakes do check-in meetings prevent, if any?
- Do the check-in meetings save time in the long run? How?
You can answer the same check-in question and analyze whether they help you prevent mistakes, save time, and stay on track.
This article outlines everything you need to know to conduct check-in meetings successfully and keep a finger on the proverbial pulse of your team and current projects. They can save you time, allow you to build good working relationships with your coworkers, and improve your communication skills.
FAQs: Why are check-in meetings important?
Here are answers to some common questions regarding check-ins.
What is a check-in meeting with HR?
HR departments usually use check-ins to check how a given employee feels about the company after working there for a while. They are an essential part of the onboarding process and can also be helpful at later stages.
What is the purpose of a check-in?
The primary purpose of check-ins is to provide the manager with a way to monitor the realization of current tasks and give the employee a chance to highlight potential problems. These meetings are also an important tool that allows people to get to know each other better and build long-lasting relationships at the workplace.
What are the benefits of check-in meetings?
Regularly conducted check-ins allow you to save time, monitor your team members' progress, identify ways to help them, and build relationships with them. These conversations can also improve your soft skills.
What do you say in a check-in meeting?
There are many possible topics, but the meetings usually focus on day-to-day tasks, problems encountered, and current career plans. You can also talk about personal stuff, such as passions, hobbies, important events, family, etc., to make the meeting more casual.