Why check-ins are key to creating a healthy culture

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From employee engagement to workplace wellbeing, regular check-ins have a wealth of benefits for both employees and line managers, as Roly Walter explains.

It is often said that employees “don’t leave companies, they leave managers”. A YouGov poll last year found that 80% of employees had experienced what they felt was poor management and 55% had actually left their job because of it. These figures reveal just how important the relationship between employees and line managers is and why organisations need to focus on getting it right.

Over the past decade how and where we work has changed dramatically. Advances in technology have transformed the work landscape and dramatically sped up the rate of development. What works today could be out of date in a few months, or even a few weeks.

In such an environment, having an employee appraisal where objectives are set and performance reviewed and rated just once a year is hopelessly inadequate. Organisations are now turning to more continuous approaches which allow for adjustments to be made to objectives, timely and relevant feedback to be given, and progress to be reported. This is done through regular and meaningful conversations between line managers and employees, also known as check-ins.

Our new research explores how useful employees find check-ins, how valuable they think they are and what they want to discuss in them. The results reveal just what a vital building block they can be in creating a healthy and productive workplace culture.

Employees want check-ins

Employees overwhelmingly believe that check-ins are important. A massive 84% think this is the case, with around 30% rating them as “very important”. They are particularly significant to the youngest members of the workforce, Generation Z, with 40% of this age group rating them as “very important”.
These results show that employees want to spend time with their line manager and value their undivided attention to discuss current projects, progress against objectives and any other issues. Employers that encourage check-ins are creating a valuable channel for dialogue, creating the right environment for strong relationships and building rapport between managers and employees.

Feedback first

The element that employees most value in their check-ins is feedback on their performance. Half said this was the most important part of the process, coming well ahead of personal development and direction on current projects which were the next most popular answers, mentioned by 32% of respondents.

Interestingly feedback was not only important for younger employees who were fresh into the workplace and eager to learn, but for all other age groups too: 59% of those aged between 45 and 54 said it was the most important element for them, showing just how valuable it is for everyone, regardless of age or experience, to know how well they are performing and what to improve on.

Giving and receiving timely and relevant feedback is a vital part of employee development and creating an open and supportive culture. It is also a crucial part of developing effective management skills and ensuring direction and coaching are delivered effectively. If feedback is to be positive it needs to be done in the right way, not viewed as criticism or apportioning blame. Using the private setting of a check-in ensures a positive tone can be established and both parties have license to be candid.

Spotting the warning signs of distress

A third of employees said they would like to discuss their health and wellbeing in their check-ins. Looking more closely at the results, women in particular said they would find this useful, with 40% wanting to cover the topic with their line manager, compared to 30% of men. Work and home lives have become more merged than ever, so it’s natural that they will influence each other and affect performance.

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As well as providing valuable work and objective updates, check-ins provide an excellent opportunity to talk on a human level. A successful wellbeing strategy should focus on preventing issues before they arise and giving employees the opportunity to flag a problem during their check-in does just that.

“We realise the enormous potential our check-ins give us to underpin employee wellbeing”, says Lorraine Duckett, Head of HR at Confetti Media Group. “Adding a simple question like ‘How are you finding your workload?’ reveals a lot about how an employee is coping and gives them the opportunity to ask for help if they need it.”

One size doesn’t fit all

While it’s clear that the vast majority of employees value check-ins, what they want to discuss and how often they want to meet is more individual. It’s vital that line managers don’t blindly follow a set policy for all but tailor these meetings to match the needs of each employee. By encouraging a personalised approach to check-ins, organisations can successfully reap the benefits they have to offer.

Roly Walter

About Roly Walter

Roly Walter is founder of performance management system company Appraisd
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