The annual performance review has often been a pillar of the employee experience. However, the approach is evolving. According to a Workhuman Analytics & Research Group study, 55% of workers believe that annual reviews don’t improve their performance. Further, Gallup found that only 2 out of 10 employees feel their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work. Over the past decade, countless organizations have thrown it out the window, making room for the more frequent and meaningful check-ins associated with a continuous feedback loop.
Companies such as Microsoft, Adobe, Deloitte, and GE have adopted this type of continuous feedback model and report positive results, including improved productivity and innovation, reduced turnover, and increased engagement. Additionally, the State of the American Manager report by Gallup shows that employees who meet regularly with their managers are almost three times as likely to be engaged in their jobs as employees who don’t.
Mounting evidence points to the many benefits of conducting regular check-ins. The challenge lies in a lack of resources that prepare managers for the influx of one-on-one meetings on their calendar. Here are five ways to make sure these meetings are as positive and productive as possible:
1. Schedule recurring meetings to provide continuous feedback
While the cadence is likely to vary from organization to organization, SHRM reports that many companies opt to have managers and employees meet two to four times per month. A more frequent cadence means managers can meet with employees for shorter periods of time while still discussing the information they need to cover. After all, one of the most important outcomes of regular one-on-one meetings is that it can help managers surface issues and resolve them before they turn into larger challenges.
Furthermore, when employees know they have dedicated one-on-one time with their manager, they are likely to save questions for this time rather than asking them throughout the week. Selecting a recurring date and time and booking the meetings in advance demonstrates a commitment to the continuous feedback model and ensures these conversations will remain a priority.
2. Set an agenda for your continuous feedback meetings
Data from The National Bureau of Economic Research shows that the number of meetings an individual attended increased by more than 12% in the last year alone. Given the challenges of over-scheduled calendars and the potential for video conference fatigue, it’s more important than ever that managers effectively use the time spent in one-on-one meetings by starting with an agenda.
Creating an agenda allows both parties to come prepared for the discussion and eliminates the uncertainty that comes with attending an impromptu meeting with your boss. It also ensures that the most relevant topics are addressed, such as progress toward current goals and long-term career aspirations. However, research from Brandon Hall Group reveals that only 40% of companies that utilize one-on-one meetings include discussion of performance goals or learning opportunities. Encouraging your employees to suggest items for your one-on-one agendas will help ensure their concerns are addressed and will facilitate collaboration.
3. Keep your continuous feedback meetings collaborative
Regular check-in meetings offer managers an opportunity to have a collaborative conversation that builds trust, strengthens the relationship, and ultimately creates a more effective working relationship. A great way to facilitate collaboration is by asking for feedback from your employees and using active listening, which is the act of listening attentively while observing non-verbal cues, then paraphrasing and restating what was said. This demonstrates a commitment to the process and shows your employees that you understand the information accurately.
To make the most of the discussion, it’s helpful to avoid asking general questions, such as “How are things going,” or questions that require nothing more than a simple yes or no response. Instead, managers should use targeted questions and conversation prompts to facilitate more meaningful dialogue. One of the best questions a manager can ask during a check-in session is, “Are you experiencing any obstacles in achieving your goals that I can help clear away?” This will provide valuable insight into how work is going for the employee and help them see the manager as a resource.
4. Follow up after each continuous feedback meeting
To get the most out of regular, recurring meetings, it’s important they do not occur in a vacuum. Managers should carve out time to review notes from previous meetings and address any action items before the next one. Not only will this ensure no time is wasted going over information previously discussed, but it allows managers to build momentum and ensure progress is being made toward larger goals. Additionally, following through on action items fosters accountability, demonstrates a commitment to the process, and helps build trust.
An excellent way to ensure follow up is to end each meeting with a quick recap of identified goals and action items, publish the notes taken during the meeting (see the next tip for more on this), and then begin each meeting with a review of those items before moving on to new topics.
5. Use technology to support and facilitate your continuous feedback meetings
Technology can ensure managers and employees are on the same page before, during, and after the check-in meetings. Collaborative tools that enable both parties to suggest agenda items, pose questions, and share meeting notes will allow you to maximize the meeting time and ensure that time is dedicated to meaningful conversation.
Integrated HCM solutions are especially valuable for remote and hybrid work models, where managers and employees must connect virtually. A holistic tool that helps manage the entire process, from meeting scheduling, agenda-setting, and assigning tasks, to tracking learning and development and long-term career goals, will make conducting one-on-one meetings easy and efficient, regardless of location.
Performance management continues to be a top concern for employers, especially when considering its impact on motivation, engagement, and productivity. After years of lackluster results from annual performance reviews, many companies are questioning the effectiveness of the model and shifting to more frequent, streamlined check-ins between managers and employees. Make the most from these conversations by making one-on-one meetings a priority, preparing in advance, following up between meetings, and utilizing the right tools.
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