Technology plays a bigger part in business than ever before, but however beneficial the latest tools and innovations may be, managers need to ensure they're always focused on the human element of running a company.
It's the people in your organization who will ultimately determine whether it succeeds or fails, so employee welfare and relationships need to be a constant priority.
One of the most effective ways to maintain strong connections with the individuals who drive your business forward is by having regular check-ins. As simple as it might seem, this is a strategy that can deliver valuable results for all parties over the long term.
Why check-ins are so important
A chance to ask questions
When your employees have questions on their minds, it's important that they have the confidence and the opportunity to come forward and ask them. This helps to ensure that managers are always aware of any ongoing issues, concerns or priorities within their teams, which is essential to maintain high standards of performance and productivity.
People are much more likely to speak up and raise what could prove to be crucial points if they're actively encouraged to do so by their manager. Regular check-ins provide reassurance for employees that there will always be a time and place for them to ask questions that could otherwise be overlooked.
Whether it happens virtually or in person, employees should have regular, face-to-face engagement with their managers. One of the many reasons why this is so important is so individuals can establish the levels of trust required to feel confident, happy and well supported at work.
This is particularly relevant in the current era of telecommuting and hybrid working. Research has shown that loneliness is one of the most common struggles people face when working remotely, so managers should be making a conscious effort to maintain healthy, supportive connections with their team members.
Over time, this investment in personal contact and relationships will lay the foundations for a positive and productive workforce.
Relevant, regular feedback
Regular feedback is crucial to workforce morale and productivity. Employees who are delivering good results deserve to be recognized for it, while those who are struggling need constructive guidance to develop and improve in their roles.
Frequent check-ins give you the opportunity to engage directly with individuals and have honest, detailed conversations about how they're performing. On the basis of these discussions, you can set relevant goals that motivate the employee and generate results for the business.
Furthermore, regular supervisor meetings offer people the chance to share their thoughts on how they're being managed, what works well for them and where they think positive changes could be made.
How to get check-ins right
Find the right frequency
One of the most basic but important things to get right when scheduling check-ins is how frequently they happen.
For some people - those who thrive on regular human interaction and direct communication, for example - daily meetings will be highly beneficial, even if it's just a ten-minute morning chat with their manager to set priorities for the day.
Others might prefer weekly catch-ups, which could be the best way to achieve a balance between frequent contact and allowing the time and freedom for employees to get on with their work independently.
This is a clear example of why it's beneficial for managers to get to know their team members as individuals and to be flexible with their processes, rather than setting rigid procedures that everyone is expected to follow.
Don't waste people's time
One of the most common frustrations for busy people is the feeling that their time is being wasted in unnecessary, unfocused meetings that yield very little in the way of actual outcomes.
Surveys have shown managers consider most of the meetings in their calendars unproductive, while professionals based in the US view meetings as the biggest "office productivity killer".
As long as you're covering all the necessary points and everyone who wants to speak gets the chance to do so, it's perfectly acceptable to keep your check-ins short and to the point. It's also vital that you have a plan in place for every interaction, to ensure you're working towards clear goals and not wasting attendees' valuable time.
Provide clear takeaways
A good practice to stick to with every employee check-in is to end the conversation with simple, definable takeaways and action points for each participant.
Everyone involved in the discussion should go away with a clear understanding of what needs to happen next, when the work needs to be completed and their individual responsibilities for helping to ensure objectives are met. Putting this down in writing and sharing the information with all relevant stakeholders could help to maintain transparency.
As well as making sure you're not wasting anyone's time, this structured, methodical approach minimizes the risk of problems or lapses in workflows resulting from miscommunication or confusion over the allocation of responsibilities.