Why you need to check in with
your employees

An army only marches as fast as its slowest soldier. In business – and particularly in HR – you see first hand how true this is. A single bad day can ruin an otherwise great week. Shoddy processes (yes, even in management) can slow down the entire operation. And of course, a disgruntled, disengaged, or simply overburdened employee can be detrimental to the whole team.

The world can seem like a scary place these days. The global pandemic, the slow economy, neverending traffic… it can all seem like too much. Around the world employers are sharing tales of employees who are normally laser focused becoming distant and reserved, or their communication getting scattered and vague where they once spoke with surgical precision. In light of that, here are 5 great ways to check in with your employees, including one trick so simple we’re shocked everybody else isn’t doing it yet.

1) Be a Championship Coach, not a dictator

Next time you see a championship-winning team on TV, check out who the players lift up on their shoulders. The sport doesn’t matter. Whether it’s basketball, football, baseball or any other sport, it isn’t the team’s owner who passes down decisions and leaves.

It’s the coach. Champion managers, like in business, know how to nurture their teams. When you check in with your employees, always listen more than you speak. If there’s a problem, don’t dictate your answer to them. Let them speak first and take the lead on a solution. That way, they’re more invested in the outcome, they know you respect them to make decisions and solve problems, and you’re strengthening your employer-employee relationship. That’s a triple win.

2) Share your own experience during check-ins with employees

Nobody likes feeling alone. By the same token, nobody likes to think they work with robots who never have any real problems. A good check in strategy is to recognise that you and the employee are human. Sharing something small and personal that you might have struggled with establishes common ground between you and the employee. For example, if you’re feeling the stress of moving house, discussing that will help your employee to feel comfortable sharing their own situation. Coming across as genuine and relatable is critical in so many areas of workplace relations, not least in employee check ins.

3) Be inquisitive, but don’t be generic

We all hate when we’re in a store and the salesman opens with “Hi, I’m blah blah blah, how are you today?” before bulldozing straight through any given answer.

Asking questions of your employees when checking in is vital, but we’re all socially conditioned to respond “fine thanks” to any variation of “how are you?”. Generic, bland questions don’t come off as empathetic or genuine. A great way to overcome this is to remember small details about your employees. If they have children or a long-term partner, ask about them by name. If you know the area they live in, you can ask where the best place to eat is. They might answer “my mother’s kitchen”, but at least they’re being honest with you!

If you’re really concerned about your employee’s wellbeing, you can break the pattern of “how are you” with “how are you really doing?”.

Perhaps the boldest strategy is not to ask a question at all, but make a simple statement: “If you’re ever feeling like you’re not OK, I’d love for you to come and tell me because I’m here to talk”. It’s refreshingly honest and puts no pressure on the employee to talk if they don’t feel comfortable doing so.

4) Respect their time during your check-ins with employees 

Face-to-face meetings are how business gets done. That’s an inescapable fact, even in the age of work-from-home Zoom meetings. But how many times a week do you hear people complain that they don’t have time to finish their work because of an overwhelming meeting schedule? When you’re checking in with an employee, set aside time (we recommend no more than forty minutes) and stick to it. This shows that you value them enough to spend time from your day with them, and that you respect their time by not running over and preventing them from getting on with other work.

This also means that you need to have the meeting. The meeting is pointless if you never get around to actually having it. We know that schedules change and priorities shift and things get beyond your control sometimes. We get it. Don’t be tricked into thinking you can shift your check-ins because “there’s always next week”. Your check-in was important enough to carve out time, so you need to make sure it goes ahead, and that it starts on time.

5) The Phone Trick

This is one of our favourites. It’s so simple, yet so rarely used that we’re genuinely scratching our heads that everybody doesn’t do it.

Make sure they see you turn off your phone.

Sounds simple, right? Take your phone out of your pocket at the start of your check-in meeting, turn it off, and say “I’m just turning this off to make sure we don’t get interrupted.”

That’s it.

Some of us go even farther and put the phone in a drawer out of sight after turning it off. The brilliance of this trick is that it quickly and clearly establishes to the employee that you value them and the conversation you’re about to have. Building rapport like this encourages honesty in communication and really leaves the employee feeling valued and important.

Remember, valued employees are valuable employees. People often talk about feeling like robots or cogs in a machine. By regularly checking in with your employees with a genuine, personal approach, you can make them feel appreciated. Even if they’re having a rough time at work or outside of it, these five tips will make your employee check ins easy and productive. Looking for new and different ways of checking in with your employees? Consider adding voice tech to your options, particularly useful when it comes to pulse checks!

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