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Blog·Performance Management

January 26, 2021

How Performance Check-ins Boost your Performance Reviews

Without ongoing feedback, conventional performance reviews can lack substance. Find out how performance check-ins help with goal setting.

There is no a one-size fits all performance review structure. However, employees benefit from regular, ongoing feedback. Managers who save up all their feedback for an annual performance review are jeopardising employee engagement. According to Gallup research, employees who had had a performance conversation with their manager in the last six months were almost 3 times as likely to be engaged.

Formal performance reviews are crucial to ensure documentation and clear appraisals. But by supplementing them with regular performance check-ins, managers ensure reviews are put into context. Check-ins bridge the communication gap by giving employees an opportunity to ask questions and voice concerns.

Performance check ins communication


How to prepare for performance check-ins

Make sure you prepare for your performance check-ins. This is your opportunity to support employees as they set goals- create an action plan so that you make the most of this!

First, schedule the check in meeting in advance, so that employees have an opportunity to prepare questions.

Performance reviews should always be evidence-based. Managers and HR should compile examples of strengths and weaknesses for each employee. Grounding performance conversations in concrete events and examples makes the process much smoother - so ensure you have this information to hand.

Human resources can support managers in the preparation stage. Find goal setting templates that employees and managers can use during the meeting. Let managers rehearse the performance conversation to HR, and provide notes on how constructive, empathetic and facts-based their meeting style is.

Use the acronym ‘THINK’ in your planning to ensure meetings are empathetic and useful:

  • T is it true?

  • H is it helpful?

  • I is it inspiring?

  • N is it necessary?

  • K is it kind?

THINK for constructive feedback performance check ins


Conducting the performance review conversation

Managers should establish a friendly but professional tone. Remember, performance check-ins can be a high pressure scenario for employees, especially when they feel their livelihoods are at stake. A measly 14% of employees say performance reviews help them improve, so clearly these meetings need to be more constructive.

Friendly humor or small talk diffuses tension. A simple, genuine ‘how are you?’ goes a long way to open up communication. Provide feedback on a positive note. Even for employees whose work requires improvement, shape the conversation to find the root causes underlying low performance.

Consider applying SMART goals to your feedback:

  • S Is is specific? Is your comment grounded in examples, not character traits?

  • M Is it Measurable? – Is there a time span within which this feedback applies?

  • A Is it Actionable? – are measures taken to ensure the employee can begin working towards this goal?

  • R Is it Relevant? – is the example/ advice you give relevant to a specific performance indicator/ the conversation?

  • T Is it Timely?– are you considering how the employee has been working recently, or 11 months ago?

Lisa Quast recommends using THINK and SMART in tandem – as she puts it, ‘think smart!’. This supports managers to be reflective about their feedback.

Create a two-way conversation. Asking questions is a great way to invite comments and insights from the employee. Use these to build towards your goal-setting and to keep meetings constructive.

Here are some questions to help you get started:

  • Last week you missed an important deadline. Have you found work-life balance difficult recently?

  • The presentation you gave was excellent. Would you like to use your presentation skills more in future?

  • Are there any resources I can provide to help you improve?

  • Your write-up could have done with more detailed analysis. Would more training help with this?

Performance check ins question example


Incorporate goal setting into the performance review check-in

Performance reviews work best when they are future oriented. Rather than rehashing past mistakes or shortcomings, performance goal setting helps employees to look forwards and adopt a positive, growth mindset.

Start with short term goal setting. You can use our SMART goal setting template to prompt ideas.

Write an employee development plan with the employee to ensure the goals discussed are documented. Schedule a future check-in there and then, so that employees know when action towards their goals will be reviewed.

👉 Click here for a guide on how to write an effective development plan

Tips for effective goal setting

  • Schedule a future check-in (weekly/monthly) so employee knows when action on goals will be reviewed

  • Ensure goals confront areas for improvement

  • Create a realistic timeframe in which to improve/reach goal

  • Write goals with employee’s input


Performance check-ins help you build your teams

The best performance check-ins leave employees more motivated and engaged. They are a two-way conversation including constructive and positive feedback. They help employees work towards short and long-term goals.

To find out about how PeopleGoal can improve your performance reviews process, why not book a demo today?

👉 Click here to listen to our webcast discussing the best employee development initiatives

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