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How to triple your employee engagement with check-ins and feedback

How to triple your employee engagement with check-ins and feedback

Haelee Reis
Haelee Reis
Head of Marketing and Program
Caitlin Kirwan
Caitlin Kirwan
Writer and Contributor
Haelee Reis
April 24, 2023

Leading an engaged, energized and productive team is at the top of every manager’s wish list, and for good reason. 

Employee disengagement costs the world a whopping $7.8 trillion in lost productivity, and aside from creating a positive culture with significantly lower absenteeism and turnover, the most engaged teams are 23% more profitable than the least engaged teams. 

So how do we build a highly engaged team? 

The good and bad news is that you have more power than you might think. Research shows the relationship an employee has with their manager accounts for 70% of the variance in team engagement. 

Half of us have quit a job to get away from a manager, and data suggests that 69% of employees believe their manager has more of an impact on their mental health than their doctor or therapist. Employees with a poor relationship with their manager are even shown to be 30% more likely to suffer coronary heart disease. 

Put simply, the better the manager, the happier, healthier, and more engaged the employees. But nobody sets out to be a bad leader, so what does it take to be a great manager with an engaged team? 

This blog takes a deep dive into one of the most important things you can do to be a great manager - regularly checking in with your team. 

Let’s jump in. 

The importance of regular check-ins with employees 

The data is clear - managers who meet frequently with their team members achieve 3 times the level of engagement than those who do not. 

Regular, informal discussions that encourage open communication and present an opportunity to review performance are essential to create a positive feedback loop. Employees are 5 times more likely to perform at their best when they feel they are being listened to, and managers gain invaluable insight by building authentic connections with their teams. 

Giving and receiving feedback on a regular basis, without repercussion, is the foundation for building psychological safety in your team. 89% of HR leaders agreed that these positive feedback loops strengthen relationships, build trust, and help improve resilience to change. 

With the dreaded annual performance review on its way out, the need for more frequent employee feedback conversations is stronger than ever. 

Only 14% of employees say their annual performance reviews inspire them to improve, with conversations often feeling awkward and uncomfortable. The reason that these traditional annual reviews fail is largely due to their lack of frequency. 

It is clearly not enough to have one performance review each year. 

If you haven’t been actively discussing and managing your employees’ performance until the review, feedback will come as a shock and will likely be received negatively. 

It’s like presenting your child with a dusty lump of coal on Christmas day without any warning that their behaviour had been sub-par, and without giving an opportunity for them to improve. We can all picture how well that would go down! 

Frequent check-ins that include conversations about performance make the entire employee feedback cycle much more effective, but evidence shows that almost 70% of managers find it difficult to communicate feedback. 

If you, like 70% of the people surveyed, find it difficult, the following tips and tricks will turn you into a pro!      

How to supercharge the impact of your check-ins 

Let’s cut to the chase – not all employee check-ins are born equal. 

Frequency is important. 

You need to meet regularly enough to enable real-time feedback to be discussed promptly and consistently. While a level of flexibility is needed, connecting on a weekly basis allows you to address employees’ pain points before they turn into bigger problems

Consistency is the un-sexy secret to success, so make sure you stick to the agreed cadence.

A guaranteed way to make your team members feel unimportant and undervalued is to consistently cancel or reschedule their check-ins. We’ve all been on the receiving end of this. One cancellation, we can forgive–deadlines happen, priorities change. But when the same thing happens week after week it becomes clear to employees that their check-in is the least important part of their managers’ week. Be reliable, and don’t let one-to-ones fall by the wayside during busy periods. 

Prioritising these connections shows employees that you value and respect their time

Content is also important. 

A weekly check-in where the conversation is centred around your upcoming holiday to Rome and the latest drama with your colleague’s in-laws is unlikely to hit the mark. 

When done intentionally and strategically, your team check ins will become the most important part of your week. 

The 3 pillars of successful employee check-ins

While there might not be a “one size fits all” template, below are our 3 pillars for successful employee check-ins:  

1. Recognition  

Great managers know how to recognize and celebrate wins, and one of the cornerstones of employee engagement is providing positive reinforcement

Research shows that managers who focus on the strengths of their employees create the strongest levels of engagement, so take time in your weekly check-in to acknowledge accomplishments and discuss recent milestones. Remember how powerful a simple “thank you” can be to show your employee that you appreciate them.    

2. Wellbeing 

Showing you care about your employees is incredibly important. 

Get to know what’s important to each member of your team. Do they take their daughter to hockey training every Wednesday? Do they make 3D models in their free time? These small details might seem insignificant, but getting to know the person behind the job is critical if you want to build a relationship of trust and understand their motivation. 

Make sure you ask your team member how they are doing and if they have any concerns–our Team Check-In feature offers an easy way to stay connected to your team and maintain important connections. It shows how they are feeling in under 10 seconds, giving you valuable information to prompt important conversations in your weekly check-ins. 

3. Honest feedback 

The first 2 pillars build a culture of open communication and authenticity, establishing a foundation for the final pillar - honest feedback. 

Check-ins should be used to discuss progress and encourage development, reviewing goals collaboratively. Avoid shying away from difficult topics–a missed target or unsuccessful project provides an opportunity to reflect on lessons learned or additional support needed. 

Also remember that feedback goes both ways - the best managers are self-aware and are always looking for ways to improve. To build strong relationships and be an authentic leader, it’s important that you understand what you could be doing differently to help each team member reach their potential. 

How to give great feedback that employees will thank you for 

Feedback needs to be constructive; identifying areas for improvement and then discussing solutions or strategies to help achieve the desired outcome rather than just pointing out flaws or weaknesses. 

The groundwork in establishing a positive feedback loop will help ensure your team members expect to talk about their performance on a regular basis, but it is still beneficial to help them prepare by letting them know at the start of the conversation that you will be sharing some constructive feedback.  

The way in which you deliver feedback has a big impact on how it is received. 

Delivered in the wrong way, a valid and helpful piece of feedback could be disregarded by the employee and result in defensiveness and disengagement. But don’t panic, we’re here to help!

Feedback should be broken into 3 steps: 

  1. Open with a positive statement about the employee, which highlights why you’re bringing the piece of feedback to the table
  1. Follow up by stating the issue and delivering the feedback 
  1. Close by offering solutions or strategies that will help the employee to improve

After working through the three steps, remember to pause and give your employee the opportunity to respond. 

3 step-by-step examples of constructive feedback

Use these 3 examples to start thinking about how you can deliver constructive employee feedback with the 3 steps: 

Example 1: Team member misses an important deadline

  1. “The quality of your work is usually excellent and I’m always very impressed with what you produce”
  2. “…however, you missed an important deadline last week, which has delayed the release date of the next update. While it’s important the content is right, the deadlines for this project are very tight and need to be adhered to”
  3. “In the future, I’d like you to come to me ahead of the deadline if you think there might be a problem with the timeframe so that we can work together to come up with a solution, such as releasing you from other work or offering additional resources”     

Example 2: Team member is rude during a meeting  

  1. “I loved seeing your enthusiasm in yesterday’s meeting–it was clear how passionate you are about this piece of work” 
  2. “I noticed that you were quite sharp during Paul’s presentation and did not give him a chance to speak. This came across as rude” 
  3. “Going forward, I would like you to try to contribute in a more constructive and supportive way. While your points were valid, the way you interrupted the presentation was not appropriate. Let’s work together to ensure that your feedback is shared in a more constructive way”  

Example 3: Team member is consistently late to a weekly meeting

  1. “You’re usually very well-organized and prompt for meetings and project calls” 
  2. “…but I’ve noticed you’re often late to the planning call for the last few weeks, which has made the start of the meeting difficult as you have the agenda and slides” 
  3. “I’d like to understand what’s causing the lateness so we can make sure you’re able to join on time, perhaps we need to change the time or can move to another recurring meeting.”   

Give yourself a team engagement head start with PepTalk 

PepTalk is here to support your team engagement by helping you build authentic connections with your team.

We provide companies with the tools and platforms to manage team engagement and communication in an effective and consistent manner. You can increase employee retention, boost productivity and reduce absenteeism, all while raising your company’s profitability

To see first-hand how PepTalk can build great team experiences at your organization, book a free demo today!

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