We keep hearing about the demise of the annual appraisal and the accompanying rise of regular performance discussions, but we rarely hear any guidance on what to discuss during these more frequent check-ins.
Regular catch-ups are certainly essential in today’s agile business world and they have been linked to great performance, but quantity of conversation isn’t nearly as important as quality. For more frequent performance conversations to work as intended, you need to have meaningful interactions with your employees, and you need to make every second count.
Performance management is easier and far more effective if you keep things simple. Below is a list of seven talking points you should consider raising with your employees each week. Done right, your meetings shouldn’t be too time-consuming, and your employees should feel more supported, engaged, and motivated to succeed.
1. How Are You Feeling in General? On a Scale of 1-10, How Happy Are You?
This question will elicit feedback on how supported an employee feels and how they are doing in terms of morale. It also shows your employee that you genuinely care about their well-being and their state of mind. Regularly raising this type of dialogue is likely to create a transparent, trusting relationship that will encourage your employees to open up to you. This question also allows you to step in if you pick up signs that an employee is overworked, stressed, or frustrated with a workplace process or a lack of recognition.
Employee satisfaction is a clear precursor to great performance. Though it can be hard to quantify satisfaction, attempting to do so will give you a general idea of how your team is feeling. Some organizations choose to use tools specifically designed to measure employee satisfaction, but even the informal 1-10 scale this question uses can give you some valuable basic insights.
2. Can You Tell Me About Any Recent Wins That Made You Proud?
Asking employees about their proud moments starts the performance discussion on a positive note. This question also requires a degree of self-reflection, which is an important skill for employees to develop. Self-reflection is particularly important for high performers, as top performers are often extremely self-critical and rarely give themselves the credit they deserve. Take the time to appreciate your employees’ development while acknowledging jobs well done.
3. What Workplace Challenges Are You Currently Facing?
All too often, employees struggle with problems they could easily overcome with a little managerial support. Let your employees know that it is safe — and even encouraged — to speak up when they need help. You might also get some useful, practical feedback on how to improve certain workplace processes or some suggestions for helpful new tools to implement.
4. How Do You Work Best?
We’re all different, and we all get our best work done in different environments. Some of us like silence, while others work best to music. Some of us want to work standing up while others are much more productive slouched in a comfortable chair. What’s more, some people thrive within the traditional 9-5 work routine, while others might have entirely different productivity rhythms.
When possible and practical, it is best to find out what makes your employees better performers and give it to them. This might mean allowing your employees to work from home for one or two days a week, or it might mean letting them keep a plant at their desk to brighten their spirits. As long as the request is reasonable, you should grant it. Everyone will benefit, and your company will gain a reputation for providing an incredible employee experience.
5. How Do You Feel About Your SMART Goals?
For your employees to achieve their objectives, they first need to understand and care about those objectives. It’s that simple.
Traditionally, objectives would trickle down from senior management. Employees wouldn’t have any say in their goals, and they would have precious little context. These days, it makes more sense to align goals upward. This involves talking to your employees about corporate objectives and collaborating with them to create individual goals that support these objectives. This way, the employee understands their goals, feels a sense of ownership over them, and is more motivated to achieve them.
6. What Training and Development Can We Offer You?
The modern employee is working for more than a paycheck. They want the satisfaction of knowing they are improving, building new skills, and growing professionally.
Don’t allow your most promising employees to stagnate. During your one-on-ones, discuss your employees’ career goals and how they can advance within your company. You can then work with them to create personal development plans. Don’t just pay lip service to these plans — be sure to really stick to them.
7. Is There Anything I Can Help You With?
You started your chat asking about your employee’s well-being, so it makes sense to close on a note that shows you are on their side. This questions shows your employee you are there for them as a coach who will champion them and help them succeed, and that they can come to you for help and advice. Depending on their request, you may or may not be able to help — but either way, you end your discussion on a human note.
Stuart Hearn is CEO and founder of Clear Review.
Stuart Hearn has 20 years of experience in the HR sector. He cofounded plusHR, a leading UK HR consultancy, and previously worked as international HR director for Sony Music Publishing. Stuart is currently CEO of Clear Review, an innovative performance management software system.