Regular check-ins form the backbone of a Continuous Performance Management (CPM) approach. When conducted effectively, these meetings can lead to increased productivity, improved relationships, and better alignment with company goals.
Regular check-ins can also be valuable to any small business even if you are not formally adopting continuous performance management. Here’s a comprehensive guide for small business owners to conducting successful regular check-ins:
1. Establish clear objectives
Each check-in should have a clear purpose. It could be setting new goals, reviewing progress, providing feedback, or discussing developmental needs, or a combination, but having clarity of purpose helps focus the discussion. While the nature of CPM check-ins is often less formal, having a set agenda ensures that all critical points are covered and the purpose is achieved.
2. Create a safe environment
Open communication and a positive approach can make a huge difference in making these meetings effective. Establish a safe space where employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, feedback, and concerns without fear of repercussions, and emphasise the positive and constructive nature of these meetings. Feedback should be provided in a manner that focuses on growth, learning, and future improvement.
3. Engage actively
Pay close attention to what the employee is saying with ‘active listening’. This shows that you value their perspective and fosters mutual respect. Encourage discussion by asking open-ended questions like, “How do you feel about the progress you’ve made?” or “What challenges are you currently facing?”
4. Review and reflect on past goals
Begin the session by reviewing the goals set during the previous check-in. Discuss the progress made, challenges faced, and any deviations. Make sure you recognise and celebrate the milestones and achievements of the employee. Positive reinforcement can significantly boost morale and motivation.
5. Set future goals
Instead of dictating goals, collaborate with the employee. This ensures they have a sense of ownership and commitment to the objectives. Goals should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Work with your team member to ensure that the goals you discuss are adjusted to be expressed in a SMART way.
6. Provide constructive feedback
Instead of making general statements, provide specific examples to make your feedback more actionable, and improve the employee’s understanding of exactly what the concern actually is. Make sure to highlight the positives while also addressing areas that need improvement.
7. Discuss development and training needs
Discuss any skill or knowledge gaps that might be hindering performance or growth, including seeking the employee’s opinion on this. Then collaborate on finding suitable training or courses that can help the employee develop the required skills.
8. Follow up
Make sure you document your discussions, keeping a record of the points discussed, goals set, and feedback provided during the check-in. This will be crucial for future reference and accountability. Ensure both parties leave the meeting with a clear understanding of the next steps, and confirm these in writing where possible for absolute clarity. This could be actions the employee needs to take or support that management needs to provide.
9. Stay flexible
While it’s essential to have a structure, be ready to adapt how the meeting is running based on the employee’s needs. Some check-ins might require more time, while others might be shorter and more straightforward.
As a manager or business owner, be receptive to feedback about the process itself. Continuous improvement applies not only to employees but also to management practices, and being receptive to upward feedback helps encourage trust and can ensure employees take downward feedback more positively.
10. Schedule regularly
Consistency is key for regular check-ins. Set a regular cadence for them, whether it’s weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. Ensure that these meetings are a priority and avoid last-minute cancellations as they can demotivate employees, particularly if it happens frequently.
Regular check-ins, when conducted effectively, can transform the way small businesses manage performance. For the business owner, they provide an opportunity to guide, support, and align the team. For employees, they offer clarity, direction, and a sense of being valued.
If you’d like some support with practical and pragmatic performance management in your small business, do get in touch.