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How to Hold a Successful 1:1 Check-in 


There has been a lot of discussion about best practices in performance management. Annual reviews have been said to be ‘dead’ given that they alone are a terrible way to assess performance if performance is assessed only once-a-year. Reviews should be supplemented with frequent check-ins. In this article, we will discuss why check-ins are so important and outline how to hold a successful one. 

Why are check-ins so important? 

1) Eliminate biases

There are inherent biases in once a year assessments (e.g., recency bias). Performance should be continually assessed to help eliminate unconscious biases and ensure a fair and accurate performance review process. We also recommend a continuous feedback software which can help document frequent conversations between employees. 

2) Career development  

Career development strategies and growth opportunities are becoming one of the most important job factors to employees. If they want to develop, they need to know where their strengths and weaknesses are. It’s reported that fewer than half of the employees know where they stand concerning their performance. How can companies expect employees to perform well if employees don’t know if they are doing a good job? Having regular check-ins helps clarify goals & expectations.

3) Encourages a better manager-employee relationship

Trust and transparency have been important to employees for years. Managers need to be honest with their employees. Check-ins serve as a definite time to keep employees informed and to provide open and constructive feedback. Try and check-in with them often to give feedback or see how a project is coming along. These check-ins need not be long, but they will greatly impact the employee’s perception of their work. Lastly, don’t cancel check-ins unless necessary. Postpone if need be. The employee should know that these check-ins are valued. 

Holding a successful employee check-in

1) Come prepared 

Check-ins don’t need to be as formal as a performance review, but that doesn’t mean managers shouldn’t be unprepared. Check out our employee check-in template for a quick guide to refer to. Sharing an agenda ahead of the check-in with the direct report ensures that the meeting is much more productive and meaningful. The agenda also allows the employee to be prepared. If managers are uneasy about the meeting (i.e, perhaps it is regarding an employee’s poor performance), they should seek input from their HR department. HR can help prepare the best delivery to ensure that the conversation goes smoothly. 

2) Focus on behaviors, not traits 

A big thing that goes wrong during check-ins is that the feedback managers provide in the check-in is either unclear, or it is only focused traits, which can quickly become confusing and frustrating for the employees. If managers want to drive better performance, the feedback provided must be behavior based and specific. 

Compare the following examples:

Example 1: “you did a good job at the presentation last week.” 

Example 2: “In the presentation last week, you clearly came prepared with your documents, and outlined what each team member needs to complete. You also were able to clarify any questions the rest of the team had.” 

The second example pinpoints what the employee did well on (i.e., it focused on their behavior). This allows them to repeat this behavior. Bottom line, be sure to make that feedback specific as well, as it will make it easier for the employee to break down and improve. 

Check out these effective employee feedback examples for more help. In the examples, make note of the verbs that are used (they are action-based verbs, not trait-based verbs).

3) Encourage a two-way conversation 

Check-ins are not productive if the employee is not participating. Sharing the agenda can help prepare the employee for the conversation. Managers should ask open-ended questions which will encourage the employee to participate in the conversation. We list some examples of these questions below: 

  • Have you been given enough feedback to perform effectively over this cycle? Can you provide an example? 
  • Where do you see yourself at this organization in a year? 5 years? 
  • How would you describe the organization’s culture? How would you improve the organization’s culture for you, your team, and the rest of the organization? 
  • How does the organization improve work life balance for its employees? How can we improve? 
  • What do you think your team would say about you and your work?
  • What is the most challenging part of your day-to-day work?
  • What could I do as a manager to make your work easier/ more effective/ more productive? 

4) Summarize the check-in & documentation

An important step to closing out an effective check-in is to summarize everything that was discussed during the meeting. That includes the feedback that was shared, from both the manager and employee. Additionally, be sure to summarize any action steps that were discussed to improve performance. Documenting everything that was covered in the meeting is arguably one of the most important steps following a check-in. This allows managers to be able to revisit what was discussed during their next check-in, but it also makes sure that when performance review time rolls around, they avoid inaccurate reviews due to common workplace biases that can occur. A solution like Pavestep helps organizations easily document all feedback and check-ins. 

5) Schedule follow ups 

The last step in completing a successful check-in would be to establish a cadence of follow ups and further check-ins with the employees. Managers need to make sure that what they discussed during the check-in is either improving or continuing their good work. Work with the employee to find the best schedule and give them enough time to implement the strategies that were discussed to improve their performance! 

No matter what you discuss during your check-in or how often you have them, remember check-ins are just as important to build a manager and employee relationship as they are to assessing performance. Managers must make sure they are there for their employees! 

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