Team leadership and HR management, we have a problem!
Employee engagement scores continue to dwindle, feedback loops have ground to a halt.
Nevertheless, feedback, while critical to performance, remains tricky. Too much and you risk the distrust and disenfranchisement resultant from micromanagement, too little and employees feel a lack of care for themselves and detachment from overall company aims.
Getting the balance right is important and with 28% of employees remarking that they don’t get feedback frequently enough, leadership needs a better understanding of the role feedback plays and the frequency of which it should be given.
65% of the workforce want active feedback to help them grow, improve and realise career goals but how frequently should you have check-ins?
How Often Should You Check-In with Employees?
Statistically speaking, leaders who check in with the team on a weekly basis see a 13% increase in employee engagement. Those who check in once a month see a 5% decrease in engagement. With engagement influencing almost all business functions, each factor affecting it becomes critical.
Weekly? We don’t have the time…
If you think you don’t have the time, think again. Tight-knit teams are not built on monthly or quarterly feedback and support. They are built on openly flowing, bi-directional communication where each participant is respected and valued.
Take the examples of the hedge fund or military. Information is put forth on a daily basis because it influences the critical decisions facing people.. The more information available, the more successful they may be and the more competent a leader can be.
If, as a leader, you only offer feedback every 6 months, you are doing a disservice to the team. 1:1 conversations become general and revolve around working styles, outcomes and vein metrics without efficiently impacting problems and the daily lives of your staff.
Information has an expiry date. Monthly meetings mean it is delivered far too late to be effective. It is the leadership equivalent of closing the door after the horse has bolted. The employee is not afforded any opportunity to course correct in a timely way.
Being a team leader or manager is about getting the best out of the team. When employees are supported with a weekly check-in, they get information when it matters, solve problems quickly, build relationships with leaders, embed trust and security and vastly enhance engagement.
Two Huge Companies at Opposite Ends of the Scale. Netflix and Bridgewater Associates: What do they do?
Ray D’Alio and his hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, are pioneers especially in giving feedback. D’Alio introduced the concept of radical transparency to his company in the 90s. This meant lifting the lid on every company detail and giving a platform to all team members to speak freely. The culture fostered is one of open honesty, psychological safety and continuous feedback. Each employee is subjected to the feedback of the leadership through open forum dialogue.
In reading workplace reviews, the consistent open feedback loop allows employees to grow quickly but demands a certain type of employee to blossom. Most notably, “thick skin” was a requirement.
Netflix doesn’t do things the same as others so it should be no surprise to find that they offer feedback in a unique way. The Netflix way is known as the ‘Stop-Start-Continue’ model. This method allows employees to offer each other feedback illustrating one thing they believe their colleagues should stop doing, start doing and continue to do.
Once a year on annual feedback day, each member gives teammates their honest opinion on what is required from them to improve. While it is an empowering method of caring for one another, it is insufficient with regard to continued development.
Checking-in too often or too seldom is to be avoided
Part of the reason for the reducing engagement rates we are seeing is down to outdated practices that don’t provide any tangible benefit consistent with employee needs.
In 2013, Bloomberg declared annual reviews as worthless, reciting the corporate ritual as empty with very little value derived for neither the employee nor the employer.
The employee doesn’t get constructive feedback in real-time and the employer can’t course correct to make sure everyone is on the same track. It lacks depth and consistency, meaning the enterprise overall ultimately pays the price with productivity or errant actions.
While annual check-ins have a place in gauging yearly performance, they are not enough to stand as the only way point for the employee and team leader.
Constant Feedback and Micro-management
The antithesis to annual reviews appears to be constant feedback but this also has downsides. Offering feedback at every step can be seen as critical and impatient and more consistent with rote learning than empowering someone to do their best work. Employees feel like they are being watched over.
By not allowing team members the space to make mistakes for themselves and figure the best path to success, trust and confidence are damaged (unless we are working in healthcare where a mistake can be costly).
Without a trusting foundation, employees will constantly expect the approval of leadership, paralysing efficiency and growth. The mindset of being proactive and taking the initiative gives way to stress inducing reprimand.
What are your check-in objectives?
Ultimately, the frequency of your feedback and check-ins will largely depend on your goal. As a team leader, every interaction ought to be purposeful with intentional objectives and check-ins should be no different.
Many managerial figures conduct appraisals and reviews because they think that is what they should be doing. However, there are very tangible outcomes of appraisals especially as management feedback and attitudes account for a 70% variance in employee engagement.
The more frequent, constructive and interpersonal the check-in, the better the productivity and engagement of the employee. Furthermore, when all employees are engaged, safety records, profitability, sales and innovation are improved.
Deciding ahead of time what the purpose of the feedback is helps to specify timing and content.
Why are you having a check-in? – How often should we check-in?
- Build trust and relationships – Weekly if possible
- Augment employee performance and confidence – Weekly if possible
- Assess underperforming projects – Weekly to monthly
- Improve discipline – Weekly to monthly
- Empower the team – Weekly if possible
- Promote a positive mindset – Weekly if possible
- Enhance employee skills development – Monthly
- Relaying performance reviews – Bi-annual
Make a decision on how you, as a leader, and your employee will benefit from the feedback and allow that need to direct frequency.
Touching base and offering advice should not be an unwanted chore of being a team leader. It should be the vehicle of any manager to amplify a positive impact, fasten working relationships, cement trust and coach where necessary.
Feedback meetings are a medium for giving the team the reinforcement needed to improve and when it comes to the check-ins: quantity outperforms quality.
Teams who receive weekly feedback show a lower turnover, improved engagement and increased productivity. In the simplest of terms: check-ins are the opportunity to effuse leadership.
Team accomplishments display the effects of present and engaged leadership. Ask questions, figure out how best to support and offer information that makes the employees better at their jobs.
“What are your priorities and how can I help?” View each check-in as the opportunity to build strengths, growth skills and character and pretty soon, you will find yourself in a cohesive, finely tuned team!
Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com