Timely, contextual, and comprehensive check-in meetings are key to building the kind of organizational knowledge that can alter the trajectory of a company’s culture, team morale, high-performing productivity levels, and overall employee engagement.
Successful leaders and organizations recognize the significant value of employee feedback and insights. However, it’s not always clear what to look for, how and when to gather those insights, or how to apply what you’ve gathered.
In this article, you will learn:
- The importance of employee engagement
- 12 check-in meeting questions
- The value of asking consistent questions
The importance of employee engagement
Research shows that a dismal 15% of workers around the world feel engaged with their job. Depending on the size of your team, that means you’ve probably got one or two actively engaged employees in your line of sight, and that’s an optimistic estimate.
Impacting the bottom line
A Gallup study of 32,000 employees across 30 countries found that employee engagement impacts everything from productivity to inventory shrinkage and even earnings per share.
Research by Bain & Company found that, "over seven years, companies with highly engaged workers grew revenues two and a half times as much as those with low engagement levels."
Despite its many benefits, roadblocks often prevent the types of dialogue that lead to sustainable engagement. Results don’t happen on their own, so it is important to address specific issues tied to the bottom line and conduct those team check-ins as the issues appear.
Communication serves as a crucial component
With millions of employees working from home for the foreseeable future or working in a hybrid environment, regular check-ins and real-time feedback loops are more important than ever.
Although that type of communications system may seem difficult to coordinate, technology and creativity make it possible to consistently touch base with the team and get their insights and perspectives.
For example, an engineering manager might install a feedback loop that delivers an automated survey in Slack or Microsoft Teams after an issue closes in GitHub or JIRA. As part of that follow-up, they can ask key questions about the issue to improve future workflow. Questions might include “Did you have easy access to the resources you needed to resolve this issue?” or “How well was this issue documented?”
However, depending on the types of meetings your company holds, there may be many other questions to include as part of your employee check-in process.
Our top 12 check-in meeting questions
What you choose to ask team members also depends on your organization, what initiatives you’re working on, and what kind of relationships you’ve built with your team. However, the following questions can be effective for all types of meetings, including icebreaker sessions, stand-ups, project management updates, and team check-ins.
1. What was your biggest accomplishment this month?
Recognizing accomplishments can go a long way toward boosting employee engagement. Not only is the question framed in such a way to acknowledge accomplishments, but it also provides a way for an employee to reflect on their value in a meaningful way.
When asking about accomplishments, you can see what type of work intrinsically motivates each team member. It may surprise you that completing a large project wasn’t the highlight of someone’s month. Instead, an employee was excited by the teamwork when creating new ideas and developing project deliverables.
2. What’s the biggest challenge you faced this month?
Asking about the challenges your team faced this month is an ideal follow-up question for a one-on-one meeting or during performance reviews. From faulty software to missing status updates, employees perform at their best when you help them swiftly resolve any issues.
Your awareness and response to these matters foster trust and open channels of communication that define productive company culture. Research from ADP found that “A worker is 12 times more likely to be Fully Engaged if he or she trusts the team leader.”
Checking in on the challenges faced can lead directly to solutions that impact a much greater audience. When posed in a trusting and transparent environment, the result can be a resourceful and retrospective exchange. From there, you have a better sense of what resources can help you find a solution.
3. What resources would help you succeed in your role?
Although teamwork and talent are key ingredients in a company’s success, those results can be amplified by providing the right set of resources. Yet, a recent workforce study found that 75% of US workers don’t feel that they can access specific technology solutions that help them increase efficiency.
A resource could be anything from a standing desk or quiet workplace to software to more effective communication tools. Whatever the desired resource, this question can give you actionable information, which can be turned into positive change.
The crucial element here is to follow up on the responses to your check-in questions. This includes making resource acquisition an action item or adding plans to invest in those resources in the near future. Provide status updates on those resources so your team knows that you are acting on their feedback.
4. On a scale of 1-10, how safe do you feel sharing new ideas?
Research at Google confirmed that psychological safety – not core competencies, individual performance, or seniority – was the strongest predictor of a team’s success.
To foster an environment where team members feel safe enough to share their ideas without fear of repercussion, start by determining their level of comfort. From there, weekly check-ins show your interest in their ideas and reassure them that they have a platform to be open.
5. What’s something we can improve as a company?
Each team member has a unique perspective about their role within a company and what the company could be doing to achieve better results. If they don’t, that’s an important data point (and talking point) in itself.
Tap into your team’s insights on a consistent basis to get valuable information. Employees who feel their voices are heard are also “4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.”
To encourage honesty, allow for anonymous responses. From there, making real-time course corrections sends the message that you take their feedback seriously.
6. How can I be a better resource for you?
In a recent article for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Mark Tarallo explains, “If serving staff is the bedrock principle of servant leadership, two core practices toward achieving that goal are close listening and searching questions.“
Asking this question requires more trust (and self-confidence) than the others on this list. This is because employees may be reluctant to answer honestly at the risk of upsetting their boss and triggering some form of retaliation.
However, if you’re doing a good job of building an environment of psychological safety for your team, this type of question will feel natural and welcome. When employees are empowered to be candid, it can foster a sense of ownership over the direction of their work and reinforce that their opinions are truly valued.
7. How’s everything going?
As a general question that you can use as part of daily check-ins with remote staff, this approach puts the employee in charge of deciding where it leads. You might get a basic affirmative response like “great.” However, you may also learn feedback that helps you to improve an employee’s experience.
Open-ended questions also build a human connection between you and your team. Knowing what they are facing outside of work provides context for their mindset at work. Are they struggling with the loss of a loved one or facing a health issue? Are they trying to balance a full-time job with school, children, or both?
Checking in with employees and showing genuine human concern and empathy demonstrate your authenticity as a facilitator of their growth and success.
8. Are you blocked on anything?
Just like it’s difficult to be accountable for a task without the necessary resources, it can be challenging to complete projects if there is a major blocker in the way.
These blockers can take many forms and are often not within an employee’s power to change or fix. Few things are more frustrating than missing deadlines and getting pressured by leaders because of a bottleneck where there is no individual power or influence to bypass it.
By asking employees about blockers, you can serve as a solutions provider. It may be something as easy as a quick message to one of your colleagues in a different department who is standing between your direct report and their successful completion of a task.
9. How did a colleague make a positive impact?
One research study noted that 78% of employees surveyed said that “being recognized motivates them in their job.” One of the easiest ways to ensure that happens is to empower employees to share and celebrate their peers’ contributions.
It’s not practical for a manager to personally witness, recognize, and reward every team members’ contribution. However, if you build a culture of appreciation, it will be easy for everyone to think of a valuable contribution someone else has made. Once you’ve developed a habit of noticing these things, they become visible everywhere. Starting with this question at a check-in meeting starts the momentum.
10. What should I start/stop/continue doing?
There are many things you do that impact employees in large and small ways. That impact can be positive, neutral, or negative. You won’t know the true impact until you ask.
Employees who work closely with you, especially direct reports, notice what you could do better. The key is to humbly accept that and ask for feedback honing your skills. The start/stop/continue format works well for many leaders. It’s simple and gets to key issues quickly and often candidly.
11. Which of our core values do you identify most closely with?
Authentic, powerful core values drive decisions and actions. They're so important in the minds of organizational leadership that 90% of American companies report they have clearly defined corporate values.
Yet, only a small minority of employees, including those in leadership, know their organization's core values well enough to recite them. Asking questions that reference core values helps employees build that connection between their organization’s values and their contributions.
If your direct reports have difficulty with this question, that could be a sign they haven’t internalized them to the degree that they see them in their work. As a leader, it's your responsibility to build and maintain that alignment. By taking an opportunity to do that, you can forge a more successful working relationship.
12. Which of these three outside mentors would you be most excited to meet?
Are you helping your direct reports grow and excel in their career?
As a leader, your team’s performance and professional growth is the most important lever you have to achieve strategic objectives. Actions you take to help your team grow not only lead to a more skilled or equipped team, but they also foster engagement, intrinsic motivation, esteem, and confidence.
These efforts can also be a key factor for attracting and retaining employees long-term. According to research, 91% of Generation Z employees view professional development as critical to selecting a future employer.
The more time and effort you dedicate to building up the people around you, the higher you’ll all reach together.
Consistently ask meaningful questions, get insightful results
Asking actionable questions on a regular basis is an excellent way to improve engagement, boost productivity, and establish stronger relationships with each employee.
At its core, asking questions opens a channel of communication that can strengthen the environment of an office, and strengthen the organization it serves.
Discover how Polly can help you develop the right check-in questions for your meetings and team interactions so you can get insightful feedback.
Increase employee engagement, get Polly today!
Written by George Dickson
Lives to learn and build cool things with good people.