A manager’s guide: structuring regular check-ins with your employees

The performance management process has changed. Whilst the end-of-year annual appraisal still holds importance and is necessary for compensation-related decisions, one-to-one check-ins held across the year should build the formations for the annual appraisal.

Regular meetings allow feedback to be shared in real-time, whether manager to employee or employee to manager. By sharing feedback in real-time, it remains relevant and a culture of feedback is developed, providing a better chance of changing or supporting behaviour.

The purpose

The purpose behind one-to-one meetings is for managers to keep track on their team’s progress throughout the year, monitor any changes and provide coaching where necessary to guide the individuals towards their goal for the year – which should be discussed in their end-of-year appraisal. Ongoing coaching and feedback helps to reinforce positive behaviours, and highlights areas that require further support.

The means

The annual appraisal can be a daunting, backwards-looking meeting for manager and employee when used alone. However, regular one-to-one meetings should be informal, beneficial and guiding to soften the conversation, ultimately leading to a less daunting appraisal.

The regularity of one-to-one meetings helps to build trust between manager and employee as both parties open up about day-to-day challenges and achievements. When held regularly, surprise conversations are limited as both parties are aware of what is (and isn’t) working.


Managers should consider covering the following steps in every one-to-one meeting, scheduled at least monthly:

1. Catch up

This shouldn’t take too much time, as managers and employees should be aware of what has happened within the team since the previous meeting. However, it is a strong conversation starter and topics, such as what the individual did well or could have improved on, allowing the conversation to begin to flow.

2. Discuss what’s upcoming

Managers should help employees to engage with the connection between their work and how this affect the company goals. Managers should share updates of any new projects that will affect the individual’s workflow, and broader company-wide news that they should also be aware of.

3. Set goals

This should take up the largest proportion of time in the one-to-one meeting each month. Managers should find out if employees are still on track to achieving their goals, and if not, how they could be supported to get there. Employees should remind managers here of anything that could impact goals or deadlines, such as booked holiday or more pressing deadlines. This allows for goals to be modified or extended if necessary, without being a last-minute surprise.

4. Motivation check up

Managers do not need to ask ‘stay interview questions’ in every one-to-one meeting, but it is helpful to check that employees continue to be motivated by what the manager believed. Stay interviews are designed to help managers understand what motivates their team members, and why they choose to stay with the company. This could be looking towards the individual’s long-term goals or personal circumstances – are they having family issues at home, such as sick dependants? Could this be helped by offering flexible working?

5. Concluding

Before concluding your one-to-one meeting, confirm any items that will be carried over to the next scheduled meeting. Make use of your online performance management tool to document any changes in the individual’s progress, and encourage them to track their own achievements and shortfalls in the tool to prompt conversation for the next check-in.

Performance management videoMost critically in one-to-one meetings is to recognise the difference between these and the performance review meeting – or the annual review. The one-to-one check-ins should be used to provide regular performance feedback and to provide a space to enable coaching to keep employees on track with their goals. The one-to-one meetings across the year will then form structure for the end-of-year review, with your online performance management tool evidencing the individual’s development journey.

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