So far, our series on employee check-ins has covered how you can use them to support almost anyone. New employees, remote workers, and even the line managers in charge of them. But, now, it’s time to expand out from management. Let’s take a look at the impact an employee check-in can have on challenges for business leaders.

As you all know by now, when we talk about an employee check-in, we mean something very specific. We’re talking about the virtual, asynchronous survey tool at the heart of our service. Don’t confuse them with in-person interactions, like 1:1s or informal chats, which are sometimes described as “checking in.”

So, what goes into one of our weekly employee check-ins?

The different parts of an employee check-in

An employee check-in connects employees to their immediate line manager. So, when we talk about how checking in helps with challenges for business leaders, we don’t just mean those in the C-Suite. Our check-in supports leaders on every level of your business. From managers leading the tiniest teams, all the way up to the top.

But, to understand how employee check-ins can help overcome challenges for business leaders, let’s look at the moving parts.

Each employee has a personalized check-in

The first part of any employee check-in is a small, focused set of questions customized for each employee. Everyone’s check-in questions can be as different as you like. But, even so, there are a few common beats any good check-in should hit:

  • Wellbeing questions.
  • Engagement-related questions.
  • Questions about productivity blockers and other issues.
  • Recognition of others.
  • Open-ended response options for context.
  • Quantitative questions for metrics.

After that, employees fill out their goal-tracking. This serves as a regular progress report, and documentation for performance reviews. More on that later.

This may sound like a lot. But, in practice, you only need about half a dozen or so questions for each employee. And, sometimes, managers or HR might have questions they want to ask everyone. So, it’s also possible to use check-ins as a slightly more traditional way as well.

The biggest employee-related challenges for business leaders

There are a lot of challenges for business leaders to contend with. A lot of plates to keep spinning. And, if there aren’t, you’re probably doing something wrong. So, if you’re not content to just ignore the challenges of leadership, then keep reading!

Employee retention

Retention is a concern for even the most successful businesses. Employees are an investment of both time and money. And, if you believe the old adage about those things, then that’s a lot of money. Especially if they go on to leave after you’ve trained them.

Businesses are still feeling the effects of the Great Resignation. In 2022, a fifth of workers globally were planning to quit their jobs. And, this year in the US, things seem even worse. More than 60% of US employees are planning to quit in 2023, with Millennial and Gen Z employees leading the charge.

The immediate cost and general negative impact of turnover can be devastating. Some estimates suggest an average of £30,000 per employee, or some percentage of said employee’s salary. But don’t forget, the cost of turnover can be even higher specialist or highly senior roles.

Culture creates major challenges for business leaders

It’s one thing to be good friends with all your employees when you’re a small start-up working out of your first rented office. But let’s fast forward to having 10,000 employees in a dozen locations in three countries. Suddenly, taking a personal interest in everyone’s lives isn’t so easy.

When you’re the CEO of a big company, you can’t exactly be best mates with every staff member. But that doesn’t mean you should be totally detached from them, either. There’s a happy middle-ground of professional support and meaningful personal interactions. Striking that balance is one of the most common challenges for business leaders.

Communicating effectively

According to CIPD, internal communication policy plays a key role in building trust and productivity. It’s also an important element in workplace culture. But many employees feel like they’re out of the loop and in the dark.

Proper communication infrastructure is one of the more complicated challenges for business leaders. The more people you throw into the mix, the harder it can be to communicate. But businesses tend to be growth-oriented. So adding more people comes with the territory. You need to have properly established channels for communication. As your business continues to grow, this becomes easier said than done.

Inspiring and motivating your people presents challenges for business leaders

Even when we enjoy our jobs, it’s not always easy to stay engaged. For pretty much everyone in the world of work, job stress is just a fact of life. And, when work isn’t stressful, it’s often boring. Both things are equally problematic when it comes to engagement and productivity.

Keeping employees motivated is one of the most essential challenges for business leaders to master. On an interpersonal level, it’s about emotional intelligence and how you approach people. But, on a company-wide level, it’s about the workplace culture you create, the policies you set, and the recognition you enable.

Supporting employees personally and professionally

If you want your people to stick around, their wellbeing and professional development need to be somewhere on your list of priorities. Supporting wellbeing is a matter of listening to the needs of employees and responding as needed. But supporting career development is often easier said than done.

Say you have 100 hopefuls aiming for the leadership track. That’s great. But what if there are only two or three openings for a starting management role? Every application has multiple applicants losing out. So it’s vital to find other ways of offering career development.

And not everyone dreams of being someone else’s boss. People often end up in leadership positions because it’s the default path of progression. But that isn’t always the best thing. It’s worth considering alternate career-paths that value non-managerial skillsets.

How an employee check-in helps you to lead

Now that we’ve established the common challenges for business leaders, let’s cut to the chase. It’s time to look at how an employee check-in can benefit leaders on every level of your business.

Check-ins unlock the power of journaling

Every manager or leader below C-Suite level reports to someone. But, even someone at the top can benefit from a regular check-in. There may be nobody above them to report to, but they can still use it as a way to get their thoughts down.

Journaling can be a useful tool for stress management. It helps people examine their thoughts and feelings to gain a deeper understanding of their stressors. Journaling has also been shown to improve cognitive ability, and even reduce the symptoms of some health conditions.

A regular check-in builds positive leadership habits

Good habits are the best way to overcome challenges for business leaders. Or, at the very least, overcoming bad habits in favor of good ones. And checking in with employees every week helps to build those habits in a few ways.

First, they’re a form of personalized communication. So, every week, leaders listen to what all their direct reports think. Everyone gets a voice, even if it’s through virtual, asynchronous means.

Employees appreciate those personal interactions, so they’re worth it for that alone. But regular, two-way feedback means regular opportunities to take action. That’s why it’s called actionable insight.

As we’ve already pointed out, submitting a check-in is a great opportunity for self-reflection. And, since a check-in is its own documentation, it’s easy for people (leaders included) to gauge how they’ve improved long-term. In turn, that also helps to build effective performance review habits too.

You can deep-dive or get an overview of employee sentiment

The whole point of a check-in is to clue HR and leadership into what their people think. A lot of the time, check-in questions will be quite general. “Rate your wellbeing, do you require any additional support?” That sort of thing. Taken together, these kinds of questions can reveal broad trends across a whole team, department or business.

But managers and leaders can customize check-ins at a moment’s notice. So it’s easy to generate discussion around current workplace issues.

Once your people have checked in with you, getting to the bottom of things couldn’t be easier. Our sentiment analysis algorithm compiles easy-to-miss trends into a bespoke report. So there’s no way you’ll miss the writing on the wall.

Goal-setting helps overcome challenges for business leaders

Leaders and managers have the choice of which goal-tracking method to use with their direct reports. SMART Goals or OKRs. Both have their benefits. But it’s best to consider the needs of your team when choosing.

SMART Goals help you to make molehills out of mountains, so to speak. If you have huge projects which feel like they’ll take a lifetime to complete, SMART Goals will help break it down into manageable subtasks. The SMART acronym stands for Simple, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.

OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), on the other hand, connect individual projects together for larger goals. This helps to combat disengagement by showing people the impact of their work. A single thread might not do much by itself. But, when braided into a rope with others, it can accomplish a great deal.

Leadership roles on any level can be a lot of responsibility. And your leadership needs to be cohesive across all levels for everything to work effectively. But an employee check-in can be an easy way for HR to help business leaders get all their ducks in a row.