Regular check-in meetings may be more beneficial than you think.

(Source:, by Minda Zetlin, Author of ‘Career Self-Care: Find Your Happiness, Success, and Fulfillment at Work’@MindaZetlin) 

For each of your direct reports, do you know what’s going well, where they need your help, what their top priorities are, and what’s coming next? You should have up-to-date answers to each of these questions because you should be asking them every week.

That advice comes from Jessica Wisdom, a behavioral scientist, and head of people insights at collaboration software company, Atlassian. She conducted a survey of 350 employees and managers.

Surprisingly, the survey found that employees who had check-in meetings with their bosses every week felt better about those meetings than those who met with their bosses less often. None of us want more meetings in our schedules, but these results suggest that having these quick one-on-one check-ins on a regular basis, and ideally every week, may be well worth your time. It can lead to improved employee engagement, a better relationship with your direct reports, and better retention. Employees who don’t have these regular meetings are more likely to leave their organizations.

To make these meetings as effective as possible, Wisdom suggests the following three steps.

1. Set the agenda together

As with any meeting, there should be a clear agenda that both participants know about well in advance. And to be most effective, Wisdom recommends that you and your direct report set the agenda together ahead of time. Rather than asking during or at the end of a meeting whether the employee has any questions or comments they’d like to share, invite them to help set the agenda ahead of time. That way you can be sure that items both you and they want to talk about will be covered at the meeting.

2. Consider five key questions

Wisdom recommends building your part of the agenda around these five questions:

  • What’s going well?
  • Where can I help?
  • What are your top priorities these days? 
  • Is there anything new or upcoming you’d like to put on my radar?
  • How are you feeling outside of work?

The first question gives the employee a chance to let you know about any recent wins, and gives you both a chance to acknowledge those accomplishments. It starts off your meeting on a positive note. The second question gives you a chance to talk through any problems, and lets you know about any obstacles you may need to help them remove. It gives you an opportunity to provide feedback as well. The third and fourth questions help ensure that you and the employee are in alignment on the most important parts of their job, and give you insight into their priorities and plans.

You may not need to spend a lot of time on the last question – the survey results suggest that talking about life outside work is a lower priority for employees than many managers think. However, it’s helpful to make a quick connection on a human level, and (if the employee is willing to share), it may be helpful for you to know about any good or bad life events that could be affecting that employee.

3. Don’t forget to follow up

Promising to help solve a problem or check into career opportunities, and then not keeping those promises, can quickly undermine your relationship with a direct report. So Wisdom recommends that you take notes during the meeting, review those notes once the meeting is done, and take care of any of your action items before the next meeting. “When an individual contributor sees a manager coming through on something they asked for in a meeting, that builds trust, which is crucial for the long-term success of any relationship,” she wrote.

Making time in your schedule for regular one-on-one meetings, and then even more time to handle the action items that come out of these meetings, may seem daunting. However, it could well pay for itself in increased productivity for your employees, and in lower turnover that could make your job easier. Not to mention greater trust, improved workplace relationships, and a better understanding of what those employees need from you.