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Employee Reviews vs Employee Check ins

Sachin Bhat

19 October 2021

4 min read

To measure organizational performance, one of the crucial aspects considered is employee performance. Companies have been using different touchpoint meetings to track employees’ productivity in the form of yearly, mid-year, or quarterly performance reviews.

These performance review meetings take place between manager and employee sitting face-to-face discussing what went well and what can be improved based on the last six months or a year—managers then use the outcomes of the meetings to plan the future course of action.

Amongst all companies today conduct these yearly or half-yearly meetings. But, some companies have completely replaced traditional performance reviews with employee check-ins. Adobe was the first company to do it in 2016. And it ultimately worked in their favor. They used adobe performance management systems to conduct daily, monthly, or weekly employee check-ins.

Employee check-ins are more like informal interaction between managers and employees to know the roadblocks and growth prospects. Unlike performance reviews that require tedious documentation, employee check-ins require less paperwork and save quite a lot of time. That’s why Busy managers are always up for it!

But, when we already have mid-yearly or yearly performance reviews in place, why are companies going for employee check-ins? Apart from saving work, do regular employee check-ins streamline productivity tracking?

Let’s understand employee check-ins in detail and their differences from a performance review.

What is Employee Check-ins?

Employee Check-Ins are face-to-face interactions between employees and managers, similar to performance review meetings. But, they happen on a daily or weekly basis. 

Unlike performance reviews that focus on long-term goals, targets, and results of the projects undertaken during the quarter or year, employee check-ins focus on daily engagement levels, current project deadlines, and weekly roadblocks.

Whether a company conducts employee check-ins daily, weekly, or monthly can be governed by the way a company operates. For example, in some firms, daily or monthly check-ins can also be coupled with slightly elaborate mid-year check-ins.

Whatever type it is, employee check-in is an efficient steering wheel to keep the employee productivity vehicle on track and prevent it from drifting.

How are they better than Employee Reviews?

Although both employee reviews and employee check-ins are 1:1 meetings, employee check-ins are more effective due to their informal nature and short time intervals.

Companies implementing employee check-ins have found that

  1. Manager-employee conversations are open
  2. Employees explore their hidden potential
  3. Goal-setting for employees is easier
  4. Transparency and Accountability has improved

Let’s understand each one of them in comparison to employee reviews,

Manager-Employee Conversations Are Open

Since mid-year performance reviews happen over longer intervals, some managers find it difficult to open up with the employees as they have not had enough conversations with them. In addition, during the entire year, both are busy with their tight work schedules and deadlines.

When they finally meet for performance review, the interaction becomes more like a formality rather than understanding the shortcomings.

With employee check-ins taking place at quick intervals, both managers and employees understand each other due to continuous conversations over some time. Thus, the conversations are more open and obviously yield better results. Even managers also can understand their areas of improvement.

Explore The Employees’ Hidden Potential

Employee check-ins give employees opportunities to introspect their strengths and weaknesses regularly and discuss them with their teammates. In addition, since the interactions between the managers and employees are quite frequent, there’s a chance that managers can see through and find hidden potential of the underperforming employees.

Help Employees Set Goals

Long-term goals set during the performance improvement plan conversations in employee reviews can be overwhelming. Employees new to this can become demotivated, fear may creep in, and eventually lose their focus. 

With Employee check-ins, managers can help them to break long-term goals into smaller ones and encourage them to work at their own pace without affecting the quality of work.

This only promotes healthy manager-employee relations and employee engagement.

Hold Employees Accountable

Managers have often said that yearly employee review is a daunting task as they will have to recall incidents of the past, compare every employee’s performance, and be fair to all.

Since yearly performance review meetings take place over longer intervals, sometimes it’s challenging to keep track of every detail. In those cases, the interactions are vague instead of solution-oriented. This is the reason more than 55% of employees feel that annual performance review doesn’t improve their performance. (

Employee check-ins are more focused on the present rather than the period of time. Managers find it easier to track the employees’ performance on the current project and give feedback. In case they have not performed well, managers have specific questions to hold them accountable.

What to avoid during Employee Check-ins

Although Employee Check-ins help managers to keep informed on the tasks their team is working on, managers can also tend to micromanage the employees. Micromanaging shows a lack of trust and can demotivate employees. With regular interactions, managers tend to ask too many details about the work, intruding on employees’ freedom to be more creative.

Here, the work culture of the organizations comes into play. The line between regular feedback and micromanaging should never be crossed unless the employee wants it.

Employee Check-Ins & Work-From-Home culture

Now that most of the companies have shifted to either work from home or hybrid work systems, communication between co-workers is virtual and negligible. So, the extent of energy sharing and absorption of knowledge that happens in a physical workplace does not happen anymore while working virtually.

Also, for managers, it is easier to manage when the team is right in front of them, unlike working from home, where nobody is aware of the conditions team members are working in. 

So, in order to maintain regular communications and performance checks, employee check-ins play a vital role. If done well, they act as a tool to track productivity and a medium to improve employee relations and workplace happiness.

It is comfortable to conduct quarterly employee check-ins over calls. But, daily check-ins can be done by sending out a questionnaire instead of calls. This can save a lot of time for managers. 

Here is a short employee check-in template that you can use to collect responses and then track progress.

Can Employee Check-ins replace Employee Performance Reviews?

All throughout this article, we read about how employee check-ins are better than employee reviews. But, that does not mean that employee reviews are not useful anymore. They have their pros.

Employee check-ins cannot be a complete replacement for employee performance reviews. Both need to be used in a balanced way to optimize the employee review process.

Performance reviews meetings can be used to set yearly or half-yearly goals for company growth and employee development. These goals can then be broken down into monthly or weekly goals that can be tracked during employee check-ins.

A perfect balance of both fosters employee growth, improves employee retention and eventually results in company growth in all prospects.


Sachin Bhat

Senior Growth Marketer at SurveySparrow

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