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Are employee check-ins better than surveys for measuring employee engagement, performance and productivity?

Why are employee check-ins better than surveys: Efficiency, effectiveness and habit-forming!

Reading Time: 6 minutes

If you’ve been keeping up with our blog recently, you might have seen our piece on having effective one-to-ones at work. One-to-ones are a major aspect of performance management. But a lot of employees want regular feedback, and one-to-ones would be impractical if they were the only method of reviewing an employee’s performance. 

Employee surveys have long been used alongside annual performance review meetings. But at Weekly10, we believe that employee check-ins beat employee surveys 100% of the time.

While one-to-ones allow for performance assessment, surveys help managers to gauge things like engagement and satisfaction. 

Surveys are hypothetically en employee’s chance to raise issues with their managers.  However, these surveys present their own significant issues that can severely limit their effectiveness. Employee check-ins counter these problems. 

Regular employee check-ins help to build trust

So let’s say that your organisation distributes quarterly employee surveys. Or even worse, maybe they only do so annually. These surveys might ask employees to rate things like workplace satisfaction, or how they feel about recent changes. One of the first issues with these surveys is the assumption that their results are entirely honest.

Organisation-wide employee surveys depend on a trusting relationship between management and employees. The problem is that a significant amount of employees don’t trust their bosses, including over a quarter of UK employees. Employee surveys also tend to be too widely spaced to build good reporting habits. When they do come around, they’re liable to contain a dizzying amount of questions. So employees are put in a position where it’s extremely tempting to just power through it. 

Employee check-ins, by comparison, are far more regular and less time-consuming. Their regularity helps to build trust and encourage your staff to report issues more openly. This is also helped by the fact that with regular check-ins, employees can more easily see the impact of their updates when reported issues get resolved, driving them to be more open with their concerns in the future. After all, the best way to get someone to do something is to prove it gets results.

Regular employee check-ins make monitoring trends easy

Another issue with these scatter-shot employee surveys is that they struggle to effectively capture the trends of your workplace. Engagement and performance can change from month to month, or even week to week. Even when you have survey feedback, it’s at risk of becoming irrelevant very quickly.

Not only does having a regular check-in enable managers to react in a much timelier manner, it also provides a far more detailed account of engagement over time. With fresh data coming in every week or month, managers also get a much better idea of how effective their responses actually are when they do something to address employee concerns. This helps prevent problems from festering unnoticed, which is just one way employee check-ins can reduce turnover.

Are employee check-ins better than surveys? Research says yes!
Check-ins are a lightweight yet frequent way to track engagement, performance & productivity.

Where surveys are anonymous, our employee check-ins are more personal and open

One of the major hallmarks of the classic employee survey is its anonymity. This makes a certain amount of sense. After all, if employees struggle to trust their managers, then they’d probably be reluctant to report problems or criticisms with their names attached for fear of reprisal.

Anonymity is just a fix for one symptom of a flawed assessment method. It arguably causes more issues than it solves, because it limits managers’ ability to be aware of and resolve problems affecting individual staff members. For instance, your work environment may be more geared towards extraversion, but one of your team members is an introvert. An anonymous bulk survey would never reveal this.

Our check-in system isn’t anonymous in any way, but we ensure privacy by keeping your updates between an employee and their line manager. If the manager wants to pass an update up the line to take an issue further, they first get the go-ahead from the employee. This allows your team members to highlight issues specifically affecting them. Managers can even customise update questions on an employee level. The aim of our check-ins is to develop trust in the workplace to the point where anonymity is unnecessary.

Leading questions in surveys can cause bias in your data

For any survey to be effective, it’s important to frame questions as objectively as possible. Using leading questions is quite possibly the biggest mistake you can make. A question is leading if the language used favours a particular type of response whether overtly or not. For example, ‘is it too cold in the office?’ because it biases the respondent towards the idea of the office being cold.

This can unconsciously affect the results of quantitative questions such as rating scales. But it could also influence written responses too. Sticking with our cold office example, someone might respond, ‘it’s not that cold’. While this is technically a disagreement, the language still reinforces the idea supposed by the initial leading question.

Weekly10 aims to overcome this by providing as much data as possible. This is where some of our really interesting features come into play. Our check-ins are AI-assisted, meaning you’ll get new question recommendations based on sentiment analysis that grows, update by update. If that wasn’t enough, your recommendations will also be influenced by the kinds of questions that have worked well for other similar businesses. Our question bank contains questions for assessing employee engagement and performance that have been efficacy tested with our academic partners, meaning they have been found to be free of leading phrases or language.

When participation stops being an issue, you can focus on content

One of the major KPIs of any employee survey is to get as many responses as possible. After all, one of the best ways to be representative is to ensure everyone fills one out, right?

Broad participation is great, but placing too much emphasis on the number of participants can come at the cost of content. Weekly10 doesn’t have that issue, because our check-in fits neatly into everyone’s day-to-day routine, making them easy to implement and therefore participation rates grow organically for most clients. Our updates are more than just a bunch of boxes to tick or response sections to fill.

Personalising questions on the employee level and getting new recommendations from our machine learning algorithm are just two of the ways Weekly10 helps you get the most out of your employee updates. Managers can also post responses to individual answers that can only be seen by that employee, to facilitate effective, confidential two-way feedback without even having to set up a one-to-one. Of course, you should still be having one-to-ones, but that’s a whole other discussion.

Why are employee check-ins better than surveys in almost every way?
Reduce the time and cost of surveys by shifting to an employee check-in.

An employee check-in cuts admin costs

This may be our last point, but it’s certainly not the least. Replacing your survey with a regular check-in is not only far more effective, but also far more cost-effective. Traditional employee surveys can be a pain to plan out and distribute. Even if you’re doing it electronically to save on paper and ink, you’ll still have to pay HR to sit there and sort through it all for meaningful information. Plus the sheer amount of time it takes to fill out can really cut into your employees’ work schedules.

In an interview with Corporate Comms Magazine, Isabel Collins, founding director of the workplace culture consultancy company, Belonging Space, highlighted how expensive these surveys can get: 

‘I’ve seen large financial institutions with huge cultural challenges spending £500,000 every two years on these surveys that ask 12 or 24 questions, but don’t give any rich feedback on which you can base decisions. It’s a bad use of a lot of money.’

At Weekly10, our standard service is available freely to teams of five or less. Even our most expensive subscription, the Momentum plan, only costs £6 per employee per month. Our people analytics service provides compiled data and bespoke reports based on your organisation’s updates. Gone are the days when HR have to lock themselves in a room with a week’s worth of provisions just to sift through a mountain of surveys for useful insights.

For more information on how our check-ins can help you get the most out of your data, check out the Weekly10 blog!

Would you like to see how Weekly10 reimagines the traditional performance review to make it effective and efficient (with a reduction in prep time of up to 87%)?

Head of People Science