Quick Check-ins for Any Kind of Team

Day-to-day work tends to wear off relationships between peers. While it's natural for some tension to emerge, it's crucial to spot it as early as possible to prevent it from scaling and turning into a problem.

Saying is easier than doing, and, in this case, it's impossible to supervise all interactions between your collaborators to check their moods. And illegal. But what if those people learn how to self-assess their team health and define ways to address prominent issues? Let's learn about check-ins.

Topics to check:

1. What are check-ins?

a. Basic structure

b. General tips

2. Check-ins good practices

a. A template for starters

b. Using a specialized tool

1. What are check-ins?

Check-ins are designed to help teams self-assess their mood regarding work-related matters by gathering the team members' perspectives around several dimensions, such as cooperation, feeling trusted, having total clarity in their daily work, etc. After collecting everybody's opinion, the team analyzes the results and defines action items to address the most relevant topics.

Although similar to Agile Retrospectives, check-ins are different for two main reasons:

  • Retrospectives focus on a single work cycle or sprint and are held immediately after it ends. Check-ins can be run anytime there seems to be a need for it.

  • Discussions in Retros sessions center around processes. Check-ins are meant to assess the emotional factors of working in a team.

Before introducing this practice to your team or organization, communicate the reason for running them effectively and the value it can bring to the community. Otherwise, some might look at it as just another form to fill out or a meeting to attend, AKA a waste of time.

a. Basic structure

There is not a single or perfect way to run check-ins. It's essential, however, to keep in mind that their goal is to assess the team's mood according to different dimensions or criteria. We suggest you base your sessions on the following four-steps formula:

Opening phase - Greet everyone and throw in an ice breaker to make people comfortable. Make sure all attendees are part of the session. Invite everybody to turn their cameras on for enhanced engagement if remotely held.

Dimensions check - Make sure everybody understands the criteria that will be assessed. It's not enough to just say "cooperation"; it's essential to explore what the concept means in this context.

Rating phase - Each member adds a score to each dimension, ideally on a 1-10 scale and with the option to add a comment. Use a specialized tool for standardized rating and input gathering to speed things up and produce sharper insights.

Ask attendees to fill the form before the meeting to save time.

Wrap up - Review and discuss the results, define priority topics to follow up, and design action items to address them as soon as possible. Ensure items get assigned to somebody who'll make sure it gets done.

b. General tips

Now that we've reviewed the general spirit and lineages to run check-ins, we would like to suggest some ideas to enhance your sessions from day one.

Establish a regular cadence to check on your team's health - If you want people to take the time and be mindful while participating in a session, you've got to make sure that you're not frequently disrupting them. Try having them once per month and experiment to find your sweet spot.

Find a cadence that works for everyone - Intimately linked to the last tip: If you want people to really engage, you must find a time that suits even team members to have the session. After reaching an agreement, everyone must arrive on time to respect others' agenda.

Document everything - Performing a check-in won't serve much if you don't write down the process and findings. You must keep a continuous analysis to understand their impact on your team's productivity and learn how to improve.

Keep meetings within the timeframe - This one is not only for check-ins but for any discussion. Failing to do so can cause people to stop paying attention or even leave to meet other commitments. It also reflects poor agenda planning and can drain the seriousness.

2. Check-ins good practices

You've learned the basics to go and start having valuable health checks. Now it's time to review some resources to help your team (and organization) embrace this practice.

a. A template for starters

Before jumping straight to run check-ins, you should really think of the dimensions or criteria you want the team to assess. While the selected topics will depend on the moment and can be as abstract or concrete as required, we think this template is a good starter for anyone. You can always follow the structure we suggested.

Divide topics into three main groups:

Personal - These dimensions are related to the collaborator's personal life, including family, relationships, hobbies, and everything happening outside of work.

Suggested dimensions:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Well-being
  • Hobbies

Why is this important? Not only can this approach help you detect who might need some support from the team or the company to overcome a complex personal situation, but you want to make sure people feel their life/work balance is positive.

For example, if several members put a low score on family or hobbies, it might be due to workloads not giving them enough time to invest in said dimensions.

Professional - We can say this segment refers to criteria related to how the individual is doing as part of the team.

Suggested dimensions:

  • Personal performance
  • Workload
  • Resources availability (Do you all that you need to do your best?)

Why is this important? When studying the performance and behavior of a team is almost impossible to keep track of the personal contributions of everybody. This can be hard to notice, especially when collective goals are being met, but not addressing them in time can lead to issues in the future.

Asking individuals to reflect on how they think they're doing can help spot situations such as having too many assigned tasks that can lead to burnout or lacking tools that could help them perform better.

Team - This group is meant to gather the perspective of individuals on how collective work unfolds.

Suggested dimensions:

  • Communication
  • Support
  • Inclusiveness
  • Mission (Is work aligned with the organization's vision?)

Why is this important? Learning what individuals think of the group they are part of can bring some helpful insights to improve internal dynamics.

Business KPIs are great for understanding the performance and can give a general idea of how people are working together, but asking directly about teamwork aspects can add a new layer of comprehension.

b. Using a specialized tool

You are now ready to start. But why not go further? Host simple yet super engaging sessions with TeamPulse, a specialized add-on for Jira that will take charge of all the hard work to set up your check-in.s

  • Define the dimensions you want to measure. You can use our template or create your own. Remember that you can use our template for starters.

  • Create a session and share the link with your team. Run it in real-time or asynchronous to fit in everyone's schedule. No disruptions ever!

  • Each member rates the team for each established dimension. They can take their time to score and add comments for enhanced insights.

  • See the results, discuss each dimension and come up with action items together. Everything gets saved so you can review it at any time.

Don't waste time with spreadsheets or any other tool that's not meant for check-ins. Try it free now and take care of your team's health and productivity ASAP.

Conclusion

Teaching your team to self-assess their health with check-ins is a safe bet for keeping a positive mood, resulting in productivity and business outcomes. Having a perspective on these dimensions is really helpful in addressing potential issues and even preventing them. But the best thing about health checks is that you can use them to evaluate whatever aspects you consider are relevant.

Consider expanding this practice to the overall organization, as it can function as a cornerstone for maintaining healthy company culture. Remember that TeamPulse makes it easy for anyone to run a check-in session, so scalability is not an issue when you use this add-on.


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