The best managers know that it is their job to provide an environment in which their employees do their best work. This means that, in addition to setting clearly defined goals and work plans, managers should hold regular employee updates to check in with their employees about project and workload status. During these employee updates, managers need to ask three important questions.
The following three questions are part of the Scrum Project Management system, but they are applicable to nearly all workplaces.
- What work has the employee completed since the last update?
- What work does the employee plan to complete before the next scheduled update?
- What might prevent the employee from completing the work?
When managers begin employee updates by asking what the employee has completed since the last update, they are able to achieve two goals simultaneously. First, they receive a project status update as the employee identifies work that he has recently completed. Second, the manager has the opportunity to recognize the employee for this work. Finding ways to recognize and motivate employees is one of the most important parts of effective management, and holding regular employee updates is a great way to provide this recognition and praise.
By asking the employee what work he plans to complete before the next employee update, the manager creates a sense of accountability between manager and employee. The employee is also incentivized to think about the work that can be reasonably accomplished before the next employee update and plan his workday accordingly. Asking an employee to identify tasks to be completed before the next meeting puts the employee in charge of workflow management, which also aids in boosting motivation and morale.
The last question, "What might prevent this work from being completed," acknowledges that not all aspects of the workplace are under the employee's control. For example, many parts of workflow follow a critical path, meaning that tasks must be completed in a specific order. If one employee does not complete Task A, another employee is unable to start Task B. If the critical path gets delayed, an employee might not be able to complete all of the listed tasks before the next employee update.
Asking this last question also helps the manager and the employee brainstorm solutions to problems that might prevent work from being completed. If an employee has too many deadline-critical tasks to complete, it is time to talk about delegation strategies. If the employee lacks a key tool or resource that would make task completion easier, the manager can help the employee get that tool before the next employee update. By brainstorming and executing solutions, the manager and the employee work together to help the company achieve its goals.
Knowing what questions to ask during employee updates is an important part of employee management. Asking these three key questions helps managers motivate and recognize employees while simultaneously allowing employees to do their best work in the most productive way possible.
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