Why One-on-one Meetings Can’t Be Optional
Typically, when we are consulting with an organization, two things are happening when it comes to private discussions with direct reports, illustrating why employee one-on-one meetings matter:
- They are not happening at all.
- They are not happening well.
Meetings Not Happening at All
Organizations need to help their leaders understand that one on one meetings are both a priority and a necessity. If not viewed as such, they often become calendar items that easily get bumped as “more important” items pop up. Since one-on-one meetings are not “revenue generating” or “client facing” they are often seen as a less important use of time, or worse, optional in many organizations despite the opportunity for offering employees constructive feedback. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Here is some data to back up the point that managers are not making one-on-one meetings a priority. A study conducted by the organization Hypercontext states while 94% of managers claim to schedule one-on-one meetings with their teams, employees report less than half of those meetings actually take place– roughly 45% to 50% are getting canceled.
Many leaders in the call center industry have learned the importance of effective one-on-one meetings for employee engagement and tenure. Length of tenure can be particularly important in a call center environment. To make sure that one-on-ones do not fall by the wayside, they make sure that holding them is part of the managers’ job description and make sure they have enough time in their day to conduct them–often reassigning other tasks that might get in the way. There must be dedicated time for these meetings.
Meetings Not Happening Well
A good one-on-one meeting can boost employee engagement, morale, and productivity. Regular meetings on an ongoing basis are important for your employees’ professional development. A poorly done one-on-one meeting can do just the opposite. Because of this, we need to ensure that our leaders have the training to conduct an effective one-on-one. A mistake so many organizations make when wanting to begin this initiative is asking their leaders to conduct these meetings, without providing training on how to run the most effective one-on-one. And that is how so many organizations have unproductive and even harmful one-on-one meetings taking place.
Are Your Managers 90% Listening, 10% Talking?
So, let’s start by defining some important elements of an effective one-on-one meeting. According to Qualtrics the two most important actions in one-on-one meetings are listening and clarification. Qualtrics states that the manager should be doing 90% of the listening, and only 10% of the talking while making sure that all aspects of the job are clear. Think of one-on-one meetings taking place in your organization right now. Are the managers following the 90% listening/10% talking rule? Do your employees have ample time to share their thoughts and ask questions? Are they comfortable discussing their current challenges? Do they truly have your managers’ undivided attention?
One thing needs to be clear about holding one-on-ones–they are the employees’ meetings and can have a profound impact on the overall employee experience. These are not the times for managers to share all their own issues and frustrations, but rather, the perfect times for them to ask employees open-ended questions and give them enough time to respond. Managers need to keep in mind that the primary goal and benefit of effective one-on-one meetings is to build trust with employees while improving engagement, productivity, and performance. These meetings are a foundational part of the strongest company cultures. A Harvard Business Review study showed that employees who receive little to no one-on-one time with their managers are less engaged with their work and the organization. If your company goals include the highest rate of employee retention, regular meetings with individual contributors are an excellent opportunity to help ensure it.
Tips and Tricks to Deliver Effective One-on-ones in Your Organizations
Let the team member set the agenda –and make it collaborative.
Topics typically include current aspirations for personal development, employee development/career goals, and positive recognition, as well as employee challenges. All of these can be ongoing topics. Always take meeting notes and be prepared with 3-5 backup questions to use as conversation starters or to guide the talk in another direction.
Keep it informal–one-on-ones do not always have to take place across a desk.
Having a walking meeting or heading to the coffee shop can help keep your report happy and more relaxed during your discussion time, even when it’s a more difficult conversation.
Think of it as less of a meeting and more of an ongoing discussion regarding employee growth and career development.
For the most productive conversations, track items discussed for progress and resolution, and share project updates at your next meeting.
Make it a regular occurrence as one of your priority action items.
Give plenty of advance notice for meetings and stick to the schedule. Once you’ve sent a meeting invite, do not cancel unless there are no other alternatives. Canceling sends a message that this one-on-one meeting is not as important and can affect an employee on a personal level.
For the most productive meetings, create a meeting structure template and train managers to use it.
It is very important to make sure that one-on-ones are not only happening consistently but also consistently well. A simple template can ensure your managers are following an ongoing path to success.
The following are some examples of one-on-one agenda templates our clients use:
Time spent one-on-one with team members is one of your organization’s biggest opportunities for boosting employee performance–and ultimately, your bottom line.
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