Bas Köhnke

1-on-1’s. The chance to regularly sit down with your employees and check in. On how they’re doing, feeling, progressing, and on what you can do to help them.

Whilst by now you’re probably familiar with the concept and benefits of having regular 1-on-1’s, simply clearing time in the diary to hold these meetings isn’t quite enough. They’re time consuming and can have a huge impact on manager-employee relationships, so it’s important to make sure they’re beneficial for everyone involved. If they’re done right, 1-on-1’s can improve team-wide relationships, allow you to gain upward feedback, and ultimately lead to a working environment where everyone is aligned, engaged and always learning!

Here, we run you through the best ways to take to revamp your 1-on-1’s in 2020.

Follow through

It sounds simple, but if you don’t already, make sure you have regular 1-on-1’s in place. And if you do, do your very best not to cancel or postpone them! Although it may feel like meeting so regularly with each of your team members takes up valuable time, it’s worth the investment. Keeping everyone aligned, knowing where your team are both as people and employees, and building stronger relationships with them will have an incredibly positive impact.

Good management includes creating an environment where people feel comfortable speaking up and contributing.  Research conducted by Google has established that the most successful teams have fostered an environment of “psychological safety”; where everyone feels confident and comfortable speaking up in a group setting, without fear of rejection or embarrassment. Holding regular 1-on-1’s is a great way to encourage this kind of feeling in your team. Having stronger personal relationships with each team member that means they feel valued and comfortable, and accustomed to sharing their honest opinions and feedback at work.

Keep it regular

Consistency is key. If your team are in the swing of having 1-on-1’s, not only will they be more likely to have more honest, open conversations with you, and feel more valued, but you can also both plan better for the meeting. If you and your team know these meetings are every other Wednesday, for example, everyone has more of an opportunity to think about discussion topics in the days leading up, making the time spent in 1-on-1’s as valuable as possible.

Listen

If during 1-on-1’s (or any kind of meetings) you’re the one doing most of the talking and not taking in other’s viewpoints, you’re limiting your capacity to learn. 1-on-1’s are a great opportunity for people to voice the things they maybe wouldn’t usually feel that they can. This can be anything, from personal issues or suggestions to upward feedback. Informal 1-on-1’s are a great time to ask your team if there’s anything you can do to improve their working experience, allowing you to better understand their needs, what they see as your strengths and weaknesses and the best ways to move ahead.

And it’s a win-win: research has established that managers who are regarded as good listeners by their employees are also perceived as giving better feedback! So the more you listen to and engage with your team, the more they will in return.

Add a personal touch

It’s good practice to let your team know you are invested in them as people, not just workers. This is especially important to millennial workers, who place a high value on work/life balance and feeling valued in the workplace. Research from Gallup shows that 59 per cent of millennials who agree that they can talk with their manager about “non-work-related issues” are engaged, and they’re also more likely to stay with the company for longer. This doesn’t mean getting super personal or invasive, but it’s good to let your team members know you are there for them and that if they have something going on in their personal life that is impacting their work, they can confide in you.

Look at the bigger picture

Whilst it’s great to use 1-on-1’s to ensure everyone’s on track and achieving their goals, it’s also good to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

Discussing employees’ career paths as well as what they’re working on currently is incredibly valuable. It’s your job as a manager to actively encourage growth, so if you can have honest chats about where people want to progress to (do they want to be future managers, have something they want to learn, or are more interested in transferring to another department, for example?), 1-on-1’s are an opportunity to learn this and start helping them take the steps required.

Take it further

If you can do all of the above and have great 1-on-1 meetings, you’re well on the way to building a team full of highly engaged, communicative and satisfied people. But if it all ends there, all your efforts can go to waste. Although 1-on-1’s should feel relatively informal, it doesn’t mean that the things discussed can’t be actionable. Use discussion points raised to set goals or make note of things you can check-in on during or before the next meeting. As well as continuing to keep your employees feeling valued and you aware of how they’re doing, it also means that when performance reviews roll around, there’s no surprises as you’re already on the same page and actively heading in the right direction!

Conclusion

Now you should be ready to run the most effective 1-on-1’s! By having regular meetings with each of your team members, listening well and adding personal touches, you should have a team full of engaged and committed employees who are comfortable discussing their work, issues and career paths with you.

And remember, the key to it all is keeping things going when the 1-on-1’s are over, by using solutions such as performance management tools to reinforce and act on points raised. With these practices in place, quality 1-on1’s can become a great part of an effective, ongoing feedback culture that’s impactful for both management and employees.