One-on-one meetings–I don’t know about you, but I’ve always preferred them (both socially and at work). And, before the pandemic, one-on-one in-person meetings were surely the key to many a well-oiled operation.
While large group meetings have their time and place and are useful for communicating the same information to many, the one-on-one meeting is more important now than ever before as we head deeper into a hyper virtual era.
Still, some managers may shy away from one-on-one meetings. Some may find them awkward, are unsure how to structure them, or don’t see their value.
When conducted properly, however, one-on-one meetings can benefit your business in countless ways. Think of it this way: relationships are the building blocks of your business and one-on-one meetings are a crucial part of that relationship-building process.
The purpose of a one-on-one meeting
A one-on-one is a regularly scheduled meeting devoted to connecting with the people reporting to you. The idea is to maintain positive relationships, stay on top of the latest developments or priority shifts, and get informed on any team issues or looming roadblocks.
It’s also the perfect opportunity for employees to ask more in-depth questions, receive any necessary coaching, and provide feedback—things not typically encouraged or appropriate at a team meeting.
While the frequency of one-on-one meetings is debatable, what matters most is creating a rhythm and sticking to it.
Tangible benefits of one-on-one meetings
There’s this persistent idea floating around that one-on-one meetings are for the employee rather than the manager, but this is untrue. The fact is, how your employees feel about you affects how they feel about the business and their job. That’s why positive relationships are everything.
Additionally, taking the time needed to coach employees frees up your time to focus on your own work with the confidence that you won’t be putting out fires down the line!
Consider the following benefits of one-on-one meetings:
Productivity & higher quality of work
One-on-ones can make both managers and employees far more productive and increase their quality of work to boot. If you feel like you can never finish your own tasks in a focused or timely fashion due to all the “quick questions” from employees, one-on-one meetings can change that. Meeting regularly with your employees allows you to develop a common base of information and a common understanding of priorities. This can better synchronize your team and lead to overall improved results.
Positive relationships & stronger engagement
It’s difficult to develop a positive, trusting rapport with your employees if you only sit down with them for yearly or quarterly performance reviews. That’s exactly why Microsoft, IBM, Adobe, and Deloitte all replaced annual reviews with more frequent check-ins. For instance, Gallup’s State of the American Manager report found that employees who meet regularly with their managers are close to three times as likely to feel engaged at work as those who don’t.
One-on-one meetings call issues to your attention before they grow into full-sized problems. For instance, if you schedule a weekly one-on-one meeting with each employee, you’re sure to hear about it if tension is developing among the team or if there’s been a hitch with a client, product, or service rendered. This will help you address it without delay before it spirals out of hand.
A feedback loop
If one-on-one meetings are not a regular occurrence, any request you make for a one-on-one chat with an employee is bound to cause undue stress and uncertainty. Regular meetings can help circumvent this dynamic, particularly if you make time within each meeting to exchange feedback. This is an ideal opportunity to ask for feedback about the company, the team, and your management style! Similarly, it’s also the ideal moment to offer employees positive and constructive feedback on their performance.
Enter the virtual one-on-one meeting
In case you’re holding off on one-on-ones until after COVID-19, it’s worth noting that remote work may be here long after the pandemic.
For starters, research shows that remote employees are 35%-40% more productive than their in-office counterparts. A Gartner survey of business leaders found that post-pandemic, 80% plan to allow employees to work remotely, at least part-time. 47% will allow employees to work remotely full-time.
StatsCanada, following a similar trend, indicates 25.2% of businesses are likely or very likely to offer more employees the possibility of teleworking or working remotely post-pandemic, while 14.3% are likely to require it.
The question is, have the important conversations that once took place in one-on-one meetings lost their appeal in the era of Zoom burnout? With a bit of thought and effort, you can still keep your one-on-ones both engaging and productive.
Challenges of One-on-Ones…
Awkward delays and other technological glitches can make communication more stilted in a remote meeting, and conversations don’t always flow as naturally, making authentic relationship-building with employees more challenging.
Remote managers spend less time interacting with their team, which means that when a virtual one-on-one meeting does occur, it’s all the more important to fit all the things you haven’t yet discussed into a relatively short time period. This calls for strong planning with regard to the meeting structure.
When working from an office, it’s a lot easier to pick up on what’s happening in an employee’s life and identify sore points or potential challenges within the team. With the switch to virtual, some employees will find it more challenging to cope with the need for more consistent written communication or navigate the new variety of conferencing technology.
Remote one-on-one meetings can easily start to blur from one into the next. This can be exhausting, as most of us understand very well at this point. In turn, this can make meetings feel monotonous and less productive. This is of particular concern as it can threaten the sense of purpose and motivation employees feel at work.
…and how to overcome them
Although there are certainly challenges involved with leading your team remotely, there are ways to keep one-on-one meetings productive, continue fostering trust, and breathe new life back into those routine interactions—even when they’re virtual.
Get input on the agenda
It’s not always obvious what every employee is hoping to get out of a one-on-one. Avoid guesswork by making agendas collaborative. Not only is this less work for you, but it helps ensure a two-way conversation. It also gives a chance for both sides to suggest topics—ones you might not have considered. Add to this the fact that an employee who sees the agenda in advance has a chance to prepare and is less stressed out.
Walk and talk
For more informal one-on-one meetings, try switching from video to regular phone calls. This way you can go for a walk or sit outside while you chat. An actual lunch break as well as screen breaks throughout the day encourage productivity and focus and contribute to employee wellness, ultimately preventing burnout.
One of the best ways to avoid confusion and run an efficient meeting is to lay out clear action items. One way to do this is with a shared document which you can both consult or update anytime. Having clear action items is also the best way to hold yourself and your employees accountable, should the need arise. It also helps respect both you and your employee’s valuable time.
Emphasize employee development
For some, working remotely can be alienating and demotivating. Keep employees engaged by prioritizing professional development. When setting goals with individual employees, be sure to focus on both performance and development. Whether it’s taking a course, joining a collective, or meetings with a mentor, offer employees regularly allotted time for development.
When it comes to regular one-on-one meetings, different things work for different businesses. Some require weekly or bi-weekly meetings, while others are hunky-dory with a monthly meet. Some are best-served by hour-long meetings while others can keep it shorter. But even with the very best of intentions, there are times when regular one-on-ones are simply too much of a time commitment. These are the times when you’ll want to explore alternatives like team meetings or quick check-ins via email or phone.
Ultimately, however, making time for one-on-one meetings is sure to be a boon to your business—and to all who keep it running smoothly!