July 28, 2020
We like to think of one-on-one meetings as ideal, but ultimately unrealistic. Successful 1:1 meetings are an opportunity for personal, productive discussion - but their value is too often diluted.
One-on-ones are unique. Used on an ongoing basis, they are a powerful tool to help managers align teams on both short and long-term strategies, encouraging trust and engagement. It is not about sitting having aimless discussions over coffee, it’s about bringing what is important to the table. Micromanagement is outdated; fostering touch through personal connection is key.
1:1 meetings: a waste of time?
Let’s be honest, 1:1 meetings are not part of our everyday because they are seen as a time suck. They are typically only scheduled with due formality at the beginning of a performance cycle, and are where managers set goals and employees gauge expectations. At the end of the period, a perfunctory 1:1 meeting is again scheduled, this time to evaluate progress and provide feedback, whether positive or negative.
But what does this do for productivity?
The time in between the goal setting and the project concluding is when an employee needs support most. Had both parties the time, and motivation, 1:1 meetings could have facilitated developmental discussions to increase employee performance and manager satisfaction. Being on the same page is essential. Unfortunately, these are the meetings that are skipped. Unprioritized, there is always something more urgent on the horizon than a 1:1 catch up in the middle of the production cycle. Regularly scheduling these meetings, however, sets the tone for a far more effective ongoing process.
Why 1:1 meetings matter
Emails and texts serve their use, but HBR purports that nothing beats a one-on-one meeting. Managers should be encouraged to spend regular time with their employees to better facilitate working relationships. The quality of these connections suffers when undernourished.
The results are worth the effort: Gallup’s State of the American Manager report shows that employees who meet their managers regularly are more likely to be engaged, and perform better. Adobe’s evidence shows these results from another angle, proving that regular 1:1 meetings boost employee retention and lower voluntary exits by almost a third.
These crucial meetings should not fall by the wayside when working remotely, either. The recent switch to remote working may be here to stay, not just as a temporary COVID-19 response, so it is even more important to schedule 1:1s. Managers are no longer there in the flesh to monitor daily efforts, increasing the need for team coordination and personal communication.
According to Microsoft's analysis, increased 1:1 meetings with managers buffer employees against the negative aspects of working from home, like overtime. But how do you know if your managers are making the right efforts?
How we help you optimize 1:1 meetings
On the Time is Limited productivity analytics platform, we answer the burning questions:
In our Alert view, we track how many 1:1 meetings took place and highlight which teams are making positive developments, which are making negative ones, and which are making no changes whatsoever. It is vital to praise the teams showing improvement, to reinforce the value of the 1:1. The teams who have room to grow here should be watched and offered support. Those departments consistently performing well earn a place in the Get Inspired category - these are the role models in your company.
How can managers move their teams from Watch to Praise?
First, look at the regularity of 1:1 meetings. The optimal frequency usually depends on the nature of the team. Some managers, such as Mark Zuckerberg, suggest that weekly meetings are crucial if the pace of change at the company is high. For new employees, scheduling meetings as often as daily is recommended.
Our recommendation? Aim for bi-weekly meetings of thirty minutes to an hour. This allocates enough time to delve into deeper issues, so the conversation is of value.
Ideally, managers should meet every team member 1:1. The time dedicated to these meetings should not, however, become so excessive that managers lack the time for strategic tasks. Daily meetings might be overkill, signalling lack of independence on the employee’s part or micromanagement on the manager’s part. If the frequency is reasonable but the number of 1:1s still remains excessive, it may indicate that the manager’s span of control is too high.
Are 1:1 meetings getting canceled?
If 1:1 meetings are to have value, they should not fall victim to last-minute cancelations to make way for other meetings or tasks. Working from home may have wreaked some havoc on our traditional schedules, but both manager and employee should carve out the time to meet. If a manager is understanding of an employee’s personal & professional commitments, offering a little flexibility can make this possible regardless of other priorities.
As in every meeting, notifications should be turned off to improve focus and decrease distraction. Even Zoom can foster a private and productive conversation - defaulting to video, of course.
Who is organizing the meetings?
Committing to 1:1 meetings and making them a safe space is essential, but on our platform, we track another important metric - who is playing the role of the organizer. From our perspective, the organizer should be the employee, not the manager.
A 1:1 meeting is, by nature, more personal, but this does not negate the need for an agenda. The employee should determine the topics covered, and should include more than mere updates. Short-term goals, long-term aims, learning & development opportunities, career objectives, manager & employee feedback: all are suitable for a 1:1 discussion. There are many more to choose from.
It boils down to more than the metrics
Measurable aspects aside, ensure you do not forget the informal nature of 1:1 meetings. They support strong working relationships between managers and employees because they build trust. In a world where meeting one-on-one time in person difficult, this is pertinent.
Those metrics cannot be tracked, but you can at least set your managers on the right path when you start with the rest.