In this section, we'll be talking about what you can do to ensure that your employees are using the 1:1s tool to its potential. Each of the other chapters are broken down into separate articles, which are linked in the table of contents below.
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Encourage Employees to lead the conversations
It is up to managers to initiate and follow through on scheduling 1:1s. However, the employee should lead the meeting. This way, the employee can bring up pressing issues and frustrations that do not make sense to send as a formal email or fit into other types of communications.
However, even though most employees want more feedback and career conversations with their manager, most don’t necessarily know how or where to start. One way you can solve this is with the use of Reflektive’s 1:1 solution, which guides managers and employees to have better conversations with the use of structured Conversation Starters and the ability to prepare for and track discussions.
For Teamwork-driven Organizations:
1:1s are a great forum for teammates to have meaningful conversations, engage in peer mentorship, and more. In this case, both can share the responsibility of leading the conversation by splitting the length of the meeting into two blocks assigned to each member.
Preparation is Key
It is important for employees to air their concerns and ask questions during the meeting. Understandably, what’s on the agenda can be hard for managers to predict and prepare for, unless there is some structure. The most productive 1:1s are intentional and thoughtfully planned conversations. Otherwise, employees and managers might run into an awkward situation where nobody has anything to say and important issues stay unresolved. While managers should be ready for a free-form meeting, it’s important to provide some sense of structure, thoughtful preparation, as well as a few questions to keep the conversation going should you not have enough to talk about.
Off-the-wall ideas may be shared too. For managers thinking ahead on how to develop leadership skills in their reports, they should collaborate with the employee to set an agenda in advance. This way the employee can strengthen his or her skills running a meeting, and the manager can prepare to address any difficult or challenging topics.
Career Conversations Should Happen Throughout the Year
Employees who assume their annual performance review is the only time to raise career development questions could be missing important opportunities to do just that. A yearly discussion is far less likely to advance their career as much as a series of short 1:1 meetings held at weekly or monthly intervals with their manager.
Ideally, managers should initiate career development discussions, but if not, it’s up to the individual employee to arrange such meetings. Asking for career-focused meetings can be intimidating, but most managers are more than willing to coach employees. After all, the greater the employee’s skill set, the more use they’ll be to their department and the larger organization.
Career conversations can be centered around many topics, some of which are:
- An assessment of the employee's current skills
- Advice on how to develop their skill set
- Feedback on the employee's current performance
- A review of their career goals
- A better understanding of career opportunities within the organization
As we discussed earlier, there is a correlation between how frequently employees need feedback and the number of direct reports.
So, if a manager has just one direct report, she and her direct reports might be talking through issues frequently. Alternatively, a manager with ten or more direct reports needs to talk to each of them individually, but perhaps on a monthly basis. The most popular format for 1:1s is weekly, for 30 minutes, but we’ve also seen managers do 60-minute 1:1s (especially when it’s between a department head and mid-level managers).
It’s important to pick a frequency and length that works for you and your teams’ schedules. Sticking to this schedule is essential to seeing benefits from 1:1, or often they will be devalued and preparation diminishes.
At matrix organizations, depending on how big they are, it might be hard for managers to have weekly meetings with their direct reports. However, project leaders can help increase the frequency of these conversations too, so employees are heard by both formal and informal leaders. Examples and templates to help managers find the right frequency for their team, can be found in Reflektive’s 1:1s Implementation Guide for Managers.