In this section, we'll be talking about how the 1:1 Conversations tool fits in with the larger body of Performance Management, and if there are any synergies you can take advantage of. Each of the other chapters are broken down into separate articles, which are linked in the table of contents below.
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Manager-driven performance management is being embraced by forward-thinking organizations across multiple industries.
1:1s are a key driver of quality employee-manager interactions, and fit into a larger scale of innovative performance management, including annual or bi-annual performance appraisals, ongoing employee-manager 1:1s, employee-driven feedback cycles, periodic check-ins and reviews, and goal management. Keep reading to explore the different ways to leverage 1:1s to optimize your Performance Management Program.
Traditional performance reviews are stressful for managers because of both the time they consume and the need to initiate difficult conversations with employees. There is a lot of research that has proven these annual reviews are not effective in optimizing employee performance.
For employees, there is the element of surprise, “If I was not meeting expectations for the past six months, why are you only telling me now?” If 1:1s are a habit, even if you choose to continue running performance reviews or a regular structured check-in concurrently, these conversations or insights will not come as a surprise or be as stressful.
Managers will have set expectations for how difficult topics are approached, and can lean on their strong relationship with employees to share results of their evaluation. By using a feedback and review tool, information gleaned from 1:1s can be captured and stored for the review. In the case a company runs quarterly check-ins instead of performance reviews, the same theme applies – 1:1s make these performance evaluations easier.
Important: 1:1s should NOT be confused with check-ins
A check-in is a 30-60 minute monthly or quarterly conversation with a manager and employee about progress over the review period, and objectives for the next review period. This approach enables a meeting focused on relevant and specific progress on objectives. The forward-facing focus makes the check-in a natural setting for creating, editing, and updating goals based on the company’s goals.
As mentioned earlier in this guide, a 1:1 is defined as a meeting between a manager and his or her direct report, typically ranging from once per week to once per month, and with a duration of 30 to 60 minutes. The variation in frequency and time are dictated by the number of direct reports each manager has. For example, the fewer direct reports, the more frequent and lengthier the interactions can be.
The forward-facing focus makes the check-in a natural setting for creating, editing, and updating employee, team, and company goals.
Key differences between 1:1s and check-ins:
While managers could use 1:1s to coach employees on their goal progress, the point of that conversation would be to guide the employee on how to implement improvements or overcome roadblocks ahead of their next check-in or performance review.
If goal management is a focus of your performance management, whether with S.M.A.R.T. goals, OKRs, or other goal methodologies, 1:1s serve as a natural springboard for goal-focused conversations around specific areas which are hindering your employees achieving their objectives. But, do not make the mistake of using 1:1s for status update conversations. Your goal management software should track and visualize employee progress on goals. In the 1:1, managers should discuss any discrepancies in progress – does the employee need a bigger challenge, or are they struggling? How can the manager reinforce the lessons the employee is learning through experience?
Ongoing and constructive feedback is a powerful tool, especially for employee development and organizational alignment. However, feedback is no good if shared and forgotten. The key is to analyze received feedback, identify areas of improvement, and develop an action plan to address it. 1:1 conversations provide an excellent forum for managers and employees to make this possible.
Engagement surveys take time and effort to manage. They also include detailed insights on how each team, office, and department feel about leadership and other important domains. However, you don’t run surveys just to sit on the learnings; Acting on them is the most important thing you can do to show employees their voice matters.
After each engagement survey, evaluate engagement measures, drivers, factors, and comments, and identify 1-2 areas of opportunity that you want to target for immediate action. The next steps is to align with managers on these key priorities and discuss an action plan that will likely include 1:1 conversations with their teams to share engagement learnings, receive additional feedback, and work with their teams to address problem areas.
A manager is only as successful as his or her team. It is up to the manager to be a coach and help encourage the team to reach their full potential. Often managers are busy working on their own deliverables and their day-to-day management responsibilities slip. By structuring a weekly 1:1, managers can make sure they are taking the time to help nurture their team.
1:1s also give managers an opportunity to coach employees and develop an authentic and meaningful connection. Alternatively, in group settings, team members have to compete for airtime. The 1:1 meeting enables each team member to be heard and have their concerns and needs addressed.
Gallup research shows that managers are responsible for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that half of employees have left a job just to get away from their manager.
When managers hold regular meetings with employees, their team members are 3X as likely to be engaged as those employees who don’t have regular check-in meetings.
One of the most pervasive obstacles for successful teamwork is communication. 1:1s between team members can help dramatically improve communication. Structured and regular discussions can lead to more productive team dynamics, and help catch and resolve business issues quicker.
However, having the right conversations might not be enough if those are not happening consistently. By encouraging team members to have recurrent 1:1s conversations you’ll be making sure critical topics are addressed in a timely manner.
For the Company
No other line item costs a company as much as its employees’ salaries. Replacing, rather than retaining these employees, costs even more. Not having a clear understanding of the company’s vision, a lack of transparency, and employees being unsure of whether their work is making a difference, are common drivers of employee attrition. These are all basic factors that leaders assume are being communicated company-wide, but so often teams or entire departments feel left in the dark, and thus become unmotivated.
1:1s are an effective way to ensure that information and knowledge are trickling down throughout the organization. On the flipside, leaders should also be aware of the information bubbling up. Sometimes, gossip or rumors in the lower ranks can inform the company on new opportunities, areas of improvement, and unforeseen threats.
Our research shows that regular, productive 1:1 meetings between employees and managers is paramount to the company’s success in retaining and growing top performers.