Attitudes around employee performance management have been changing over the past few years. Organizations are realizing that annual performance reviews are an ineffective way of measuring performance and engaging employees. To be honest, waiting a year to check in with someone seems kind of silly. A year is a long time to not have feedback about your performance and to be given the opportunity to learn and improve. It is also a long time to not be asked about your goals. Even if an employee has stayed with an organization for a full year, they probably don’t feel like they have had the attention of their manager.
Instead, creating consistent opportunities to talk to employees through regularly scheduled one-on-one’s is becoming more common. These one-on-one meetings provide an ongoing feedback loop of both positive and constructive feedback. They also give employees a forum to have a voice in their growth and direction. While these meetings can be a large time investment, they are also a worthy investment. They can identify issues early and give both the manager and employee time and space to address any issues proactively.
Why one-on-one meetings are important
From a practical view, not paying attention to your employees is going to cost your company a ton of money. Unhappy and unengaged people don’t stay in their jobs. This is expensive and counter-productive for everyone. People are a business’s greatest resource. They deserve time and attention to make sure they are getting the support they need to thrive. By keeping the lines of communication open and consistent through regular one-on-one meetings, you are telling your people how important they are.
Like all meetings, one-on-one’s need to have some structure and parameters in place so that the time is effective. The following are 3 steps that ensure that you are running effective, successful meetings with your team to keep them engaged and growing with your company.
3 steps to run effective one-on-one meetings
1. Schedule a regular recurring meeting
It is powerful for people to know that they will get the opportunity to connect with their manager or boss on a regular basis. It isn’t enough to have an “open door policy”. Not everyone is comfortable taking the initiative to express any challenges they are experiencing, either personally or professionally. By setting a rhythm of recurring meetings, both the team member and manager know that they will get a consistent chance to evaluate and address both great work and areas for improvement.
Whether the meetings are weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, they should be set at the same time and day to get that consistent rhythm in everyone’s calendars. The meetings should generally be 30-60 minutes, depending on the frequency, so you have enough time to cover any major items but still be concise.
2. Create an agenda
While successful one-on-one meetings don’t need to be stuffy and formal, they do need to have some structure. Both the manager and team member need to have expectations for what is going to be covered in each meeting. An agenda creates an outline for all participants. Some topics that could be covered in one-on-one meetings include:
1. Discuss existing professional/personal highs/lows
This is a good time to check-in and hear what’s going on. Everyone’s work and personal lives are interconnected. It is valuable to gain some insight into what is going on in someone’s life so you can provide them with the right kind of support and guidance.
2. Discuss what’s going well and what’s tricky
Everyone wants to hear how they are doing. It is important to talk about the areas that people are excelling and the areas they need to work on. Depending on the frequency of your meetings, these things might not be big. But they don't have to be. Noticing a job well done can make a big difference in showing your team members that you are paying attention and that they matter. And just as important, talking through specific challenges prevents small problems from becoming bigs ones later.
3. Discuss any administrative topics
Having notice of when your team members are hoping to take a vacation or to discuss benefits is helpful for both of you. Having regular times to bring them up means that everyone has plenty of time to prepare.
4. Set/discuss goals
Goals are a great motivator and help give your team member something to work towards. You can work with them to identify how the goals align with the company’s vision and what you can do to help them reach those goals.
This is also a good time to talk about career development and coaching opportunities. Courses, training, conferences, and professional development opportunities are vital to keeping your people engaged and growing in their roles.
5. Review Performance Metrics
Identifying performance metrics and tracking them can be challenging. It is also an ideal and practical way to talk to team members about their performance. They quantify expectations. The metrics might be part of goal setting, or might not, but they are a helpful tool in discussing progress and growth.
6. Set action items and things to discuss at the next meeting
After all that talk, you need to make sure that all action items are captured. Everyone should know what needs to be worked on or completed before the next meeting.
Check out our One-on-One Meeting Agenda Template to see what this might look like and some examples.
3. Record your meeting minutes in your agenda
These one-on-one meetings also need to have a record of what was discussed and any metrics that are being measured. The minutes provide the information you need to keep everyone accountable to action items they agreed to as well as an ongoing history of the employee's goals and progress. They are vital if you run into any ongoing challenges with a particular person.
Set your team members up for success by checking in with them regularly in one-on-one meetings. Keep the lines of communication open on both sides so that everyone’s voices can be heard, problems or challenges can be addressed early and your people feel supported. Happy people leads to great work and happy customers. It just makes sense!