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How to run effective one-on-one meetings

Attitudes around employee performance management have been changing over the past few years. 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 or 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 for a full year, they probably don’t feel like they have had the attention of their manager. 

Creating consistent opportunities to talk to employees through one-on-one’s is becoming more common. These one-on-one meetings provide an ongoing feedback loop. 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 identify issues early and give both the manager and employee time to proactively address any issues.

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. Keeping the lines of communication open and consistent tells people they are important.

Like all meetings, one-on-one’s need to have some structure and parameters in place so that the time is effective. Here are 3 steps to ensure that you are running effective one-on-one meetings to keep your team engaged and growing.

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 talk about the challenges they are experiencing. A rhythm of recurring meetings lets both the team member and manager know that they will get a chance to talk.

Whether 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 a meeting 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 professional and personal highs and 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. Just as important, talking through specific challenges prevents small problems from becoming bigs ones later.

3. Discuss 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 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 discussion for 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 keep everyone accountable to action items they agreed to and a history of 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 so that everyone is heard, challenges are addressed early and your people feel supported. Happy people leads to great work and happy customers. It just makes sense!

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