What are 1-on-1 meetings?

Annual performance reviews — the dreaded discussions at the end of the year that freak out employees and smother the manager’s already overbooked calendar. While it used to be the norm, there are now more effective ways to handle employee management. Building trust and open communication between the employee and team lead through regular 1-on-1s is a rising star.

Modern employers desire their people to be capable of independent thinking and problem-solving. As more and more routine tasks are taken over by automated systems, the jobs that remain, require creativity, talent, and skills of a specialist. In other words — employees’ individual qualities are playing a bigger role. The same individual qualities are the key to a company’s success.

Companies who put their people first, get better results.

The question is — are the annual performance reviews serving the best interests of the management, or the employee?

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While annual performance reviews are usually held in good faith, they simply aren’t sufficient. Employees need frequent feedback to build trust, feel valued, gather a sense of empowerment, reach full potential and help the company walk in the right direction. If you wish for your employees to step up and take initiative, they need the right kind of encouragement and support. The format of a regular 1-on-1 is a good way to start.

Benefits of a 1-on-1 culture

  • Meaningfulness and focus

    Valuable time slips out of your hands during meetings that don’t serve you. That’s why many dislike them. How to make meetings beneficial and meaningful? For people to really share their thoughts, there is no better environment than a 1-on-1 — this enables to go deep into any topic and leave a lasting impact. Time invested in an employee is always time well spent.
  • Personal development.

    Meaningful discussions unfold the person’s dreams and aspirations. Understanding your employee’s strengths and weaknesses gives valuable insight on how to be a partner in crime fulfilling those milestones inside or outside the office. Think together how to reach that person’s full potential. Think bigger than the current position — think of a human behind that. You both will be thankful for the journey and the results.
  • Aligned goals

    A specialist’s expertise in an area is constantly growing and developing. Find out which way they want to head, what are their side skills and what interests them. This enables you to align employee’s goals with those of the company and find areas where the employee might contribute, or even be more effective. In ideal, employees grow with the company. If people spend 4–5 years on the same job in average, it’s safe to conclude that checking in with them just 4 times during their career is not very effective.
  • Sense of recognition and ownership.

    Every manager’s goal is to set their team on a pace where pushing and pulling for better performance is not necessary anymore. If people feel their work is valuable and are encouraged to take charge of their responsibilities, a culture of independent thinking and taking initiative will start to emerge. Developing entrepreneurial mindset in each and every employee requires trust and understanding, though — this is exactly what 1-on-1s are aiming to achieve.
  • A supercharged team.

    Empowered team members can achieve far more working together than they could on their own. When a team lead understands their employees better, they’ll also start to notice ways how their team could be more effective as a whole — where are the gaps and what might be holding back a specific individual. Taking down obstacles from the team’s way is one of the responsibilities of the team lead.
  • Problems discovered early on.

    Problems and difficulties are normal, it’s how one handles them that’s important. 1-on-1s present a chance to discuss potential issues in a stress-free environment. If these conversations happened once a year, the problem would have blown up already — and you would be left with cleaning the aftermath. You do not want that. Prevent! Talk to people.
  • Trust. Keep it real.

    Lack of trust in a workplace leads to energy draining situations. Employees put their valuable time and effort into holding a certain image or hiding their insecurities, rather than fully dedicating themselves to work. If employees feel they need to hide something from their team lead or team members, it’s a clear sign of an unhealthy culture. In a team, people shouldn’t be working against each other, but trying to lift each other higher, to reach further. This includes the manager. If your team lacks trust, the best way to start untying the knot, is step by step, with small meaningful conversations.

How do 1-on-1s work?

In a snap, 1-on-1 is a meaningful discussion between the employee and their team lead. Unlike performance review, 1-on-1 is held on equal grounds. During a 1-on-1 the assessment of an employee is not as important as helping them work through problems and grow. There is a difference in the mindset — when performance review positions the manager against the employee, 1-on-1 puts them on the same page. And, that’s what being a team is about.

While grabbing a notebook and sitting down privately with the employee for half an hour covers the basics, there are a few tricks to get the most out of the 1-on-1s:

  1. PREPARATION

    Narrow down the main points you wish to discuss before the meeting. It’s a good idea to take notes during the month— people are forgetful and even though you think you’ll remember to come back to something two weeks from now, you probably won’t.
  2. STRUCTURE

    Any conversation is a step in the right direction, but having some framework is a good way to ensure quality and consistency.
  3. KEEPING TRACK

    Try to record the main points of your discussions in one reachable place so it’s easy to come back to if necessary. While notebooks tend to be forgotten or left behind, it’s a safe bet to build your base somewhere online.
  4. FOCUS

    Commit to the appointment. Leave your phone behind the door and give the person your full attention
  5. REGULARITY

    1-on-1s should happen at least once a month, all year round. The consistency is what separates regular discussions from 1-on-1s. Don’t skip the 1-on-1s and try not to reschedule. In the end, these conversations are as much about building trust and building a certain culture, as they are about the content of the topics you choose to discuss.
  6. GOALS

    Setting goals adds a sense of direction and growth to 1-on-1s. People’s skills and interests develop over time, as do the interests and needs of the company. Being on the same page with aligned goals is the ideal outcome to stay on top of expectations.
  7. FOLLOW-UP

    After 1-on-1 you are inspired and get a bunch of ideas and to-do-s to fulfill. Do not sit on them, or worse — lose them from sight. Be aware of not taking too much on your shoulders and discuss together with the employee how to find a solution. But those tasks you take, follow them through and get them done. Because actions speak louder than words and this builds trust and gives assurance that you care.

This might seem like a lot to keep in mind but there are very helpful tools out there that keep track of all the essentials, so you wouldn’t have to. Clanbeat was developed just for this — to help teams get better through regular 1-on-1s.

The online platform keeps track of your team’s progress while offering the necessary structure and focus. The timely reminders of the upcoming 1-on-1 makes it almost impossible to forget an appointment. Since the employees are responsible for inserting their own input on the go, managers can be sure the discussions will be relevant. Clanbeat makes taking on 1-on-1s as easy and effortless as possible.

Even though the monthly 1-on-1s might seem like a big bite out of team lead’s schedule, they have the power to take down the barriers holding back the talent of your team. Contributing just a few hours a month to your employees, can set everybody on a faster pace and hit higher marks.