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The importance of good 1:1 meetings for driving better performance

The importance of great 1:1 meetings for better performance at work.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Whether you’re using them to connect on a specific issue, or just to give general feedback, 1:1 meetings can be a very useful tool in the manager armoury. But it’s important to have the proper framework in place, or they just become another meeting taking up space on the calendar.

Today, the main question we’re answering is why 1:1 meetings matter. But all in all, we’ll be going over the what, why, and at least some of the how, to make sure you walk away with a proper understanding of how 1:1s can actually impact your organisation.

What is a 1:1?

We’ve talked about 1:1s a fair bit in the past, and that’s mostly been in the context of performance reviews, and in-person feedback in general.

But a 1:1 is a scheduled, open-ended conversation between an employee and their manager. While these are opportunities to catch up and get on the same page about objectives and projects, they differ from a status report or other kinds of formalised meeting. 1:1s are often a time where managers and employees can discuss workplace issues, exchange impromptu feedback, and address wellbeing and work/life balance topics.

It’s ultimately a chance for managers to lean into the mentorship side of their role.

Why 1:1 meetings matter

Perhaps the main reason why 1:1 meetings matter is because of how they influence employee engagement. A study of two Fortune 100 companies reported on by Harvard Business Review found that the average manager in these businesses spent half an hour every three weeks with each employee. Employees who received twice the average amount of one-on-one time were almost 70% less likely to be disengaged in their role. By comparison, rates of disengagement were four times higher in employees who received little to no one-on-one time with their manager.

Employee engagement is at the core of what we do here at Weekly10. Engagement has a massive impact on productivity, and a mutually influential relationship with employee wellbeing. 1:1s aren’t just face-to-face progress updates. 

As a social interaction, they’re often the focal point of an employee’s connection to the larger organisation. A lack of direct contact with your manager can often make you feel isolated from the organisation as a whole. 1:1s have been more important in this context than ever in recent months, albeit virtually, due to the necessary prevalence of remote work during lockdown.

How to have an effective 1:1

But that’s enough about why 1:1 meetings matter, because it’s time to get down to the practical advice. Now, you might be thinking, “wow, there’s probably a whole article’s worth of stuff they could say here!”

And you’d be right, because we actually did that last month. But again, it’s quite feedback-focused, so let’s see what other tips we can give you. If there’s a lesson we can take from that HBR study we mentioned earlier, it’s that skimping on face-to-face time can really cost managers in the long run. That said, too many meetings spoil the schedule, so our first piece of advice is to set it up so that employees are getting one-on-one time with you on a consistent basis, rather than a constant one.

As for when you’re actually in the 1:1, remember that these can be slightly less formal affairs. Employees may be nervous about these sorts of meetings, especially if it’s explicitly a performance review, so ease them in with a little trivial conversation. Asking how they’re doing, or if they have any interesting plans for their time off this year can go a long way towards breaking the ice.

Be sure to practice active listening. Aside from just being good social practice, it puts you in a position to ask relevant follow-up questions and get as much potentially actionable information as possible out of the 1:1. On top of that, employees will notice if you engage with what they’re saying, and this can make them more confident about discussing things with you in the future. Building and reinforcing this relationship is another reason having one-to-ones on a consistent basis is absolutely vital to engage your team members. Showing empathy for your employees can drive them to do their best work.

 But building good communication habits shouldn’t just rely on one-to-one meetings, and that’s where we come in.

How Weekly10 enhances your 1:1 meetings

The central service we offer at Weekly10 is our employee check-in. As our name might suggest, we recommend checking in with your employees on a weekly basis, but managers are free to customise their team’s update frequency as they see fit. Whether you’re posting an update or reviewing one, the process takes just minutes to complete.

Considering that the main reason why 1:1 meetings matter is the opportunity to exchange two-way feedback that can impact long-term engagement and wellbeing, it’s essential to have a good framework in place for discussing these things, as well as a record that can be referred back to by either party.

This is exactly what our weekly check-in provides. Each of the fully customisable questions in an employee’s update has its own answer history. This makes it easy to follow an issue back to when it was first raised, and make sure nothing goes unaddressed. Update histories can be viewed by both the relevant manager and employee, so both of you can go into a 1:1 knowing exactly what’s been said, and what you want to discuss. 

If time is money, then this can really help you get the most bang for your buck in your 1:1 meetings. Weekly10 even has a place where managers can easily upload performance review documentation for the employee to review and refer back to.

If you want to learn more about building effective communication habits into your workplace culture, find out more about employee engagement, or discover a whole range of related topics, visit the Weekly10 blog today!

Fancy a bespoke tour of Weekly10 looking at how we can help improve your 1:1 meetings?

Head of People Science