The importance of great 1:1 meetings for better performance at work
Updated 5th March 2023
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'll 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. All to make sure you properly understand the benefits of great 1:1 meetings for better performance.
What is a 1:1?
We've talked about 1:1s a fair bit in the past. Although 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. These are opportunities to catch up and get on the same page about objectives and projects. In some respects, 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. Studies show that employees who get more frequent 1:1s are more engaged than other colleagues. Compared to group meetings, which tend to be more business and objective-focused, 1:1s are more interpersonal. They also seem to be getting more common, as it's estimated that 47% of all meetings are 1:1s.
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. To take full advantage of great 1:1 meetings for better performance, you'll need to engage with your people as individuals.
1:1s play a key role in performance reviews. But they're also your chance to gauge how your people feel in person. They're an employee's chance to talk to you about their concerns directly. Unlike with, say, written feedback, there's room for questions and immediate discussion. 1:1s are a great chance to give detail, explore options, and arrive at a shared understanding.
As a social interaction, 1:1 meetings are 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 are especially vital when managing hybrid or fully remote teams. When in-person interaction can't be relied upon, these meetings are a vital social link to the company.
How to have great 1:1 meetings for better performance
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 back in 2020. But again, it's quite feedback-focused, so let's see what other tips we can give you. For starters, there's a lesson we can take from that HBR study we mentioned earlier.
Have regular 1:1s throughout the year
And 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 can be summed up as consistent, not constant. You want them at regular intervals. Frequent enough to anticipate, but not so often that they take up too many valuable working hours.
Don't make them too formal
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. These kinds of things can go a long way towards breaking the ice. If you really want to have great 1:1 meetings for better performance, your employees need to feel like they can talk openly.
Remember your soft skills
Be sure to practice active listening. It's good social practice, but that's not all. Active listening puts you in a position to ask relevant follow-up questions. Then you can 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. 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. By doing this regularly, you're free to focus your 1:1s at key points through the year without having gaps in your insight.
You control the frequency
It's your check-in, so do what you want. Our clients are free to customise their team's update frequency as they see fit. That said, hether you're posting an update or reviewing one, the process takes just minutes to complete. So there's really no downside to running them on a regular basis.
The main reason why 1:1 meetings matter is the opportunity to exchange two-way feedback. This feedback can impact long-term engagement and wellbeing. So 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. That way, both of you can go into a 1:1 knowing exactly what's been said, and what you want to discuss.
Performance review documentation
If time is money, then this can really help you get the most bang for your buck in your 1:1 meetings. Despite how important performance converations can be, they're often ruined by lack of preparation. Weekly10 even has a place where managers can easily upload performance review documentation for the employee to review and refer back to. Plus, answer histories from check-ins make it easy for you both to refresh your recollection before a review meeting.
Hopefully, by now, we've illustrated the importance of great 1:1 meetings for better performance at work. As long as you're willing to put the work in every step of the way, you'll find them a great asset for promoting engagement and productivity in your work culture.