Although most businesses follow the process of having annual appraisals, it's worth considering the impact of having shorter, more focused and frequent catch-ups with your employees. When one-to-one performance discussions are more regular, managers can develop a better understanding of how to motivate and inspire their employees, while helping them handle work-related stresses and pressures.
You may wonder how frequent performance discussions should be, what you should discuss, and what the aims of the session should be. We’ll cover all this below to help guide you through holding regular one-to-ones with your employees.
Benefits of regular one-to-ones
Frequent communication between manager and employee can help to create a trusting relationship, promoting more open and honest discussions. If employees feel as though you're genuinely invested in nurturing them and ensuring they're happy at work, they're more likely to have a sense of pride in their work and loyalty to you and the business.
Regular performance discussions between managers and employees are a good way to increase your employees' confidence and result in employees having a thorough understanding of their objectives. This means they can perform better, ultimately benefitting the company’s bottom line.
How frequent should one-to-one meetings be?
At first, you might assume frequent performance discussions will take up more management time than annual appraisals. However, the reality is often the opposite. You can save a serious amount of management time because the meetings are more informal, require less form-filling and rarely take as long to conduct.
Some companies choose to hold weekly or bi-weekly performance discussions, which is fantastic if time permits. Generally, you should have at least one quick check-in each month to experience the productivity benefits afforded by continuous performance management. You can use this as a time to go over successes from the past month, and aims for the next, along with having a general check-in with the employee.
You may find you want to have more regular one-to-ones with new members of staff who may feel as though they need a little more guidance while they learn the ropes. Having a set policy in place of at least one catch-up a month is recommended, though it's always best to ask your employees how often they would like to have one-to-ones and ensure your door is open if staff want more regular check-ins.
Who should be responsible for holding the meetings?
One-to-one meetings are much more impactful when the employee sets the agenda and runs the meeting. It gives them a sense of ownership over their career and performance, promoting more autonomy and independence.
It's worth noting that if an employee fails to show an interest in one-to-ones, managers have a responsibility to step in and organize these meetings. If an employee has never had to regularly check-in before, they might be resistant at first. After some time, employees will begin to see and understand the benefits of regular coaching sessions with their line managers, and they will likely become more proactive in organizing them.
Tips for holding your first one-to-one
Organisational change isn’t just difficult for employees — as a manager, you might also struggle with the transition. This will especially be the case if you are uncertain about how to conduct an effective one-to-one.
For newcomers to regular performance meetings, here are a few key tips for your first one-to-one:
- Meaningful but informal discussion is at the core of these meetings. Let the conversation take its natural flow.
- One-to-ones are about feedback. Giving your employee feedback about his or her performance is of course important — but you, as a manager, need feedback, too. How can you help your employee improve? What training and resources do they require? Is an inefficient workplace process impeding productivity? Show your employees you genuinely care about their input by asking for it.
- During meetings, make notes of agreed-upon action points and follow up on these. This is known as closing the say/do gap, and it can have a huge impact on trust within an organisation.
What to cover
On top of setting new near-term goals, consider the following discussion points during your one-to-one performance conversations:
- Do you feel supported and encouraged to meet your goals?
- Are there any recent accomplishments or performance improvements that have made you proud?
- Are these accomplishments being acknowledged?
- Is there anything you've struggled with or want help with?
- Do you feel comfortable voicing your opinion and making suggestions at work?
- Is there any way that the company can alter its processes to facilitate your day-to-day working life?
- Are there any skills or abilities you would like to develop?
- Do you feel fulfilled at work?
These questions will show you are eager to help your employees improve. They will also demonstrate you see them as key team members whose feedback and opinions are appreciated, valued and encouraged.
About the Author
Stuart Hearn is the CEO & Founder of the leading performance management software solution, Clear Review. Clear Review aims to improve conversations and boost individual, team and organisational performance. Before founding Clear Review, Stuart was HR Director at Sony and head of a talent management consultancy.