Employee one-to-ones — a no brainer!

Tradie HR director Leigh Olsen

Tradie HR director Leigh Olsen says if only more employers would schedule one-to-one meetings, most of their workplace issues would be solved.

What if I said that for 30 minutes once a fortnight you could have employees that are more engaged and stay on track with what they should be doing?

Plus you would have better trusted communication between your workers and yourself.

A regular one-to-one conversation is the opportunity for a manager and an employee to meet where the employee is encouraged to share their ideas, give feedback on how they are doing, and even vent.

A one-to-one meeting is one of, if not the most important meeting you can have.

Creating a successful conversation

One-to-ones do work when they are based on a genuine need to understand how your employees are doing in their job.

To create a successful one-to-one:

Listen: Listening is your top priority. Allow your employee to talk — really talk! Let them do most of the talking, creating an opportunity to share with you how they are feeling in the company, how they are progressing and what support they may need.

You’ll be surprised just how much you learn about them, when you reduce how much you need to share your opinion.

Be face-to-face: This allows you to ask questions, sense body language and measure their responses. You can create personalised touches, showing your employee how their opinion, feedback and concerns matter to you.

Be creative: Get out of the office now and again — go for a walk around the block or have them outside at a cafe. You can even ask your employee where they would like to have them, but make sure they are private.

Be prepared: Have a template of at least four to five questions to prompt conversation, and keep it focused on them and their journey.

What to avoid

Managers often set out with good intentions to have one-to-ones but can easily end up sabotaging them, even with good intentions. Here’s some tips on what to avoid:

Rushing the meeting: Try not to look at your watch when having a one-to-one as this can cause embarrassment and the employee to stop talking, lessening the trust in the relationship.

Cancel meetings: Avoid cancelling a one-to-one without good reason. If you have to postpone, make another meeting time as soon as you can. Employees end up looking forward to these meetings, and if they are constantly cancelled it sends a message that “my time is more important than yours” or worse, “you don’t really matter”.

Taking over the meeting: As mentioned earlier, this is your employee’s opportunity to talk and share how things are going for them. Resist the temptation to take over the conversation. You run the risk of your employee not saying anything the next time you meet.

Complicating them: Keep the meetings simple. All you need are four to five simple questions to get the conversation started.

Making it work

Recent cases of clients making their one-to-ones work are:

Client A: A young manager who was more comfortable in front of a group than in a one-to-one situation. We role-played these meetings until he felt comfortable.

He kept his one-to-one meetings up every month, reporting back that they were going a lot better than he had thought.

He started getting requests from employees in other teams wanting to transfer into his team. They saw the commitment he was showing to his employees and their development.

Through his one-to-ones he came to understand what his employees wanted to do, where their strengths were and, together, they created development opportunities to benefit the company and the employee.

Client B: This client has been in business a long time, was experiencing a downturn in productivity and low engagement, abseentism was high and people were starting to leave his business.

To say he was reluctant to do these is an understatement. He actually told me to “F… off” when I first floated the concept of him having one-to-ones with his employees.

After talking with him, we discovered he had no idea what his employees wanted to do in his company, and what skills they needed to learn in order to be able to perform their tasks.

He also had not realised he had a bully in the team, and that that was the reason people were resigning.

After some coaching and practice, he started having regular one-to-ones with his employees and things started to change for the best.

Through these one-to-ones he was able to improve retention by resolving issues before they became problems, and his employees became engaged — investing in their career.

So, if you are not having regular one-to-ones, give it a go. Sometimes you might find that your employee does not want to have them, but still have them as, over time, they will see that what they share matters and makes a difference.

If they initially do not want a one-to-one, reflect on what the reason could be.  They may be suspicious either of you personally or of the value of meeting with you.

That will fade over time, and their trust will grow, provided you follow the guidelines above. Be prepared for a long journey, but stick with it as the benefits are so worth it!

If you would like a copy of Tradie HR’s template for one-to-one meetings then please email [email protected] for a complimentary copy, or call for a confidential chat.

Note: This article is not intended to be a replacement for legal advice.

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