Better 1-on-1s: Let Your Employees Do the Driving

March 11, 2014 - 7 minute read - Posted by

It is very clear to all organizations that good employee communication is crucial for the health of the business and also for employee retention rate. As your business starts growing, it becomes harder to ensure that all employees are well-aligned with the company’s objectives. The miscommunication can lead to employees feeling helpless, as the organization’s vision and goals are not being shared with them. Surveys have shown that employees, especially Gen Y, crave continuous feedback. They want to be constantly challenged in their work and be engaged on all levels. Many companies have scratched out the annual performance appraisals and replaced them with an ongoing series of regular coaching sessions between managers and employees. 1-on-1s are a perfect medium of communication for both parties. Employees have the opportunity to share their inputs and managers have a clear perspective on how the employees are doing.

How to prepare a 1-on-1 coaching session with your employees

Your role as a manager is to be a coach for your employees. A good 1-on-1 session revolves around the employee. Establish a safe and private atmosphere where people feel comfortable sharing their feedback. Be committed to follow up with your employees. Often, managers underestimate the power of following up. Employees become discouraged to share their inputs if nothing is done about them.

As a best practice, share with them in advance what the topic of the session is going to be. By creating an agenda, employees feel less threatened, as they know what the purpose of the meeting is. 1-on-1s are driven by the employees; therefore the agenda allows them to prepare what they want to discuss with you. One interesting trend we are seeing from our 7Geese customers is management encouraging each employee to write down their notes beforehand, and share them with the managers during the 1-on-1s.

Traditionally, managers are the ones who initiate a 1-on-1 — they schedule the meeting, listen to the employees, and record the notes on what’s discussed. Today, many of our 7Geese users are pushing their employees to set the 1-on-1s. They want to empower their employees by giving them the opportunity to be proactive when it comes to receiving coaching and sharing feedback. This trend is well aligned with the 7Geese vision of unleashing human potential. We are excited to launch our new 1-on-1 coaching feature which enables both management-initiated and employee-initiated sessions.

There are cases where the 1-on-1s still need to be initiated by the managers such as performance reviews or improvement plans. In these situations, the managers should prepare a set of questions that they will go through during the 1-on-1s. You as a manager are responsible for creating a framework related to the topic of the session. An agenda shared with the employees in advance lessens the tension. You do not want to be in a situation where the employee, not knowing what the purpose of the meeting is, starts to feel cornered and threatened. Give them the opportunities to share their perspectives. And more importantly, focus the conversation on the future. For example, “What have you learned that you can use for the future?”, “What are the skills you want to improve on”, and “If you were in the same situation, what would you do differently?”

How to prepare a 1-on-1 coaching session with your manager

I often recommend 7Geese users to prepare for their 1-on-1s. Both employees and managers have busy schedules and as an employee, you do not want to lose this opportunity to communicate your insights and provide feedback that can benefit the organization. People have different ways of preparing their notes. For example, I will go through the list of questions in advance, and create a quick outline in my head of what I want to share with my manager. My coworker, Maxime, will write his notes on his laptop and bring them to the meeting.

Be mindful that although the managers’ main role is to listen and to coach the employees, the coaching sessions should not turn into a platform for rants and gossip. Focus on you and the factors you can control. Share your concerns regarding external factors such as resources and team members in a respectful way. The end goal is for your managers to establish clear communication in order to make sure that everyone is well aligned with the company.

If you have a specific concern you want to share with your managers, use the agenda to let them know in advance. It will allow them to do their own research in order to provide you with the right answers during your 1-on-1s. The same rule applies here; do not corner your manager with a request that s/he is not aware of.

Communication is an ongoing managerial responsibility, not restricted for individual performance reviews. It is a platform where information is transferred from top to bottom, but also an opportunity for your employees to share their feedback to the executive team. By giving them a voice, you are encouraging your employees to be committed to the organization, reducing employee turnover. High employee engagement will allow your organization to be more productive, which will ultimately make your company more successful. I am very excited to see more companies empowering their employees by giving them the opportunity to prepare their notes before the sessions. Your human capital is your most important asset. Therefore, be proactive in making sure that they have a voice in your organization.

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