How to drive great 1-to-1s in your organisation

Stefan Op de Woerd
Stefan Op de Woerd

A key HR question for many organisations is: how can we get ‘a great conversation’ with regular 1-to-1s started in our organisation? That they should want to do so is hardly surprising, since a great dialogue leads to better performance and greater engagement on the part of employees. Still, it’s far from easy for HR to guide how these conversations between management and employees happen in reality.

In this blog, we would like to share with you our approach to promoting effective 1-to-1s in your organisation.

So, what is a ‘great dialogue’?

Clearly, having good one-to-one meetings sounds like a sensible and attractive idea. But, what is it that makes a dialogue with regular 1-to-1s “great” in fact? To answer that question, it’s worthwhile looking at what you are aiming to achieve.

The essence of a great conversation is that it boosts the performance and engagement of employees and teams. So, it should always lead to:

  • A greater focus on goals
  • Using talent to greater effect
  • Increased engagement

If your one-to-one meeting achieved one or more of these outcomes, you’ve had a “great conversation”. Not to say, of course, that other conversations are not worthwhile; but most people would accept that not all shoptalk in an organisation is equally productive…

Not more conversations, but different conversations

Most likely, the majority of managers in your organisation will have one-to-one meetings with their employees as a regular item in their diary. However, so often the agenda at these meetings is dictated by whatever issues are currently playing in the organisation. The question is, is this type of discussion going to lead to increased focus, development and engagement…?

What’s key is to frame the content of meetings so that they really help to boost the employee’s performance and engagement. Clearly, much of this is down to the manager. But, switching to a new way of doing things focusing on a ‘great conversation’ is not something that’s going to happen overnight. HR has a key supporting role here.

Do you want to drive great 1:1s in your organization?

Download our e-book “The 3 essential catalysts for great 1:1s” for free

Managers are not psychologists

HR professionals may well like to think that every manager holds regular in-depth coaching sessions with his or employees, but that’s simply not how it works in practice. Fortunately, there’s absolutely no call for this either.

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, there are some managers within your organisation who enjoy coaching and are good at it. In this case, they should undoubtedly be encouraged to keep up the good work! But, not every manager has either the talent or the motivation for this type of approach, in which case forcing it down their proverbial throats is hardly going to bring the results you want.

Managers are typically professionals with an extensive knowledge of the specialist area in which they operate. They combine this with the ability to get things done and, as such, are a real asset to your organisation. However, for many, one-to-one coaching sessions may not feature highly on their list of priorities.

What does drive the majority of managers is helping their people and their team be “better”. And this is where effective 1-to-1s come in. So, the question is how to support managers to make these one-to-one sessions more effective and productive.

The three catalysts for great 1-to-1s

As an HR professional, you will not usually be present at one-to-one meetings between employees and managers and you cannot force those conversations to take place. So, it’s important to make things as straightforward and relevant as possible for the participants. There are three main “catalysts” to help great conversations happen:

  • Provide structure
  • Make relevant information readily available
  • Create triggers

These catalysts maximise the chances that employees and managers will really get on board with this process.

Catalyst 1: Provide structure

First and foremost, it is critical that conversations focus on the right areas. Which areas are important to boost the employee’s performance and engagement?

The following three key aspects provide a useful guide: Personal – Current role – Growth & development.

How do you feel in yourself? What gives you energy and what saps your energy? What do you want to focus on more?

Current role
How do you fulfil your current role? How are you progressing with the agreed goals? What feedback do you get from your manager?

Growth & development
Which talents would you like to use more? What knowledge and skills do you want to develop? What are your ambitions and what opportunities are there within the organisation?Using these questions is highly likely to lead to focus, talent development and engagement.

Catalyst 2: Make relevant information readily available

Great conversations become even more productive if the right information is available at the time it is needed. If you had a 1-to-1 two weeks ago, you will want to go back and check what you discussed. If you are talking about the employee’s goals, you will want to be able to pull up this information straightaway. When you are talking about fulfilling a role, you want to instantly see what are the responsibilities and expectations that come with the role. When discussing growth and development, you need clear information about development opportunities and career paths.

In most organisations, this information will be ‘somewhere’ on the system, but it may not be easy to locate. That’s before even considering whether this information is appropriate for the employee and their situation. You should be able to instantly pull up the information you need while you’re in a meeting.

Making relevant information readily available helps you increase the quality of 1-to-1 meetings.

Catalyst 3: Create triggers

If your employees and managers are talking about the right things on the basis of the right information, you’re already well on the way to a successful dialogue. But what is even better, is if you can help them get the timing right too.

When are the times that a 1-to-1 meeting would be relevant/helpful? The need to discuss something often comes about following a review of the goals, receiving feedback or personal reflection.

So, these are important moments to trigger an employee to schedule a 1-to-1 or to put talking points on the agenda. At the same time, you can also trigger the manager to look at the review, feedback or reflection and respond to it. We call it just-in-time coaching :-).

In modern performance management systems, this all happens in real-time and 1-to-1s can also be held online as appropriate. This way you can turn “a great dialogue” into an “ongoing conversation”.

Do you want to drive great 1:1s in your organization?

Download our e-book “The 3 essential catalysts for great 1:1s” for free

Getting started

You’ve now got three catalysts to help great conversations happen:

  1. Provide structure
  2. Make relevant information readily available
  3. Create triggers

Clearly, putting these catalysts into effect in reality is easier said than done. Fortunately, these days new technology is available to fully support this process, saving a great deal of time and effort.

Using the three catalysts, you can facilitate employees and managers to have an ongoing dialogue. A dialogue that will lead to increased focus, development and engagement, along with better performing and more engaged employees.

Read on..

The 3 essential catalysts for
great 1:1s

In this e-book, we share our approach to promoting effective 1-to-1s in your organisation.

Download the free e-book now!

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