How regularly do you participate in one-on-one manager meetings?
Once a quarter?
Once a month?
Once a week?
If you’re going four weeks or longer between your manager one-on-ones, you’re far from alone.
In Emplify’s latest employee engagement trends analysis, we discovered that 35% of employees meet one-on-one with their managers once a month or less. That number jumps to 50% at large companies with 5,000 or more people. And for 12% of employees, individual meetings with managers rarely (if ever) take place.
That’s not nearly enough.
Whether they’re aware of it or not, team managers have a tremendous influence on how people feel about their jobs and employers, and how committed they are to the company’s overall mission. And one-on-ones play an important role.
Why manager one-on-ones are so important
One of the biggest questions our employee engagement experts get from executives and people leaders is this:
How can we help our people managers be more effective?
The answer often lies in one-on-ones.
Team leaders play an enormous role in employee retention and engagement. Great managers know how to instill trust and make employees feel safe. They’re the key to unlocking employee engagement, and need to be prepared to offer support where, when, and how it’s needed.
To empower employees to do their best work in this way, one-on-one meetings are essential. Setting aside time to meet with each individual on a weekly basis can clue you in to all kinds of insights you may not otherwise gain.
That project that’s stalling? Maybe someone needs your help getting information from the right people. The star employee who’s suddenly missing deadlines? You might not realize just how much responsibility has been disproportionately delegated to them.
Taking time to listen in one-on-one meetings is so important that researchers say it matters even more than technical expertise and skill. Studies show that most top-performing managers are the ones who take an interest in employees’ lives and careers. They make time for one-on-one meetings and help people work through problems by asking questions.
This phenomenon is true at all organizations, but becomes especially acute at large corporations and enterprise companies. In Emplify’s latest employee engagement benchmarks report, we found that large companies in particular struggle with keeping employees engaged. For this reason, it’s even more important for managers to focus on building strong working relationships with the people they oversee.
By giving employees an outlet where they can share struggles, it becomes much easier to prevent burnout and increase retention.
How to maximize your one-on-one manager meetings
When it comes to maintaining regular one-on-one meetings with managers, this is one area most businesses can stand to improve.
That’s actually good news: One-on-one meetings have been known to increase engagement, improve company culture, and even boost the bottom line. Investing a little time and energy into these weekly meetings can lead to powerful results.
If you’re not sure where to begin, here are two essential steps to get you started:
1. Meet face-to-face
While it can be tempting to substitute one-on-one meetings with status updates or emails, the face-to-face time is an essential element. Taking time for an in-person meeting (or video call for remote employees) allows you to seek clarity and ask important questions, such as:
- How do you feel about your current work-life balance?
- What challenges or obstacles are you facing?
- Do you feel you have everything you need to do the work assigned to you?
- How challenged do you feel by your work right now?
- What questions do you have for me?
- How can I best support you?
The answers to these questions and others like them are much easier to discuss in face-to-face conversations.
2. Prioritize them above (almost) all else
In most instances, even high-priority projects can wait. Nothing says “Your needs aren’t valued” more than a one-on-one meeting that’s constantly postponed or rearranged.
Managers should hold a weekly (or at the very least, bi-weekly) one-on-one with each direct report — and they should do everything possible to keep these meetings on the calendar. An employee should never have to go a month or longer between a one-on-one with a manager.
Staying true to these weekly check-ins, paired with the right amount of autonomy, will allow managers to remove obstacles for their employees and provide support where needed.
Prioritizing manager one-on-one meetings is one of five key recommendations covered in our latest report, Employee Engagement Trends 2020: Insights and Benchmarks for Strategic People Leaders. If you’d like to know what more your managers and executives can do to increase engagement within your organization, we highly recommend giving it a read today. You’ll see what’s happening across industries and get clear takeaways your company can use to guide organization-wide goals throughout 2020.