The last few years have shown the benefits of telecommuting. The productivity losses that many feared have generally proven to be unfounded. This method of working seems here to stay in many industries.
That said, remote work comes with its challenges. One of them is the human aspect. Being apart, it’s not always obvious how our colleagues feel, whether it’s about work or not.
For a manager, keeping track of them is more complex. In a growing company where office attendance is optional, the challenge becomes considerable. One way to do this is to set up one-on-one meetings
Benoit, our Director of Software Development, is the one who initiated Uzinakod to this practice. Here are the different arguments he proposes to do it within your company.
What is the purpose of these one-on-one meetings?
The primary mission of one-on-ones for a manager is to establish a new bond with each employee: a more human relationship based on trust. It is a moment dedicated to the employee, which allows them to talk about subjects that concern them directly and that are close to their heart.
The manager already knows the technical skills of their team members. They will therefore have the opportunity to learn more about their personalities, their moods and their level of motivation, among other things, through these meetings. Training needs can also be discussed. In short, it is the employee who will propose the agenda.
Unlike group meetings on a project, the manager will have the opportunity to provide feedback tailored to each employee and to discuss personal goals. They will also be able to advise team members on solutions to problems they may be raising.
“From the manager’s perspective, one-on-one meetings should be an opportunity to ask questions rather than give answers. You need to guide the employee through the process and avoid always trying to fix the situation for them.”
How do you set them up?
The first step is to determine the recurrence of these meetings. There is no magic formula that works for all companies. The frequency must be established according to the size of the team and the resources available. Whatever the frequency, regularity is the key.
Next, you will need to schedule the meetings in your agenda. If they are not, it will be far too easy to skip them (intentionally or not). Having them on the calendar will allow the employee to be prepared, to better target the topics they wish to discuss and not be caught off guard!
With the “when” taken care of, the next step is to determine the “where”. It may sound trivial, but the choice of where to hold these meetings can have a big impact. Remote is not a problem, but face-to-face is a different matter.
Imagine if the whole thing took place in a large office with glass doors that was right next to all the other team members. The employee may not be comfortable sharing detailed feedback.
Aim for an environment where the employee will feel comfortable. This can be more informal than one of your offices, as long as it ensures the confidentiality of the discussion.
In an ideal world, one-on-one meetings would be held on a weekly basis, but this is not always possible. Setting aside 30-45 minutes every two weeks would be a good starting point. A short recurrence allows for better follow-up.
Regarding the location, why not go outside your premises? Is there a large common room somewhere in the building? Have you thought about the local café? In the summer, is there a park or other green space near your office? Or even a nice walk in the fresh air? There is no obligation to stay in your workspace!
Pitfalls to Avoid
As with any initiative, the implementation of one-on-one meetings is not without risk. Benoit has outlined the main ones for you.
The Fear of Wasting Too Much Time
Of course, you will need to make time to put these meetings together. It may seem time consuming at first. Try it out and you will quickly realize that these meetings fit well into your schedule.
Is your team too big? Why not delegate a few meetings to your Team Leads? You can then review the situation with them in a single meeting and save time. But be careful, this technique exposes you to a risk: use the individual meeting with the Team Lead to do this follow-up!
The Misuse of the Meeting
If you are using one-on-one meetings as a way to get a status of the different projects, you are on the wrong track. In Agile methodology , there are enough opportunities to meet this need without encroaching on the one-on-ones. You may need to revise your processes if you can’t do this.
One-on-one meetings should remain a more informal discussion where the focus is on personal development. The employee is not expected to come away with a new to-do list for a project, but rather with new goals or clear actions to take.
Playing the Rescuer
Conversely, the manager should not automatically come out of a one-on-one meeting having taken over the tasks that the employee is having trouble with. It is possible that the employee will tell you about certain difficulties they are experiencing on a project. Guiding them towards the right resources and pushing them to think about their situation will help them more than systematically relieving them of their professional obstacles.
However, when the situation requires it, it may be necessary to take over certain files.
Now that you know the main risks, are you still thinking about whether these meetings would be beneficial in your business?
Here are the main advantages of putting forward one-on-ones:
- Better visibility on what is happening on the ground (and invisible from the project dashboard)
- More in-depth knowledge of team members (to allow for better resource allocation, personality matching, etc.)
- More frequent performance reviews
- Ongoing feedback (and a clear opportunity to communicate improvement ideas)
- More dynamic and easy-to-achieve goals over time
- A stronger sense of ownership among employees: “My opinion and feeling are important to the company”.
“Through the recurrence of the meetings, I’ve found that employees are prone to jot down ideas during the week that they’ll want to discuss at their next item. In many cases, they would never have known when to seize the moment to talk about it and it would have fallen by the wayside.”
It is also much easier for both the employee and the manager to stay on track with objectives if they are discussed on a regular basis rather than just once a year during the annual evaluation.
How to Present the Concept to Your Boss?
Are you convinced now? Maybe your boss isn’t yet! One of the best ways to do this is to move from theory to practice on a smaller scale.
If you are a manager or a team leader
Conduct the experiment on your team for a few months. You can then present concrete results to your manager, showing them exactly how your team members feel.
If you are an employee
Don’t hesitate to go ahead and present the benefits to your immediate manager. Offer to be his guinea pig to test the initiative before implementing it throughout the team. You might be surprised at how receptive they are!
The introduction of one-on-one meetings at Uzinakod has been a success. The context has been quite favorable, as our strong organic growth has motivated us to constantly improve our processes and structure.
Whether or not this context is similar to yours, the implementation of one-on-ones will most likely benefit you, as long as it is done at your own pace and in your own image.