If you’ve heard me speak or have read my book, you’ll know I believe the one on one (1:1) conversation is the cornerstone of good management practice. Why? Because it’s in the 1:1 where you learn what makes your reports tick—what they love, what they are strong in, where they face challenges, and what concerns them.
It’s in the knowing of all these things that managers can create strategies that engage, inspire, and retain their employees. You may already be a fan of these conversations. If not, you sure should be. 1:1 meetings are the KEY to soft skills development and connection with your team. Need more convincing? This post will provide you with the evidence you need.
Before getting into the evidence, let’s look at what a 1:1 conversation is, and is not:
Is - A chance to build rapport, coach, give and gather feedback
Is Not - Solely about status reports
Is - Personal space where employees feel safe to share about issues which may be holding them back from doing their best work
Is Not - Public space where they are encouraged to only stick to work matters
Is - An opportunity to get help from managers to develop professional skills
Is Not - Going over task lists and sticking to the job at hand
(If you’re not sure about running your own 1:1 conversations, download my One-On-One Conversation Template.)
Now on to the value of 1:1s.
Unfortunately, a lot of bosses make it hard for an employee to like their work. Nearly 1/3 of all employees report feeling underappreciated by their bosses, and 44% say they’ve been verbally, or even physically, abused by a boss at least once in their career! Bad working relationships cost the US economy approximately $360 billion (yes, billion with a ‘b’) each year in lost productivity. When employees don’t like their bosses, they tend to call in sick more often, waste more time due to low motivation, and make mistakes, on purpose, out of spite.
1:1 meetings will not solve all your relationship problems with your team but, done well, can lead to improvements in:
· Purpose of work
· Career growth
· Change management
· Trust and confidence in the manager
Employees who have regular 1:1 conversations with their managers are 3 times more likely to be engaged in their work.
The key to organizational growth has always been its workforce. In North America, only about 33% of employees are engaged in their job. This means that, at any time, two-thirds of the workforce is open to changing jobs. 51% of employees say they are actively looking for a new job, so organizations could be losing a lot of people—many of whom have never reached full potential in their jobs.
Engaged employees are more likely to stay with their organizations. Yes, they’ll want upward progression, but they look to their current employer for opportunities. Because they feel a strong bond with their organization, they build stronger relationships with customer, increasing sales and profitability.
Disengaged employees have the opposite effect. They are more likely to steal from their workplaces, miss work, negatively influence coworkers, and drive customers away.
Managers who regularly meet with their employees have almost triple the level of engagement of those who don’t.
Only 15% of employees who don’t meet regularly with their bosses are engaged. Considering engaged employees are 20% more productive, managers would realize some serious benefits by making 1:1 conversations a regular practice.
When a manager doesn’t meet with their reports at all, employees are 4 times more likely to be disengaged and twice as likely to view leadership unfavourably.
One on one conversations can lead to lower turnover.
I’ve been talking and writing about this stuff for a while, and this next statistic shocked me. Approximately 25% of people look for a new job every day! Some of them are looking while they’re at work. The majority of them cite “poor manager” or “poor relationship with their manager” as the reason (I'm not surprised by this stat). Other research shows employees consider their boss to be the worst part of their jobs. Sigh…
Think of what turnover looks like in your workplace. How much does it cost you each year? Don’t just consider recruiting costs. Factor in lost productivity as well, and you see it adds up to a lot. Now imagine if you could reduce that amount by half. Is that enough convincing to institute a one on one conversation policy in your company?
What’s Holding You Back?
It is crystal clear that managers need to develop relationships with their reports, and the best way to do that is with the one on one conversation. So what’s holding you back?
Objection #1: I Don’t Have Time
I get it. Managers are caught in a squeeze between their own bosses and their reports. In addition, they have their own huge task list to tackle. However, the short-term time savings of not having regular 1:1 conversations is offset by the time lost with projects that go off the rails, errors made, and replacing employees who’ve quit. Errors, loss of productivity, replacing employees, conflicts and misunderstandings all have costs attached to them. If regular 1:1 conversations can stave off these time suckers, then they are well worth having.
Objection #2: I Don’t Know What To Say
Now we’re getting to the real issue—managers don’t know how to talk to their reports.
It’s unfortunate we don’t feel confident in initiating conversations with those who work with us. However, we can get beyond that by just… starting. Managers can solve so much by creating a safe space for their reports to share ideas, concerns, what’s going well, and what could be improved upon. The template I offered above is a good jumping off point for conversation. This template provides prompts to talk about whatever the employee wants to talk about, then what the manager needs to share, and then some time to talk about professional development.
Important to note—the conversation doesn’t have to be perfect to be worthwhile. What’s truly important is that time is taken to have this conversation on a regular, frequent, and consistent basis. As the relationship grows, so too will the ease with conversation.
The 1:1 conversation is the cornerstone of my Leading with RESPECT program. If you’d like training for your managers, learn more here.
If you’d like one on one manager coaching, contact me.
If you’d like to read my book, get it here.