One-on-ones help employees, managers and companies in different ways.
One-on-ones are a sacred time where employees get a manager’s undivided attention. It’s an opportunity to:
Managers are managers for a reason; they have the experience, the smarts and the context to help steer employees down the right path. 1:1s give employees an opportunity to get advice from managers to overcome challenges in the day-to-day work.
There’s nothing worse than doing a bunch of work and not knowing if it’s good or bad. 1:1s provide an opportunity for employees to talk with their managers about their work product to understand how they can improve and get recognition (and peace of mind) when they did a good job.
Employees are always thinking about their career - How can I be a better developer? Should I switch from visual designer to UX? Am I getting a promotion to Account Director? - and 1:1s are the appropriate forum for employees to raise these questions with managers. This conversation can range from company specific (how can I become a product manager) to personal advice (go to business school or stay in the industry).
Employees spend so much time at work that they become deeply invested in the company, their team and their role. Good employees really care and have opinions and ideas around every facet of the company from the product to how the team can best work together. 1:1s are the appropriate private forum for employees to share feelings (good or bad) and bounce ideas off their manager.
Managers are measured by the performance of their team; the greater the team output, the more successful the manager. It’s the job of the manager to provide advice and help their team cross the finish line. The challenge for managers is that time is scarce; managers are responsible for so much work that they have to delegate to the team. This dynamic means managers must engage in high-leverage activities; actions that have an exponential rate of return on investment. These types of activities can range from a well focused brief at the start of a project to stand up meetings that set the priorities for the coming week. In his book, High Output Management, Andy Grove describes 1:1s as an essential high-leverage activity that all managers need to invest in, “ninety minutes of your time can enhance the quality of your subordinate’s work for two weeks, or for some eighty plus hours.”
By having frequent 1:1s, managers are able to help employees overcome challenges, steer employees down the right path, uncover new problems and ideas. The end result is that managers are not seen as micromanaging their team, but rather providing valuable guidance around how to approach day-to-day challenges and, ultimately, achieve the team’s objectives.
1:1s also provide managers a forum to build rapport with their employees and better understand how their team feels about their work life. During these conversations, managers have an opportunity to make employees feel valued and make sure their concerns about the workplace are addressed. This helps the manager keep their team happy, which means they will retain top talent and, ultimately, increase productivity.
One-on-Ones are the essential building blocks of your company communications. They help managers of all levels keep pulse of what’s happening at the company and encourage a productive dialogue - What challenges are people facing? What opportunities does the team see? Are people happy? - according to Ben Horowitz, “without a well-designed communication architecture, information and ideas will stagnate and your company will generate into a bad place to work.” This free flow of ideas helps keep your company moving forward and makes employees feel empowered.
The employee-centric nature of 1:1s is also a major value add for companies. 1:1s help make employees feel like their company cares about them. The company cares about their career goals, employees get the training they need to overcome work challenges, receive recognition for significant achievements and they get the support they need when dealing with personal issues. These ongoing conversations help to retain talent because it shows that the company values the employees, and ultimately decrease company expenses caused by losing talent and onboarding new people.