This will sound incredibly obvious but one-on-one meetings involve two people. This means that organizations need to spend equal time coaching both meeting participants. Now, it only makes sense to talk about how employees can make the most of the meeting.
The one-on-one meeting isn't the same as a performance review meeting. Yes, the discussion will include performance, but the meeting is really about feedback. Employees want regular feedback - both positive and negative. It's not a millennial thing or a Generation Z thing. Everyone likes knowing they're doing the right things. And if an employee isn't doing something well, they want to know before it becomes a disciplinary issue or affects their performance review. Regardless of how often your company does performance reviews, no one wants to be surprised during their performance review.
That said, one-on-one meetings are only as good as the conversation. That's why organizations need to provide employees with some training and guidance on their role during one-on-one meetings. Having a meeting where a manager just tells an employee stuff isn't productive. Employees need to come to the conversation prepared.
Employees share responsibility in one-on-one meetings
Organizations that encourage one-on-one meetings shouldn't put all the responsibility on managers to make them happen. Employees share the responsibility. It's true that when it comes to scheduling, employees are sometimes at a disadvantage because a manager will typically schedule the meeting. But there are a couple of things that employees can do to make sure the one-on-one is a top priority.
Work with your manager to establish a schedule for your 1:1 meeting (e.g. every second Tuesday at 2 p.m.). If your manager is reluctant to do that...
Bring your calendar to each meeting. At the end of a meeting, always suggest scheduling the next meeting. If that doesn't work...
Wait a couple of weeks and ask for the meeting. An employee can pop into their manager's office and say, "Hey isn't it time for our 1:1? I wanted to make sure I didn't forget to put it on my calendar."
Once the meeting is scheduled, employees need to dedicate time to preparing for the meeting. At a minimum, employees should spend some time thinking about their performance. Here are two questions to consider:
What have you done well? Hold yourself accountable and answer this question first. It can be tempting to think about the negative. Don't sell yourself short. There are plenty of positive things to recall.
What could you have done differently? Please note: This question didn't say wrong. There's a reason for that. There are plenty of times when we accomplish something, but it could have been done in a better way.
Employees should be prepared to have specific responses and examples to both questions. It shows you spent time thinking about it. And it's possible that an employee will remember something their manager either wasn't aware of or had forgotten about.
Preparation also means thinking about questions to ask during the meeting. These questions typically involve what's happening inside the organization or company goals. If the manager doesn't bring up company projects, it's okay to ask them if there any new projects you should know about.
Employees might also want to provide their manager with an update on goals.
Which goals are on track? Which goals might need revisiting? If a goal is off track, come prepared to discuss why, what it will take to get it on track, and whether the goal needs to be changed or scrapped. If your recommendation is to eliminate a goal, come to the meeting prepared to present another goal. It's possible you won't need it but come prepared anyway.
Employees should give the company feedback
So far, the focus of the one-on-one meeting has been on the employee's performance, goals, etc. The focus of the meeting will continue to be on the employee, but the conversation is going to shift. Employees should be prepared to offer valuable feedback to the company. Make suggestions on actions the company can take to improve. Tell your manager what support you need from them to accomplish your goals.
Just like employees, managers want to hear feedback about their performance. Employees should consider using some of their meeting time to tell their manager what they do well. In addition, think about telling your manager the things that the company does well. All feedback isn't negative and sharing positive feedback with a manager tells them which behaviors to continue.
Before ending the meeting, both the manager and employee should recap what they plan to do before their next meeting. Discuss where any notes from the meeting will be located - so both individuals have access to the information. A technology solution is the perfect place for this!
One-on-one meetings are a shared responsibility
Many organizations already train and coach managers on how to conduct a one-on-one meeting. Organizations should make the investment and do the same for employees. After all, they're one-half of the 1:1 meeting and need to take responsibility for their side of the conversation. Employee performance will improve when they're able to properly prepare and participate in the meeting.