Blog Post

How to Conduct a Learning Session During a 1:1 Meeting

Sharlyn Lauby

Learning can happen anywhere, including during 1:1 meetings. 1:1 meetings can also be an opportunity to discuss and improve employee performance or managers can create learning objectives to help focus and drive their meeting agenda.

But it's not enough to create a learning objective.

While learning objectives must, of course, be in sync with organizational goals and strategies, learning also needs to be delivered properly for it to be effective. This is where learning often gets a bad rap. Simply telling someone something isn't learning. At best, it's a conversation. At worst, it's a directive.

A 5-Step Structured Learning Conversation

By giving managers a learning model, they have the ability to deliver learning anytime to any size audience. Whether it's via a 1:1 meeting or in a pre-shift briefing, managers are empowered to transfer knowledge and skills. Here's a 5-step model that anyone can use to conduct a learning conversation.

STEP 1: Introduction

The principles of adult learning tell us that adults respond to learning when they understand why the topic is important to them. The key word being "them." Sometimes, sharing why the topic is important to the company will matter. But if you really want to get someone's attention, tell them the WIIFM ("What's in it for me?")

This is also a good time to gain an understanding of how much the employee already knows about the learning topic. It's possible they already have some basic information. Or maybe they know an outdated skill that will need some "unlearning" before the learning session can take place. Either way, it helps the manager to know what the employee does and doesn't know before moving to the next step.

STEP 2: Discussion / Demonstration

During this step, the manager will – based on the nature of the content – either explain the information that needs to be learned or show the employee how to perform the task. And it's important to know if the topic is knowledge-based or skill-based.

Knowledge-based topics are theoretical or practical understandings of a subject. For example, in a restaurant, a knowledge-based topic would be the menu items. In a bank, it might be the different types of accounts that a customer can open.

Skill-based topics are proficiencies developed through experience. Using the same examples above, a skill-based topic would be how to cook the menu item or process a new customer account.

STEP 3: Testing / Practice

It might be tempting, as soon as this discussion or demonstration is over to say, "Okay then, get to work!" But it's essential to give employees a chance to practice and get comfortable with the material they just learned. When conducting a knowledge learning session, the manager will want to ask questions of the employee to confirm they understand the information. It could be done verbally. For example, the manager might say, "Tell me how you would describe the croque-monsieur to a guest." Or "I'm a small business owner. What is my bank account options?"

The best way to conduct a skills-learning session is to have the employee demonstrate the task. The manager might ask the employee to make a croque-monsieur or role-play how they would help a customer set up a new account.

STEP 4: Feedback / Debrief

Again, once the practice is over, resist the urge to shoo an employee off to work. Take a moment to conduct a short debrief. According to Dr. Scott Tannenbaum, president of The Group for Organizational Effectiveness, teams that conduct debriefs perform an average of 20 percent better. Debriefs don't have to be long or complex. A two-question debrief can be very effective. Allow the employee to answer two questions:

What did you do well?

What would you do differently next time?

Emphasize that the employee needs to answer the questions in this order. Make them focus on what they did well. Then talk about what they would do differently. Once the employee has offered their own feedback, the manager can share their perspective.

STEP 5: Wrap-up / Closing the Conversation

At this point, the manager has told the employee what's in it for them, the information they need to learn, allowed them to practice, and provided feedback. They've conducted a complete learning activity. The only thing left is to answer any questions and set expectations for future performance.

Once the employee leaves the meeting, they should understand what is expected from a performance standpoint and what will happen if they do not implement the training they received. They should also know where they can go if they encounter any questions or need additional information.

You might be thinking that these five steps sound like a lot of work. While it does take some practice, it's possible to learn these steps and regularly use them in 1:1 meetings. These learning conversations only take minutes.

Learning conversations do not involve platform skills and a bunch of fancy props. Rather, they simply require teaching managers how to structure and deliver effective 1:1 meetings.

This 5-step method is an ideal activity to include in the company's management development or manager onboarding program. Once mastered, effective 1:1 learning conversations can be a powerful way to increase employee engagement, accelerate employee achievement, and improve overall organizational performance.

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