How to Host Effective One-on-ones with your Staff

How many times have you left a meeting wondering, “What was the point?” For many people the answer is probably, “too many.” Especially in a retail setting, where meetings are often reserved for HR issues or speedy promotion updates. One-on-one meetings, however, have the potential to be more effective for promoting a healthy work culture and worker productivity.

The one-on-one meeting allows retail managers to provide a more personal and comfortable environment for their employees, and allow employees to understand their role in the company’s success – thus becoming even more productive. When a manager creates a 1 on 1 meeting template for employee reviews or even regular employee one-on-ones, those meetings can generate positive results.

A notable result is an increase in employee retention. Author and researcher Marcus Buckingham said, “People leave managers, not companies.” Get Lighthouse, a software company that develops courses for people managers, puts it succinctly, “Your actions (or lack of action) impact the … likelihood of turnover on your team.” Manager engagement with employees, therefore, is even more important.

A second result of employee one-on-ones is a potential increase in sales. Many Americans are not inspired at work. A 2012 Gallup Report, “State of the American Manager,” found that “actively disengaged workers alone cost the U.S. between $450 billion and $550 billion per year.” The report added managers can motivate their staff by developing “genuine relationships with them.” The result is an engaged workforce, and “companies see[ing] improvements in productivity, profitability, retention, safety, quality and customer ratings.”

Develop a Relationship of Communication

When working the floor, it’s important to feel comfortable with your staff and trust your employees. One-on-one meetings allow managers to get to know their employees as more than just a measure of productivity. An article from Harvard Business Review says in one-on-ones, managers should remember, “don’t neglect the personal.” They suggest including the topic of career plans. It’s important to “give employees the time and space to think about what they want to express.”

There’s a fine line between personal and too personal. Finding that line and getting to know employees encourages communication. Effective employee reviews allow employees to feel connected with their manager, making it more likely they’ll share work-related concerns along with positive experiences. Employees may also be more receptive to suggestions and expectations, as well as being more willing to ask questions that they otherwise might keep to themselves.

Make Time for Two-Way Conversation

Time is a precious commodity in the retail business; it can be the difference between closing or losing a sale. So it’s important that managers’ respect their employees time by preparing for one-on-one meetings like any other meeting; that means having an agenda. However, rigidly sticking to an agenda and not allowing for an open discussion can make for a far less effective employee review.

A post on Forbes suggests managers “share the air.” It continues, “Structure your meetings so it’s partly about what you need to discuss, and also about what your direct report needs to raise.”

The post also suggests that managers include time “to discuss open issues.” Let employees speak, because their responses can be enlightening. When employees know they have the manager’s ear, ideas and concerns can be shared which may eliminate a problem or benefit the company in some way.

Keep the Talk Positive

For any conversation to go well, the beginning is key. The Harvard Business Review article noted above suggests managers start positive perhaps by “sharing a win” to “create positive energy.” After a positive start, employees will be more open to hear what comes next.

On the flip side, the Harvard Business Review article also suggests ending positively by expressing gratitude. When employees are genuinely acknowledged in a one-on-one, they are more likely to be inspired and more open to the less positive points shared.

The positive beginning and end help the employee accept the middle of the employee review which may need to include criticisms or areas in need of improvement.

Put It on Your Calendar

Because the ebb and flow of a retailer’s day can be unpredictable, managers might feel it’s okay to cancel an employee one-on-one.

However, sticking to the scheduled meeting time sends a message to the employee that they are valued and the appointment is important. When employees and managers commit to the schedule, according to Forbes, “both parties will better prepare and take the meeting more seriously.” Particularly in a retail setting, where managers may be dealing with a multitude of other responsibilities, sticking firm to a meeting time sends a message of commitment. If both parties are prepared and committed to the meeting, it establishes a good repertoire between you and the employee.

Prepare for the Meeting

While being present and sticking to the time set are important ingredients of employee one-on-ones, preparation for the meeting is a key to having a meaningful discussion. Developing a 1 on 1 meeting template can speed up the preparation.

According to Forbes, “…if you can find a structure and manage to it, you’ll find that the conversations will naturally fit into those expectations.”

The template may include questions, key topics to be discussed, background of the employee, etc. Noting the amount of time granted for each segment of the conversation (without being inflexible) can also help the meeting to smoothly.

When managers follow a 1 on 1 meeting template, the employee review/one-on-one can lead to an employee who is more satisfied and excited about their work and eager to grow in their position. Reviews and one-on-ones are opportunities for employee motivation and engagement and can assist in retention and increased sales.