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Q&A: Why most finance employees don’t find 1:1s productive (Includes interview)

Across the U.S. economy, employees who have productive 1:1s are three times more likely to stay at their company over the next two years and they are twice more engaged than those who do not hold regular meetings with their manager. However, is the conventional, unstructured sit down meeting the best way to deliver this?

Reflektive has launched a solution to protect a company’s most valuable asset. The new 1:1 technology enables managers and employees to have better conversations through structured conversation starters; better collaboration through the platform, email, Slack or mobile; generating a 1:1 agenda for constructive discussions; and ensuing there are trackable conversations to allow easy follow up.

Digital Journal spoke with Reflektive vice president of employee success Rachel Ernst to find out more.

Digital Journal: How important is it for employees to receive feedback?

Rachel Ernst: Now more than ever, it is paramount for employees to receive feedback to inform performance, career growth and professional development; however, “feedback” in and of itself is not enough. Employees today expect and deserve growth-oriented feedback on a frequent and ongoing basis. Without these elements, employees tend to receive vague suggestions or critiques during their annual or semi-annual performance review.

By the time feedback reaches employees, it’s no longer helpful or relevant to them. Feedback should be specific, tied to desired behavior and incorporate positive recognition so employees know what to focus on and do more (or less) of in the future. But feedback is not just important for employees; employers benefit from an organization where its managers deliver real-time, continuous feedback to direct reports. It improves performance and keeps them engaged, focused and productive — all things that directly benefit a company’s bottom line.

DJ: Why is the traditional face to face meeting less effective?

Ernst: According to recent research we conducted, 45% of employees don’t think their one-on-one meetings are productive. We often see face-to-face/one-on-one meetings being used as status updates. While sometimes necessary given looming deadlines, using such meetings to discuss what could be sent in an email is a disservice to both the employee and manager. These meetings provide quality time to connect with minimal distractions and have meaningful conversations that propel the relationship forward.

In fact, Reflektive found that employees who have productive 1:1s with their managers are twice as engaged as those who don’t and three times more likely to stay at their companies over the next two years.

But one-on-ones are typically the first meeting to be put on the backburner when things get hectic or projects pick up. It is critical for managers not to cancel these meetings without rescheduling or they risk employees who feel like they aren’t valued, which breeds disengagement.

DJ: What types of information should be discussed at 1 to 1 meetings?

Ernst: In general, we recommend prioritizing conversations centered on an employee’s performance, career aspirations and professional development. It’s usually helpful for employees to own the meeting agenda and steer the conversation wherever it makes the most sense for them in that moment. Maybe one week, that means talking through a challenging situation and another week, focusing on how to get to that next career step.

Additionally, any kind of performance-related issues or concerns should be addressed in face-to-face, one-on-one meetings between a manager and direct report. Important elements quickly and easily get lost in translation if this feedback is delivered in writing. Talking in person also provides an opportunity for the employee to ask questions and to collaborate with their manager on the path forward.

DJ: Are qualitative questions or harder statistics better, in terms of discussion points?

Ernst: Qualitative questions are a much better tool to use in determining how an employee is feeling or performing, as well as identifying career aspirations or any concerns he or she is experiencing. Starting a meeting with an open-ended question like, “What topic would be helpful to talk through together?” empowers employees to prioritize the meeting as they see fit. If a manager believes their direct report is struggling or not performing to the best of their ability, probing questions such as “What barriers are getting in the way of your ideal outcome?” or “What are you willing to commit to in order to move this situation forward?” can help employees get back on the right track.

It can be difficult for employees to bring up professional development or career questions to their manager, so we recommend that managers frequently check in with their direct reports and ask a series of career-related questions to open up the conversation. Some sample questions include:

· What activities in your job have you enjoyed the most and found the most interesting? Which have you disliked?
· What are your career goals for the next 3-6 months? What about 1-2 years?

Statistics and hard numbers are better utilized in employee engagement surveys to compile, analyze and act on employee feedback.

DJ: Which types of technologies assist with the process?

Ernst: As an organization, having a tool to assist in the process of giving and receiving feedback helps create and scale a culture of feedback — one in which people are empowered to believe that they can learn, improve, grow and succeed.

Certain tools collect and store feedback, which can be accessed to inform check-ins and performance reviews. As an example, Reflektive, takes information from real-time feedback and one-on-one conversations to push personalized suggestions to managers on the best actions to take to engage their people. Our new 1:1 solution empowers managers and employees to have better conversations with the use of structured Conversation Starters, on which we collaborated with customers and organizational experts. This feature helps new and seasoned managers alike to engage employees in a meaningful and consistent way.

No matter which vendor or technology you choose, it’s important to have a system in place that works for your workforce to give and receive feedback at scale.

DJ: How do technologies help with remote meetings?

Ernst: Technologies like Zoom or Skype help connect dispersed workforces in ways that emails cannot. You can better read facial expressions or physical cues, so communication nuances are less likely to get lost in translation. At Reflektive, we encourage meeting participants to keep their cameras on so they feel like active participants in the conversation — even if they’re not physically in the same room.

Other tools help remote workers collaborate on meeting agendas and keep track of project or team updates. Managers and employees can easily collaborate through Reflektive, email, Slack or mobile to set 1:1 agendas for constructive discussions. They can also track conversations by date and easily follow up on items they need to revisit — so no matter where employees are located, they’re getting the dedicated attention and coaching they deserve.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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