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Beating the Great Resignation with Meaningful 1:1 Meetings

Has ‘the Great Resignation’ been on your mind?  Have you experienced higher than expected employee turnover?  Have you wondered what else to try to retain your best talent?  If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you’ll want to continue reading…

Employee retention has long been a priority for organizations.  In fact, practically any professional can tell you that it’s far more cost-effective to retain good employees than to hire new ones.  Depending on the industry, it can cost a company around one to two times an employee’s salary to hire and onboard their replacement.  Wow!  Fold in the complexities of the COVID-19 pandemic and impact on employee retention, and you get ‘the Great Resignation’.  This beast has affected almost every industry we can think of (think: restaurant or healthcare industry).  There are several published articles on strategic approaches to retaining talent and improving employee engagement: from salary considerations to creating time affluence, the list is quite comprehensive.  But what if you can get ahead by starting somewhere simpler?

Enter 1:1 meetings.  These 1:1s refer to the regularly scheduled meetings between leaders and their direct reports, with the goal of creating open, meaningful dialogue between the two, leading to greater employee engagement.  Typical 1:1s involve reviewing agenda items, coaching, giving/receiving feedback, career-pathing discussions, real-time updates on projects, actions items, etc.  There are tremendous win-win benefits to having 1:1s, like boosting employee performance.  In fact, according to Gallup, there is a direct correlation between employee engagement and regular 1:1 meetings; employees who have a regular cadence of these meetings are three times more likely to be engaged at work, which leads to increased productivity (which can lessen the chance of departure).  These meetings also empower managers to stay connected and to gauge the likelihood of voluntary turnover.  Below are some ways to make 1:1s even more productive and meaningful for both parties:

1) Listening actively. It goes without saying that diagnostic listening is an important skill for managers to develop and use effectively with direct reports.  Listen carefully to any ideas, complaints, or general feedback being shared.  What are they really trying to portray?  I’ve often found that body language or tone helps to clarify a sentiment (for virtual teams, obviously you’d want your cameras on!).  For example, during “tricky” conversations like when an employee is providing feedback on company leadership, listening to the employee’s tone and/or body language can give you greater insight into what’s truly on their mind. The goal of listening is to find how best to support your direct report, so if it’s not clear, seek clarification by asking curious questions.

2) Being vulnerable and sharing. A common occurrence in 1:1 meetings is employees surfacing task/project roadblocks that require attention from management, and a terrific way to provide support is for managers to share from their own experiences in a very honest and relatable way.  Don’t hold back from divulging how challenging a project or client was, or how difficult projects shouldn’t be tackled single-handedly.  Showing vulnerability generally helps employees feel more at ease, which tends to make them want to move into problem-solving mode sooner.

3) Being flexible. Whether it’s adjusting agenda items or even changing meeting locations (i.e., meeting at a coffee shop) remaining open-minded with the approach to 1:1s is critical.  I once had a direct report who really loved the “small talk” and preferred to have this type of interaction in every meeting before jumping into project review.  It not only boosted the employee’s productivity, it really strengthened our manager/direct relationship and made our meetings more fun!  Again, to really understand how to adjust, refer to #1 above.

4) Remembering to empower. At the end of the day, 1:1 meetings are for the employee’s benefit.  They should be encouraged to draft the meeting agenda or at least share which topics they would like to address.  It’s expected that managers will have their list of topics as well; unless there are urgent matters (and with exceptions), priority should be given to the employee’s needs and what they would like to discuss.  This approach increases trust, and the likelihood of the employee actively sharing on a regular basis.

5) Learning from manager peers. Every manager can have their own approach to 1:1 meetings, and within a team a manager may conduct their 1:1 differently with each direct report.  Make sure to schedule time to review feedback from your 1:1s to see how the overall management team can improve support and remain consistent as leaders.

While these important meetings may not be able to prevent all attrition caused by ‘The Great Resignation’, they can serve as an early indication that an employee may be at risk of leaving.  They are an invaluable tool in a manager’s kit to build trust, strengthen relationships, and improve engagement with their team.

Nurture growth and increase employee engagement with meaningful 1:1’s.

Trisha Lefert is a Senior Client Success Manager at TalentQuest with over 10 years of experience in Client Success, SaaS, and people management. She worked in the healthcare industry for 20 years, and during that time developed her approach with leading teams.

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