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Here’s a step-by-step guide of what to discuss during employee one-on-ones

The debate over whether or not the traditional annual performance review has a place in a modern company rages on. The remaining proponents of this approach are dwindling by the day and more and more companies are making the switch to continuous performance management. Organisations are prioritising ongoing supervisor/employee communication and doing away with numerical performance ratings and stack-ranking systems. So it seems that regular performance and development discussions (or “check-ins”) are one of the performance management trends that are here to stay; and done right, they will elevate motivation, increase engagement and heighten productivity.

However, organisations frequently tell us that their managers often lack the knowledge of how to have meaningful performance conversations. So we have laid out seven primary discussion points that managers should cover with their employees during these meetings to ensure a structured, productive and worthwhile exchange.

1. Objectives and goals

Managers need to remain up to date with employee progress in terms of goals and objectives. The more frequent the performance discussions between the supervisor and employee are, the more relaxed, open and honest the employee will be with regards to goal progression and possible obstacles.

It might be that the individual has hit a stumbling block and won’t be able to achieve their objectives on time. If this is the case, the manager should help the employee to consider options for overcoming these obstacles. Objectives may also need to be adapted as priorities change, so take the opportunity to consider whether objectives are still relevant.

2. Personal development and growth

Managers and employees should take some time to discuss personal development. What skills, knowledge or strengths could be developed in order to successfully achieve objectives, to progress towards a career goal, or to help the individual or the team perform more effectively?

Development is really important in terms of employee engagement. It has been known to boost morale and productivity, while decreasing staff turnover. Employees want to know that their company truly cares about their futures and is supporting their professional advancement. Organisations ignore personal development at their own cost, as 40% of those who receive poor employee training will leave their company within the first year.

3. Give employee feedback

Discuss what has been going well and what has been causing your employees problems. Deliver appreciation and recognition for achievements, and where things haven’t gone according to plan, consider what could be learned for next time. Always make the feedback as specific as possible and avoid hearsay.

It should be noted that feedback needs to be timely. This underlines the need to ensure that performance discussions and feedback are regular. Nobody wants to receive feedback on something that didn’t go well several months ago!

The statistics on the beneficial effects of regular feedback is well-documented. According to one survey, nearly 60% of respondents would like feedback on a weekly basis. This number increased to 72% for employees under 30. While 75% claim they believe feedback is valuable, only 30% of employees claim to receive it. On top of this, nearly 70% of employees state they would work harder if their efforts were more recognised at work, and companies who implement regular employee feedback see a 14.9% decrease in turnover rates.

4. Are employee skills and strengths being utilised?

Each employee has unique skills and strengths to bring to the table. According to a Gallup poll, employees who are able to use their strengths perform better, are less likely to leave and are more engaged overall. Discuss whether or not your employee’s specific skills and strengths are being utilised on a day-to-day basis. If not, explore how their goals or job description could be adapted to better play to their strengths.

5. Personal, team and organisational priorities

Take the opportunity to discuss team or organisational priorities for the coming weeks, and what this means for the employee’s personal priorities or goals. If there has been a change in focus or direction, the employee’s objectives may need to be re-prioritised or new objectives added. .

6. Employee issues and concerns

If your employee has any issues or concerns, now is the perfect time to raise them. They have your full attention and you can work together to arrive at a solution. Equally, if the manager has any problems they wish to discuss, this private setting is the ideal environment in which to raise them. Decide on specific actions that need to be taken, and set a time frame to put them into action.

7. Managerial help and support

Employees need to know that management is there to help and support them in any way they can. Is there anything the employee needs from their manager in the coming weeks? This may be anything from dealing with an internal office conflict to organising maternity leave.

How can you ensure these items are regularly discussed?

Employees and managers need to be provided with a clear structure for performance and development discussions to ensure that these important items are covered. We’ve come up with a really effective way of doing this via our Clear Review performance management software. It’s purpose built to ensure that regular performance discussions take place, that they are meaningful and that action points are captured and followed up.