Today, digital technology and data are an integral part of every aspect of a business. Companies are constantly evaluating and upgrading their digital and data capabilities to be more productive, more customer-focused, and more secure, bringing about unprecedented transformation in the everyday workplace. One such transformation is the usage of data in business meetings. There was a time when 71% of managers and leaders reported meetings as ineffective and unproductive, according to an HBR study. With the help of data, however, such meetings can be transformed to use 80% less effort and drive twice the effectiveness of team performance.
As leaders and teams adapt to using data-driven business meetings for better productivity, it is time to orient the mindset of the management to adopt data as a cornerstone of effective 1:1 meetings. It is particularly important to prepare for and establish this transformation as companies step into the new world of hybrid work, where unprecedented challenges abound and data can be an anchor and a guide to drive resilience and agility.
What is a 1:1 meeting and why is it crucial for hybrid teams?
A one-on-one meeting is an exclusive time allocated for unrestricted and business-casual conversation between a manager and his/her direct reports. It provides an opportunity for managers to build rapport with their team members that will lead to better relationship-building, effective communication, and help build a cohesive team. Unlike other meetings, the 1:1 offers an opportunity for employees to talk about aspects of their personal lives such as goals, aspirations, or challenges, etc., that might have an effect on their work. It also provides an opportunity for managers to better themselves by asking for candid feedback and to create a space for coaching and mentoring their direct reports.
Such a meeting that emphasizes the people aspect of teams, rather than the jobs and tasks at hand, is integral in building team culture, rapport, and long-term relationships. This meeting becomes all the more crucial in building teams in a virtual world.
People are complex entities – they come with diverse personalities, work styles, goals, ideas, and aspirations. A good manager is one that can make the effort to understand the different personalities within their team and strategize the best work environment for each of them to thrive, both individually and in a team setting. In order to do this, traditionally, managers relied on the luxury of casual coffee chats, or the study of body language and social cues in a physical face-to-face meeting.
In a hybrid workplace, however, where such interactions might not be possible with the employees that are located remotely, the 1:1 meeting becomes crucial since it offers a rare chance to connect with direct reports on a more casual and personal agenda. As some or most employees work from dispersed locations and face-to-face interaction might not be a possibility with every member of the team, a one-on-one meeting provides a unique and important opportunity to create and nurture human relationships that can help build trust and camaraderie in a team.
Why are 1:1 meetings a challenge in the hybrid workplace?
Lack of visibility
Visibility is the ability to see the work and contribution of team members. It also enables managers to see working styles, personalities, and potential bottlenecks or areas of trouble for their direct reports. In a physical workplace, managers can physically see their team members’ everyday work lives. This visibility and understanding allow managers to structure 1:1 meetings that can address each individual’s goals, aspirations, challenges, and concerns.
However, in a remote workplace, managers might have to struggle with evaluating and recognizing not only the work and contributions of their remote reports but also understanding their personality traits and quirks.
No groove nor agenda
When managers and teams do not have data on the schedule, duration, or results of their 1:1 meetings, over time, they can lose the vision of the importance of the 1:1 itself. Additionally, when attempting to set an agenda for the 1:1, if managers do not have information about the everyday work performance and routines of their reports, it can lead to generic agendas that don’t cater to individual needs.
Remote 1:1s are susceptible to becoming unproductive if any of the many aspects of the meeting goes amiss. Starting at schedules and agendas, upto using the right feedback logs, or using real-time input to how teams are performing, etc., managers need to be equipped with the right quantitative information so that they can bring their insight and perspective into developing better teams. If 1:1s with remote teams aren’t structured to be a space for informed and genuine conversations, they can adversely affect the opportunity to raise concerns.
Data and app overload
In a remote workplace, most work activity is digital, inherently generating a large number of updates every hour that is hard for managers to keep up with. Consequentially, managers wind up spending a lot of time sifting through their team’s work and processes to be able to understand how their team members are doing individually or to recognize problem areas like burnout risk. This often leads to delayed interventions and becomes harder for managers to help their teams. Naturally, despite good intentions, the 1:1 starts seeming like a burden more than anything.
How to have better 1:1s using data?
Data can help managers structure 1:1 meeting agendas that are action-oriented, empathetic, relevant, and highly targeted to each employee’s unique circumstances. Consider the insights that can be gained by analyzing a team’s email or calendar metadata. This can provide a viewpoint to managers regarding their team’s everyday work schedules and workloads, communication and collaboration activities, and workflows that might be causing bottlenecks or those that might be contributing to better outcomes. Such metrics, along with analytics from other digital workplace tools, can help managers gain an understanding of working styles, efforts, problem areas, cross-team connectedness, well-being, etc. This understanding can help a manager offer the right support to their teammates. Using data to inform meeting agendas needs creativity and commitment from leadership, and this data combined with empathetic human intuition can go a long way in fostering relationships within a team.
Visibility, Recognition, and Retention
Work analytics can solve the visibility problem and provide invaluable insight into what work happens in hybrid teams, how they happen, and how teammates are performing on a daily basis. This data can help managers identify individuals’ contributions, efforts, and areas where they might be needing support from leadership or peers. Equipped with this data, a manager can ensure that during the 1:1, they recognize the efforts of the direct report, and talk about ways that they can support the teammate. Since data can serve as a single source of truth, it will also help the employees to refer to and identify their own success and challenges that they can raise during 1:1 conversations.
A culture that acknowledges and gives due credit, and one that creates space for improvement, genuine support, and feedback conversation will be successful at retaining top talent in the organization.
All teams thrive due to communication, collaboration, and cross-functional flow of ideas and inspiration. Especially in teams that are newly adopting remote work, traditional methods of communicating and collaborating are harder from dispersed locations. The problem is mitigated by the innovative technology of the remote workplace. However, teams need managerial support to adopt, use, and take advantage of these tools.
Managers can ensure that their team members are not falling into siloed or silent work by analyzing the data from their teams’ collaboration and communication tool usage.
Data can help answer questions such as – Are team members getting enough time to connect with each other? Are they able to spend time collaborating across functions? Is there enough connectedness between remote and on-site members?
Given the steady rise of an always-on culture that demands tedious context switching, managers can also use data about collaboration metrics to understand whether their processes for asynchronous work are facilitating the adoption of focus time and deep work amongst their team members.
Understanding these scenarios can help managers provide guidance to direct reports during 1:1s and help them navigate remote work communication, async working models, structuring productive focus work time, and effective remote work collaboration.
What processes lead to success? Which tools are aiding work and which ones are deterring workflows? How do teams spend their collaboration time to solve bottlenecks? Do your satellite dev teams have to wait too long to get code reviews? Or is the workload distribution unbalanced? In hybrid workplaces, the answers to such signals of productivity come from analyzing the data from the workplace tools. Correlating usage metadata with outcomes can help managers gain a factual viewpoint into the efforts that lead to productivity. This can help conversations around how the manager can support team members at their tasks, or what training or coaching can augment teams’ performances, or how processes can be remodeled to lead to successful outcomes.
Employee experience & burnout signals
For managers, an important element of 1:1 meetings is the opportunity to identify avenues to help employees cope with symptoms of overwork, burnout, stress, etc. In traditional 1:1s, this is initiated by the employee, where they report any triggers, challenges, or concerns. Unfortunately, due to various reasons, employees do not report such concerns until the problem has grown significantly.
In a data-driven approach, however, managers can be equipped to pre-empt such concerns. For example, in software development and support teams, it is critical for managers to stay aware of which team members are getting inundated with alerts and incidents on Pagerduty daily. Or, to be cognizant of whether a handful of senior developers are getting too many code review requests. A data report on signals of overwork or processes that lead to burnout can raise an alarm for managers who can intervene much sooner with measures such as workload management, work-life balancing measures, or open conversations regarding stressors. In the safe space of 1:1 meetings, managers can discuss employee well-being and everyday work experience when they are equipped with early and real-time data signals.
In the remote workplace, where coaching, mentoring or supporting remote team members is presenting as a new challenge that managers encounter, data can equip managers to provide action-oriented and early intervention to their teams and help teammates navigate and succeed amidst rapidly changing work environments.
As the world prepares to step into the future of work that is defined by the global, distributed, and flexible nature of hybrid workplaces, the constant innovation in virtual meetings offers an exciting opportunity to build human and social connectedness in a digitized world. To do this right, we will have to depend on data to be our guide.
Work Analytics for better 1:1s
The future of work is hybrid and companies that succeed in this new normal are ones that have embraced the use of data to inform their business decision-making. Hatica’s work analytics platform helps engineering teams adopt data-driven and factual approaches to the many aspects of managing hybrid and remote teams, including 1:1 meetings.
💡 Engineering managers use Hatica to track their teams’ workload allocation, burnout signals, productivity and collaboration insights, and personal and team goals to drive effective 1:1s that build performant engineering teams. Learn how we can help you build a data-driven meeting culture for your teams.