The Covid-19 pandemic triggered a long-overdue social and technological transformation to adopt remote work environments. The success of this global experiment shattered prejudices against employee productivity in a remote workplace, with 82% of business leaders allowing remote and hybrid work as a permanent work model even post-pandemic.
As managers and leaders prepare to lead in the new normal, their success will be closely tied to the success of the relationships they build with their teams and the culture they establish in their organizations. To do this, managers must prioritize and reimagine their 1:1s. After all, it is always the people that define the success of any endeavor.
What is a 1:1 meeting? How is it different from other meetings?
A one-on-one meeting is a dedicated, unrestricted conversation between a manager and an employee. (Sometimes, this could also be structured between managers and skip level employees). In the pre-pandemic work-world, in most instances, the 1:1 was synonymous with coffee or lunch meetings with a team member, conversation about personal and professional life conditions, and usually involved frank discussions about OKRs or project deliverables.
As a rule of thumb, a 1:1 is a more casual and relaxed meeting where two-way conversations can give rise to better communication and understanding. It stands out from other meetings since the 1:1 stipulates that participants do not converse about daily tasks, projects statuses, deadlines, etc., but instead focus on relationship-building which usually leads to increased productivity in teams.
The importance of 1:1 meetings in remote teams:
With the global shift to remote work, the 1:1 meeting has become crucial in not only maintaining manager-employee relationships but also in ensuring that team cohesion and communication thrive while working in socially distanced spaces.
In a remote workplace, a 1:1 meeting is a rare opportunity to get face-to-face time with teammates. This meeting allows managers and team members to communicate and align around shared goals, understand each other’s work preferences, work attitudes, and styles. It becomes a facilitator of effective collaboration.
A Google research code named “Project Oxygen” shows that successful managers were more likely to have frequent one-on-one meetings with their team members. Remote managers are expending the unique nature of the 1:1 meeting as a space to connect and learn about teammates, coach and mentor the talent that they manage, communicate professional and personal goals, and provide feedback while also addressing concerns.
Additionally, managers are now oriented towards building intentional and empathetic relationships through their 1:1 interactions, making employees feel valued and creating safe spaces for teammates to talk about difficult subjects. The safe space of a 1:1 meeting is rapidly becoming a cornerstone of culture building, team building, and productivity practices in the remote workplace.
Benefits of 1:1 meetings in a remote workplace
Promoting engagement and productivity
A 1:1 meeting encourages managers and team members to communicate shared goals and continuously follow up on a roadmap to success to accomplish their shared vision. Since the 1:1 is a more casual space, it makes it easier for sharing perspectives even on issues where the majority differs from an individual’s views.
Morale and team building
A remote workplace demands an intentional and mindful approach to building a culture of trust, excellence, and camaraderie. Such a culture allows team members to self-evaluate performance, seek support from their peers, and collaborate towards shared goals.
Employee experience and retention
Building a vibrant and successful team involves not only hiring great people but also retaining great hires. A 1:1 ensures that people are heard – their frustrations, concerns, and issues affecting cohesion are addressed, and thereby a nurturing work environment is created.
A 1:1 meeting creates opportunities for team members to discuss their career goals and allows managers to mentor and coach, thereby promoting an environment of learning and development.
Information and idea exchange
In remote workplaces, where employees find themselves in work silos, a 1:1 offers an opportunity to exchange perspectives and pitch ideas. This fosters a culture of creativity and ideation.
How to get it right? A primer for remote managers
Here’s some tried and tested advice to get 1:1 meetings right in the remote workplace:
Find your groove
Experiment with time schedules, frequency of meetings, and duration of meetings until you find a regular schedule and the right frequency that fits your team. Our suggestion: Weekly meetings of 30 to 45-minute durations work great for most teams.
State an agenda
Investing time and effort in getting an agenda together for each meeting communicates to your team that you take the 1:1 seriously. This agenda will also help you structure conversations, allow space for extempore dialogue, and keep a record of discussion points. Often 1:1 meetings become a detailed work update especially in a remote workplace where the workers and managers often face the problem of limited visibility into team activities. Therefore setting the agenda becomes even more critical in such an environment.
Get the right tools
Find the virtual meeting tool that is simplest to use, has the most adoption across your team, and has the right features to support your meeting. Equipping your team with the right tool helps ease the process of finding a groove to the 1:1.
Be genuinely interested in the 1:1. Ask the right questions, remember details from previous conversations, and be curious about your conversations. Building a relationship with your teammates starts at building rapport and maintaining meeting notes can go a long way in providing context and speaking points for future meetings.
Define and track goals
Discuss the goals, objectives, and metrics tracked at both an organization and a team level. This will allow teammates to gain insight into the larger vision of the team. Discussing tracked goals will also allow team members to evaluate progress and gain visibility into how their contributions play a role in a team’s achievement.
Coach and mentor
Use the 1:1 to learn about your teammates’ interests, their short and long-term career goals, and their efforts in achieving their vision – ask about what excites and worries them and offer advice and mentorship.
Give and get feedback
Create space for genuine and honest feedback that is 2-way. Employees often have unique perspectives on managers’ actions and how they affect teams. Use the 1:1 as a learning space where all participants can walk away with actionable and useful feedback.
Maintain a shared meeting log
A shared document between the manager and the teammate that documents a running log for each meeting, detailing the agenda, any notable points raised, and follow up tasks for each meeting can help both the manager and the report to reconvene on topics spoken while also helping inform the agenda for subsequent action and calls. Teams could use any collaboration tools such as Google Docs or shared notepads. At Hatica, we are big fans of our Notion documents that link to every member’s goals, their individual Hatica dashboard, and insights, and we ensure we set the agenda for each meeting using insights from both quantitative inputs as well as empathy-guided qualitative conversations.
Follow up post-call
Use meeting notes and pointers to follow up on 1:1 conversations. Point out interesting snippets that came up, communicate any improvements made as a result of a particular conversation, or just indicate that you’re eager to speak again. Relationship building is a loop activity.
Modern engineering teams are rapidly adopting a data-driven approach to both remote and in-person 1:1 meetings. Data about collaboration metrics, productivity signals, employee experience, and burnout signals of your teams can be used to structure considerate, action-oriented, and relevant conversations in 1:1 meetings.
💡 Engineering managers use Hatica to track these metrics alongside personal and team goals to drive effective 1:1s that build performant engineering teams. Interested in building a data-driven meeting culture for your organization? Learn how Hatica can help.