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Many organizations have successfully shifted to conducting the majority of their work remotely. Initially, the focus was on making sure employees had the physical resources and tools they needed to get work done. That included having access to the right technology, equipment, internet, etc.
Now that employees are getting settled into their remote work environments, managers need to start providing additional support. Employees need regular guidance about how to get projects completed. They still want to receive rewards and recognition. And both managers and employees will want to share feedback about how the remote work situation is going.
It’s the perfect time to do a virtual one-on-one meeting.
When everyone was working in the same office, managers might have conducted informal one-on-ones with employees, which was fine. Since employees and managers are working virtually, the meeting needs to be a bit more formal — not in terms of tone but scheduling and structure.
In an open office environment, it was easy to see when the manager or employee where available in the office. And scheduling wasn’t as critical. Since we don’t have the benefit of seeing when someone is at their desk, the virtual one-on-one should be scheduled. This gives both the manager and employee time to prepare. Here are nine tips to make your next virtual one-on-one meeting more effective for both managers and employees.
9 Tips for Effective Virtual One-on-One Meetings
1. Have a guide for virtual one-on-one meetings. Including one for employees. This might be something that can come from HR for the entire organization to use. If that’s not possible, the manager and employee create an agenda that can be used to prepare and guide the conversation.
2. Decide on the best technology to use. Using video calling technology is all the rage during this time. That being said, the use of video should be decided in advance. It will make everyone feel more comfortable. And given some of the bandwidth issues with video calls, maybe video doesn’t have to be used with every meeting.
3. Budget enough time. Everyone has a lot going on right now. For some families, not only are they juggling work but homeschooling responsibilities. Manage the meeting time well. The real purpose of this meeting is to make sure the employee continues to feel connected to the organization. It’s very easy with remote work to feel out of the loop. If something happens and it looks like the meeting is going to be rushed or need to be shortened, let the other person know in advance. So, they don’t take it personally.
4. Try to infuse a bit of the office vibe. It’s amazing how much the little things help set the tone. If you’re doing the meeting via video, have some of the things that the other person might find around the office like a mug or desk thingy. Or wear clothing similar to work attire. It could even be a logo shirt. This establishes some sense of normalcy and can help both the manager and employee feel comfortable during the conversation.
5. Start the meeting with some general updates. Chances are the manager is attending some sort of manager’s meeting where senior leadership is talking about what’s happening – from a big picture perspective. Again, don’t keep employees out of the loop. Find ways to keep them informed.
6. Have agenda items that the employee starts the conversation first. And let the employee know this in advance. There’s no need to put anyone on the spot. Identifying agenda items and who will initiate the conversation is important to encourage preparation and participation. This meeting should be a two-way conversation.
7. Be forgiving of background noise and interruptions. Yes, it’s frustrating but working at home means you’re going to hear kids, dogs, garbage trucks, emergency vehicles, and a whole bunch of other sounds. Just let the sounds pass and continue the conversation. Given that the employee and manager are more than likely working in the same space as other family members, there is a possibility one or both of them will be interrupted during the virtual one-on-one meeting. Be forgiving. It could be you next time.
8. Talk about the work, but also learning. Yes, the work needs to get done. This is also a good opportunity for employees to gain some skills. Talk with them about professional development opportunities. Set goals for the future. Maybe find out if there’s a project that’s been sitting on the employee’s to-do list for some time that they’d like to work on.
9. Agree to a wrap up email. At the end of the conversation, ask the employee to put together a quick email recap with the top 2-3 bullet points from the meeting. The email will become the starting agenda for the next meeting. The manager should close the meeting by letting the employee know they’re available to support them.
While it’s true that many of these tips/steps are good for any type of one-on-one meeting, it’s important to intentionally cover these items during a virtual meeting. When we’re in a face-to-face meeting, we can often see caring and support through a person’s body language. We can see if someone understands us. It’s harder in the virtual environment because we don’t always get the benefit of body language. And if we do see the other person, they just might be a bit nervous about being on video.
We’ve all heard many times that what we’re experiencing is unprecedented. And it’s true. That doesn’t mean we can’t do the things we’ve always done like support our employees. Give them the tools to do their jobs and provide a mechanism for them to give us feedback.