The Quantified Value of 1:1 Meetings and How to Make the Most of Them

Are you new to 1:1 meetings? Or are you already a fan and advocate?

Whether you’re new to 1:1 meetings or are looking for a resource to help you make a case for others to have one on ones, this is the post for you.

It’s hard to put a real value on soft skills. Yet, any good leader knows how important they are. Effective 1:1 meetings are the king of soft skills development.

At Lighthouse, we’ve been helping managers and their teams start and have better one on ones for over 6 years now. Over and over again we’ve seen how these meetings help managers and their teams.

If you’ve ever wished you had concrete evidence, and some real numbers, to prove that feeling you may have on the value of 1:1 meetings, then this is the post for you. And if you’re a skeptic, this may help you see how you can quantify a soft skill’s value in a way you can appreciate.

Table of Contents

What is a 1:1 meeting?

For those new to 1:1 meetings, let’s start with a quick summary: 

A 1:1 meeting (also known as a 1-1 or 1-on-1) is a meeting between a manager and an employee. 

As opposed to a typical group meeting where the purpose is status reports or to talk strategy, the purpose of a 1 on 1 meeting is to build rapport, coach, and give and gather feedback. 

It’s a personal space where that employee can open up about issues that might be holding them back and get help from you to develop their professional skills.

If you’ve never run a 1 on 1 meeting before and you’re interested in fast-tracking your path to having high-value, effective 1:1s, pick up our do’s and don’ts 1-sheet:

Get Your One on One Dos & Don’ts 1-sheet now: A simple resource for helping you make the most of your 1 on 1s

do's and don't for effective 1 on 1s
1:1 meetings have a huge ROI which Andy Grove knows

Part 1: The Quantified Value of Having 1:1 Meetings with Your Team

In a survey in the Harvard Business Review, executives of large organizations estimated that soft skills issues were costing them over $144,500 every day. Meanwhile, Gallup has found that 70% of the variance in employee engagement is caused by a person’s manager.

1:1 meetings between managers and their team members can’t solve all your problems. However, they can lead to improvement across a variety of common issues:

  • Poor communication
  • Lack of feedback
  • Career growth and development stalling
  • Unclear purpose of work
  • Lack of trust and confidence in their manager
  • Bottled up frustrations
  • Interpersonal and inter-team conflicts

This is why understanding the value of 1:1 meetings is so important. Getting started with them is often the biggest hurdle. Then, once you start having them, you realize how helpful they are to fix so many common problems.

Here’s some of the best data we’ve seen on the value of 1:1 meetings…

1:1 meetings are valuable at fortune 100 companies according to microsoft

1) Employees of managers who don’t have 1:1 meetings are 4 times as likely to be disengaged.

In a detailed study inside 2 Fortune 100 companies, the Microsoft Workplace Analytics team found some stark contrasts between teams with and without 1:1 meetings.

As reported in Harvard Business Review, they found:

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, employees who got little to no one-on-one time with their manager were more likely to be disengaged. On the flip side, those who get twice the number of one-on-ones with their manager relative to their peers are 67% less likely to be disengaged.

As they dug deeper into their data, it became even more clear:

“And what happens when a manager doesn’t meet with employees one-on-one at all?

Employees in this situation are four times as likely to be disengaged as individual contributors as a whole, and are two times as likely to view leadership more unfavorably compared to those who meet with their managers regularly.”

So not only does a lack of 1:1 meetings cause disengagement, it also makes employees think all of your company’s leaders are poor.

1:1 meetings were super valuable to adobe and ge

2) 1:1 Meetings can offer huge boosts to retention and productivity.

Adobe and GE have both previously made a lot of noise in the press about their moves to get rid of performance reviews. When they did, they switched to having their managers do frequent 1 on 1 meetings instead (typically meeting every 2 weeks).

The impact was significant in both cases:

You can keep your performance reviews and still get the same benefits from 1 1 meetings. In fact, reviews and 1 1 meetings go together quite well as we’ve previously covered on the Lighthouse blog here.

gallup knows how important 1:1 meetings are

3) Employees who do have regular 1:1 meetings with their managers are 3 times more likely to be engaged.

Gallup, the king of employee engagement reports, also has strong opinions on the value of 1:1 meetings. In their research across millions of employees, they found the difference in engagement for those having 1:1 meetings versus not was massive:

“On average, only 15% of employees who work for a manager who does not meet with them regularly are engaged; managers who regularly meet with their employees almost tripled that level of engagement.

Can you afford to have only 1 or 2 people on your team engaged? Look at what those engaged employees do better than disengaged staff:

1:1 meetings impact employee engagement

Who wouldn’t want 20% more productivity and profitability along with lower turnover, reduced surprise days off, and half as many safety issues? Some managers are crazy for not having 1 on 1 meetings that could bring all these benefits. Hopefully, you’re one of the smart managers that does.

1:1 meetings have a high roi for managers

4) 1:1 meetings can help reduce turnover

We’ve talked about it many times on the Lighthouse blog: people leave managers, not companies.  Your actions (or lack of action) impact the morale, motivation, and likelihood of turnover on your team. The data is overwhelming:

1. Salary.com

Research from Salary.com shows that 23% of employees look for a new job every single day. The same research also showed the majority of those searching cite having a “poor manager” or “poor relationship with manager” as their reason.

2. Dale Carnegie

Reinforcing this, Dale Carnegie’s 2016 Leadership Study indicated 41% of the global workforce will likely change jobs this year. Again, “bad management” was the #1 reason for switching jobs.

3. Hogan Assessments

Research by Hogan Assessments showed that 75% of employees considered their direct boss to be “the worst part of their job.”

Finally, in another survey of 1,000 American employees conducted by Michelle McQuaid, 65% of respondents indicated they’d take a new boss over a pay raise.  

Clearly, there are problems with a lot of managers. And we know from the stats from Gallup’s and Microsoft’s studies, that one of the biggest reasons for turnover, disengagement, and negative outlook on leadership is a lack of 1 1 meetings.

1:1 meetings are crucial

5) Experienced leaders swear by the value and importance of 1 on 1 meetings

The evidence for the value of 1:1 meetings is not just a collection of numbers or stories from random managers. Some of the most respected entrepreneurs, CEOs, and investors swear by them as well.

Ben Horowitz, pictured above, was actually willing to fire a senior leader for not having 1:1 meetings as recalled in his book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, and in this blog post.

From a CEO’s perspective he emphasizes how critical these meetings are. He strongly believes they need to be baked into a company’s culture, as the quote above continues on to emphasize how you prevent your company from becoming a “bad place to work”:

“…one-on-ones provide an excellent mechanism for information and ideas to flow up the organization and should be part of your design.”

Horowitz is in good company. Here are some of the many leaders that agree with him and have written about it:

Across industries and eras, it’s clear that good management includes good, regular 1:1 meetings. Too often, these meetings are missed, which is why so many great leaders evangelize their importance.

it's important to know the value of 1:1 meetings but that's only half the battle

Part 2: How to make the most of your 1:1 meetings

Now, hopefully you’re convinced how important these meetings are, or you have the information you need to convince others. However, as GI Joe used to say, “knowing is half the battle.”

The other half is actually doing the right things.

Setting aside time to start meeting regularly with your team is a great start. However, what you do with that time is just as important. It’s why we built Lighthouse to help managers like you.

If you need help getting started, or want to help someone else do so, these links below are a few good places to get started:

1) Tips for starting brand new

If you’re brand new to 1 1 meetings, then you need to take a few key steps to start them well. These links will help you start on the right foot:

Beth Comstock on leaders becoming coaches and having more effective 1:1s

2) Tips for improving existing or inconsistent 1:1s

Maybe you tried 1:1 meetings in the past, or have them currently, but don’t get a lot of value out of them. This is all too common. To turn them around, try some of these approaches:

Skip level 1:1s for senior leaders

3) Tips for effective 1:1 meetings for advanced leaders

If you keep your 1:1 meetings religiously and your team looks forward to them, then these tips are for you. These are what other advanced leaders are doing that can expand and improve both the quality of your 1 on 1 meetings and performance of your team:

Melanie knows the value of curiosity and how it relates to more effective 1:1s

4) Tips for all levels: Use the right questions

Having the right questions on hand during your 1:1 meetings is so important, we needed to make them their own point. With the right question, you can:

  • Unearth the real issue hiding behind excuses
  • Build rapport, establish trust, and create psychological safety
  • Identify your employee’s goals and dreams, and
  • Give and receive valuable feedback.

And that’s just the beginning. The right question can help you dig up valuable information or guide the conversation. Use them for what they are: one of your most valuable tools during your 1 on 1 meetings.

Ben Horowitz on having a 1:1 agenda and directing their regular 1:1s

5) Final tip: Use an effective 1:1 meeting agenda

You may have been doing 1:1s for a while or you may have just started. Either way, if you want to make the most of your 1 on 1 meetings, you need to create a great 1 1 meeting agenda.

That’s because a 1:1 agenda will help guide your meeting and make sure you get the most from it, as opposed to going into it aimless and hoping for the best. Otherwise, without some prep and organization, you’re just wasting your time.

Start implementing your own regular 1:1 meetings

As we touched on earlier, a surprising 65% of employees would take a new boss over a pay raise. If more of those employees had managers who took the time to have effective 1:1s, that number would likely be much lower.

Want to be a great leader who has amazing 1 on 1s with your team? Now is the perfect time to make improvements or start having 1 on 1 meetings– and Lighthouse can help.

Tap into our helpful reminders, simple prep, a library of good questions to ask, and more by starting your free 21-day trial now by clicking here.

And remember to pick up our do’s and don’ts 1-sheet pdf to start having great 1 on 1s by following simple tips:

do's and don't for effective 1 on 1s

Further reading

Want to dive into more helpful guides like this one?

The Lighthouse blog has a comprehensive collection of useful content designed to help you make the most of your 1:1 meetings, and become a great manager.

Here are a few guides we suggest reading next:

And more on developing related skills valuable to having effective 1-1s and becoming a better manager:

Try a free 21 day trial of Lighthouse.
1:1 meetings have a huge ROI which Andy Grove knows

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